Once a new employee going through a formal induction, which included introductions to colleagues in the floor, was getting a picture that extremely welcoming and warm. It was very difficult to believe this could be the actual scene.
Being a little experienced, she took the initiative and called a colleague for coffee at the office pantry. They sat down, shared pleasantries and went on to talk about the office and company as a whole. She got a whole different perspective from what she heard in her induction and introductions.
She believed the story from her colleague and felt this was a trusted source of information. It made her go to the watercooler and pantry more and more and she would get more authentic information and gossip that had a fair amount of truth in it. As it gave her a close-to-real picture and an opportunity to validate the real story, her trust in that channel grew. The communication network in an organisation works beyond the formal channels and flows beyond what has been set in a structured fashion.
For any communication to be useful, it has to have these elements. One, authenticity. Authenticity is the spice of any form of effective communication. People want to know how real the communication is — and this can be achieved only through authenticity.
Most of the time, failures in employee and corporate communication result from an undue focus on the"what, where and when". In this form of communication, the “how and why” are missing and much of the story is basically in these two questions. When the “how and why” are out if it, the communication is just information.
When communication has not reached employees on time, it can take on strange and dangerous forms. For instance, if people get to know about a potential change in senior leadership, a merger or acquisition in their talks at the watercooler and cafeteria, and not through the regular channels, the information can get severely distorted. The organisation has lost the opportunity to get the right story on the first instance and by the time it gets communicated, the impact of the story has already been misplaced.
In these times, the profile of the employees shapes the style of communication, considerably. From baby boomers to millennials, organisations today have many categories of employees. So, the mode, content and speed of communication should be changed keeping the category in mind. A baby boomer once complained that a millennial sends only messages on instant messenger to ask if he was free for a meeting while he sat across the desk. He expected the millennial to walk up to him and ask for the meeting or send a calendar request for the same. The baby boomer felt it was disrespectful. So, one day, he walked up to the millennial why he couldn’t walk across and ask for the meeting.
While asking this question, the baby boomer's eyes chanced upon the millennial's system, where he was working on three issues parallely. The baby boomer was amazed and realised that unlike him who attends to only one issue at a time and follows a structured, and almost rigid process, here was someone who could multitask largely due to a mastery over technology.
We have to realise we have moved from hard-copy to digital communication. Now, quite a number of apps and tools are available for communicating and sharing information on time and effectively. It is a question of how savvy we are in communicating digitally and how much the company has moved into this space. However, communication in person is still extremely powerful, as it helps people understand the message better through the tone and body language.
( Mukund Menon is Director – HR & Communications at International Paper India. )