Not all communications tools are created equal. They do different jobs. They serve different purposes. The right communication tool will enable you to close the gaps between where you are and where you want to be by closing the gaps in your employees knowledge, believes, action, or behavior.
The critical thing here is never to assume that you know where those gaps are. A mini internal communication audit is the key. Now I learned this the hard way when I was heading up internal communications for Australia’s largest bank. The latest staff survey showed us that line managers were not communicating effectively with their employees. As a result employees felt disconnected and disengaged. This was adversity impacting employee morale.
My team and I thought that the gap was a gap in the managers’ knowledge of effective communication. We didn’t conduct a mini internal communication audit, instead we spent a lot of time developing a best practice toolkit for them. Now we set ourselves an initial objective of 75%. That is, 75% of those managers would agree that the toolkit was a useful aide in helping them to communicate more effectively. A couple of weeks after the project we conducted a follow-up survey to see if we achieved that 75%. We didn't achieve 75%.... Didn't achieve 50%...not even 25. We scored a big fat zero! Not one of those managers even opened the communication toolkit!
Then we dug deeper to find out why. We did our mini internal communication audit to see what on earth had gone wrong. Why we'd invested all of our time and our money. We found that the gap was a gap in their beliefs, not in their knowledge. Those managers believed that they were already effective communicators… Even though their employees and the results of the staff survey were telling us exactly the opposite! Our tactics aimed to close the gap in their knowledge. It's was like using a hammer to chop down the tree.
Now my team and I wasted a lot of time, effort and resources. I would never make that mistake again - of assuming that I know what the gaps are. Now I always do a mini internal communication audit to look beneath the service of an issue to find out what's really going on. Because it's like iceberg. It's usually easy to identify what's floating on the surface of an issue. But you have to dive into the icy waters and examine beneath the organization waterline to find the 70% of the issue that's floating beneath the surface. Because that 70% will sink your efforts if it is not addressed.
So how do you identify the gap that need to be closed in order to achieve your desired destination or desired outcome? You use a mini internal communication audit. For example; you can conduct one-on-one interviews to identify the issues. You can phone around a random cycle of people, in your targeted audience, to find out what their perspectives are on the issue.
A communications council is also a great way to tap into what's happening across a large and demographically disburse organization. Another great way is to review other communications channels. Seeing what's being raised, what issues are being mentioned, in blogs, open forums, in staff suggestion boxes, the results of a staff cultural survey, letters to the editor in your newspaper, or newsletter, or magazines. It’s a great way to tap into what's happening and how people are feeling.
You can conduct focus groups with employees who represent a spectrum of your target audience. And of course surveys both online and written are great way to go beneath the surface of an issue. And you'll find more information about all of these tactics in “Tactics in a Box - 101 Ways to Communicate with Employees”. If you’d like more information about online surveys and quizzes please contact the good people at SnapComms. Now, running a mini internal communications audit helps you determine what real communication gap is. It saves you unnecessary ways to time, effort and resources. Till the next episode of Tactics Tuesday. Happy communicating! Bye.
Lorri Lennon is an award-winning advisor, trainer and author in leadership communication. She has 20 years’ experience managing communications for large global organisations.
Lorri conducts master classes to help participants maximise their communications ROI.
Mariska Mannes is an experienced communication consultant. She holds a Master of Management majoring in Communication, which allows her to bring a blend of qualification and practical experiences to her training programmes. Her expertise is in business and cross cultural communication and behaviour. For more information visit Mariska's LinkedIn profile.