We’ve all been in this situation… You have a great idea, pitch it to management, do all the work to get it prepped, only to see it stuck in approval processes and take to long to get implemented. Or here’s another situation: you work so hard on the project, but no one knows what you are doing. As a result, you don’t get the recognition you deserve, and you find out that someone else is working on a similar project in a different department. Personally, I’ve been in both situations several times.
According to the Harris Interactive survey (disclosure, this study was sponsored by Yammer), companies still have a long way to go in improving internal communications and collaboration. The survey took a look at 1,168 adults who are not the only person who works at their company/organization, and showed that communication bottlenecks impact productivity, as well as morale. Here are some of the major findings:
- Ineffective internal communications limit productivity:
- 15% of respondents said that their company is not at all effective, while only 8% said they are effective;
- 34% said that communication bottlenecks impact their productivity;
- 30% said they don’t have the necessary information to do their jobs;
- 22% said that long ineffective meetings negatively impact their productivity.
- Ineffective internal communications negatively impact employee morale:
19% feel that their organizations are not effective at recognizing and rewarding highly productive, collaborative and contributing employees;
By comparison, only 8% feel that their company was effective
- Interacting with colleagues is preferred to interacting with senior managers (60% vs. 35%), and impersonal communication like email (74%) and phone (61%) are much preferred to scheduled in-person meetings (31%). Most do not feel comfortable sharing ideas and feedback with managers and executives. It’s also very interesting to note that 52% of respondents respect coworkers, while only 39% respect their managers; 29% learn from coworkers, while 19% learn from managers.
- Ineffective internal communication results in siloed communications and stymied innovation. How can people work together if they don’t know each other? Did you know that only 7% of respondents feel that their coworkers know the range of their skills, and 32% of men vs. 24% of women think their colleagues know and understand their unique skills very well?
So where do we go from here? At Yammer, we deeply believe in opening up communication to boost morale and reduce productivity bottlenecks described above. Furthermore, creating the culture in which open communication thrives, can foster better dialogue between employees and managers, while also helping everyone get to know other people’s skills. At the heart of improving every internal communication process improvement are three major steps: culture, process, tools.
If you don’t have the right organizational culture in place, you can spend a considerable amount of resources on designing programs and investing in collaboration tools, with meager results. What kind of culture supports inter- and intra-department collaboration? We’ve discussed the “right” cultural recipe for success in this post and outlined some steps to getting there.
When you feel that your organization is culturally ready, you should think about establishing a process to support that effort. Here are some areas to think about:
- Compensation and incentive programs. Are you measuring the right things? Do you understand who your employees are and what they value? Get to know their skills and value systems.
- Training and development. Are you allowing people to invest in deepening and broadening their professional knowledge? Is your company set up to allow people with various backgrounds who do seemingly different jobs share ideas and learn from each other?
- Innovation process. How do you handle innovation? How do you monitor and process ideas? How can external ideas (from the market, from customers and partners) get socialized on the inside?
- Encouraging participation. Does everyone have a place to post ideas, ask and answer questions? What do they get out of it? Check out this post outlining best practices around building and sustaining conversation.
- Cross-silo communication. One of the biggest findings of this study indicates productivity waste. The culprit can be communication between team members, as well as cross-silo communication. You need to establish a process by which people share information, while setting guidelines that keep the communication useful for all.
- Communication up and down the “corporate ladder”. Culture is going to play a key role in encouraging management to communicate openly with employees of all levels. The survey shows that employees don’t like sharing feedback and ideas with management. Management needs to institute a way for employees to reach them directly and openly, without judgment. It’s up to everyone, at every level of the organization, to foster this participation. Executive sponsorship of a communication channel is extremely vital, because it sends the right message of “We’re here to listen and collaborate with you.”
- Measurement. One of the objectives of open collaboration and communication is productivity gains; another is increased morale. You have to decide how you will measure productivity and morale gains in your organization.
As you select the right tool to help you with breaking down silos and bringing employees and managers together, think through how the tool will help you reach your objectives above. Does it allow you to work across silos? Does it make information easy to share? Does it help you dial into the right conversations and minimize others? Does it allow for transparency? Does it play with other systems you already have? Is it easy to use? How much training does it require, and how do you want to roll it out? How will you encourage participation? Check out our guide to creating and stimulating an engaged network.
Photo credit: furryscaly