Quick Summary: Ever thought you communicated well, then found out you sent the wrong message to the targeted employee group? Or maybe you received valuable input on your organization’s benefits plan—just too late to make a difference this year? Such disconnects are chief causes of workplace communication failure. To stave them off, you first have to understand them.
Communication disconnects are detachments from what you attempt to convey and what you actually convey, says Nilofer Merchant, CEO of strategy firm Rubicon Consulting. Disconnects permeate companies of all types and sizes, but often go undetected.
“These problems consistently trip up HR professionals in their pursuit to implement and communicate their strategies and programs,” she says.
Merchant says these 3 disconnects are particularly troublesome to workplace communicators:
DISCONNECT 1: Non-inclusive interpretation
The situation: You spend ample time thinking of effective ways to communicate the value of your wellness program or benefits plan. Before you send an email, create a poster or design a monthly newsletter, you gather information and solicit employee feedback. Problem is, you’re the only one looking at that material. Your workplace communication strategy is developed and approved by a force of one. No one is vetting the relevance of your information and feedback, so you have no sounding board for your strategies.
The communication cost: “Ideas are great except when they’re not checked to ensure that they’re in concert with the realities of the organization,” Merchant says. “When multiple people aren’t included in the decision-making process, context gets lost. Impractical approaches get used, or the wrong problems get fixed.”
The solution: Reality-check your ideas. Kick them around using what if? scenarios. Include a small team of people (either others in the HR department or a mix of folks from various units) who can provide insight. Encourage challenges to your ideas.
DISCONNECT 2: Including the “what,” but not the “why,” in messages
The situation: You create (or partner with another organization to offer) an exciting program—say, a series of healthy-eating classes or a new option to your employee benefits package. You’re eager to communicate the program’s details. You map out a plan to alert employees about its features, but neglect to mention its benefits.
The communication cost: “The benefits of a new program aren’t always intuitive,” Merchant says. “When employees don’t understand why they should take certain steps, even the best new programs can fail before they really begin.”
The solution: Before crafting each workplace message, answer the question, “Why should employees notice or care?” Explicitly tell workers why a program matters and what it can do for them. Try to show and tell them the value multiple times in multiple ways.
DISCONNECT 3: Executive vision vs. employee needs
The situation: Your top-level executives have an agenda—controlling costs for the company’s health care plan. You realize that improving employee health can lead to fewer sick days and lower total health care premiums, so you launch a wellness program. You introduce it by discussing how the company hopes to save money in the long run.
The communication cost: “Executives see the organization’s future in one way, while lower-level employees are motivated by an entirely different set of factors,” Merchant says. “In this scenario, employees can become alienated and disengaged.”
The solution: Remember that you’re communicating to an audience—in this case, employees who could benefit from participating in the wellness program. If it helps, think of your executive team as a publishing group, and staff as its target readers.
Says Merchant: “Under the best of circumstances, implementing a new strategy is a challenge for organizations. Avoiding these major communication disconnects will prevent false starts in your HR department.”
• Consider your biggest challenges when implementing a new program, and then consider which of the 3 disconnects might be problematic in your organization.
Hope Health, All Rights Reserved