Four Simple Communication Rules That Can Change Your Company Culture
October 31, 2019
Company culture and workplace communication come hand in hand. While many companies choose to create culture decks and describe company culture during all-hands meetings, the truest way to establish a culture is through communication. And as we communicate consistently during the workday, not communicating effectively can create much damage to your company culture. Conversely, managers can consciously communicate in a way that conveys the values you want in a company. As a start, here are four key communication rules to establish in your company that will immediately change your culture.
1. Agree on how and where to communicate
Communicating about communication seems obvious, but many companies often go without clear rules of engagement. Setting clear rules of communication can help ensure that all future communication are as effective and as clear as possible. It also reduces miscommunication and eliminate conflicts over the mode of communication itself.
Challenge: Start with what the problem or challenge faced is
Context: Provide the background information of what makes the problem significant, who the stakeholders are, and the environment that this challenge exists in
Action: What action steps have been taken to deal with the challenge
Result: What resulted from those action steps, and what information has been learned in the process
Don’t just clarify how to communicate, but where. This is especially important if your company has many different modes of communication or is thinking of implementing a new one. With chat apps, intranets, collaboration tools, email, and even calendars, the workplaces of today are full of different tools. Make sure that the rules of what to communicate where are clear and written down.
For a start, decide where these common situations are communicated:
Make sure that these ground rules of communication are shared with the entire company.
2. All important information are written down
Many people in companies, especially managers, love to verbally communicate vital information or disseminate tasks. However, employees are happier and more productive when there is intense downward communication. That means that there is a heavier burden on managers to over-communicate to their teams.
An easy way to ensure that communication is as clear as possible is to ensure everything is written down. This could either be an email or a Slack announcement, or even meeting minutes that are written on a shared document.
This ensures not only accountability, but it allows managers to control the way the information is disseminated. According to Ryan D Matzner, co-founder of digital agency Fueled: “I learned the hard way that when you allow a message to be distributed in an ad-hoc way, it allows messages to change and evolve, which can create huge problems.”
But what classifies as “important” information? That is up to your organisation to decide, but ultimately it is any information that could affect the performance of your company whether externally or internally. This includes the leaving of any key employees, market changes that affect a company, a major internal dispute that has occurred, or changes in HR regulations.
As with the first rule, lay down the ground rules first about how and where the information is shared, and notify the entire company of these rules. And in the case where important information isn’t shared in an adequate manner, allow employees to point out problems.
3. All KPIs and roles are visible at all times, company-wide
Keeping a company aligned is a big part of ensuring its success. A big part of aligning a company is ensuring that the expectations of every employee are consistent at every level.
To do so, make sure that each person’s roles and responsibilities are communicated company-wide. This could either be done through a detailed organisational chart, or through a company-wide KPI dashboard. KPIs, or key performance indicators, are a useful way to show what every person is working towards and how it contributes to a company’s target. Having a unified dashboard of roles and KPIs help the company achieve three things.
First, it removes any vagueness about each person’s role, which could add fuel to conflicts in the workplace. Secondly, this clarity helps ensure that the company is results-driven. By communicating in reference to these publicly shared KPIs, everyone will be focused on problems that keep the company from attaining the bigger goal, instead of problems that are insignificant and time-consuming.
Lastly, it helps keep everyone accountable. With everyone held to similar standards, underperformance and inefficiencies are surfaced immediately. Teams can reference to these KPIs on a weekly basis and communicate bottlenecks they face to achieving these KPIs, creating a more collaborative and effective workplace.
4. Always create space for feedback
This doesn’t mean just setting aside five minutes for feedback after a meeting. Creating a space for feedback means that everyone in the team is open and welcome to any critiques that may come to them, and everyone feels comfortable sharing feedback to anyone in the company.
A company culture that creates space for feedback is one focused on growth at every level.
To do so, ensure that feedback is communicated well. As shown in the first point of this article, there needs to be rules of engagement when it comes to how to communicate feedback. For instance, communicating negative feedback needs to be done with respect and care, or it may spark defensive reactions. Rules of engagement for accepting feedback can also be established to ensure a safe space.
Most importantly, employees shouldn’t feel like providing feedback could affect their livelihood in any way. For instance, an anonymous feedback channel could help employees feel more comfortable sharing feedback to their managers.
Changing company culture is never easy, but the benefits of simple communication rules can make a big difference in your team's motivation and productivity.