Human beings love to communicate. Communication will always be one of the most crucial aspects of business management, and one of the foundations for sustainable success. Whilst technology has undoubtedly made it easier for us to communicate, it has also created an increasing number of pitfalls, and has become both the hero and villain of effective internal communication.
The cultural shift through technology
The increased speed and reach of communication through technology has unquestionably driven social and economic progress and will continue to shape the development of the global economy. But within your own four walls, this technology should be embraced cautiously.
Once we just had landlines. The Royal Mail did very well from businesses exchanging forests of paper in the form of letters. Then, over the course of a generation, came faxes, emails and the first mobiles. The speed at which these technologies were introduced allowed people to grow with technology, embrace the expanding boundaries and adapt behaviours accordingly.
Since then, smart phones, text messages, IMs, video conferencing and social media have all appeared in relatively short order, and not only expanded geographical boundaries but created a truly 24hr, instantaneous communication culture. This shift, where email conversations can occur just as quickly as those by mouth, threatens to undermine one of the most important communication tools: face to face interaction.
The value of technology is unquestionable. It supports the quick dissemination of information, consistency of message across large audiences and creates a record of information, but technology should supplement a collaborative and inclusive culture, not define it.
Trust and respect are built in person
No matter how large an organisation is, spending time in each other’s company and creating personal connections are the starting points for trust and respect. It is difficult to sustain trust without continued human interaction.
Innovation requires human engagement
Innovation and continuous improvement are driven by energy, emotion and human engagement. Technology cannot replicate the experience of being infected by the enthusiasm of a person in the same room as you.
Inspirational leadership needs an emotional connection
Exceptional leaders are almost always great communicators. They articulate their ideas with passion and appeal to the audience’s emotions and aspirations. That connection will not be found in an email or a Skype call: it needs an emotional connection.
Effective communication strategies
Finding a balance between technology and the human aspect of communication is therefore critical in successful business management. Here are our top tips for managing communication cultures:
Communication should engage the audience
Many people are guilty of communicating in the style that suits them best. But does it suit their audience best? The ultimate goal of communication is for your audience to understand and retain what you have to say, and engage with it, and not for you to simply say what you have to say.
Use technology appropriately
Emails are both misused and overused. While emails can help individuals, who cannot sit across from one another to collaborate, they should only ever be used to supplement existing relationships and not develop and define them.
Develop a culture of trust and respect
If most communication within a business is written or formally documented, it is likely a cultural issue of mistrust exists. Far too often, employees ensure ‘it’s put in writing’ because they have had bad experiences with communication. Encourage opportunities for more informal environments for communication to allow trust to be rebuilt amongst colleagues and demonstrate the desired culture through the communication styles of the leadership teams.
As we continue to use technology to adapt the environment we operate in, we must not forget to adapt our own behaviours and to use technology appropriately. The focus on human interaction should never be substituted for convenient alternatives. The defining moments in people’s lives are rarely the emails they receive. Cultural change for the better seldom starts with an email, and trust is rarely built because of a carefully crafted text message: it could be terminal for a business to operate with those expectations.
Our consultants utilise effective communication strategies as a fundamental part of service delivery with all our clients. If you find communication challenges your ability to deliver on improvement initiatives, contact us today to see how we can support you.