Good communication is at the heart of every successful business, regardless of size or industry. It connects employees, teams, and departments, builds trust, and fosters a positive work environment where people feel valued and heard. Given these aspects, it’s no surprise that 97% of workers believe communication influences their job performance.
A company’s organisational communication can impact employee morale and engagement, job satisfaction, and productivity. At the same time, it helps prevent misunderstandings and increases efficiency across the board. Most importantly, it creates a supportive work culture that inspires employees to go above and beyond.
But, as you might have guessed, there’s more than what meets the eye when building an effective communication strategy. As a result, this practice can be challenging, even for small businesses with few employees.
With that in mind, let’s discuss the different types of organisational communication, what they entail, and how to optimise your efforts in this area.
What is organisational communication?
As a manager or business owner, you want to communicate with your staff as efficiently as possible. The same applies to your interactions with the company’s stakeholders, executives, and team leaders, regardless of the communication channel used. Even a minor misunderstanding could distort your message and cause many problems, ranging from missed deadlines to legal issues.
Organisational communication covers all of these aspects, ensuring information flows smoothly to the right people at the right time. It encompasses the interactions between a company’s employees, teams, and departments and those between the company and its customers or other parties.
For most companies, effective communication is a balanced act. On the one hand, leaders want to prevent information overload when interacting with their teams. But on the other hand, a lack of communication can lead to mistrust, disagreements, and unmet expectations.
In one survey, almost half of employees said their managers provided unclear or confusing directions more often than not. As a result, they didn’t understand expectations. Moreover, 61% of respondents agreed poor communication affects their morale.
Even the most experienced leaders can need help with communicating effectively. Plus, each communication channel poses distinct challenges.
Types of Organisational Communication
How you communicate with your team members differs from how you communicate with a senior executive. Therefore, you also need to consider where communication takes place and how you want to deliver your message.
For example, it’s one thing to chat with your employees during lunch break and another thing to send them a memo related to the company’s policies. Additionally, sharing information through text differs from having a phone call or physical meeting.
Based on these aspects and others, we can divide organisational communication into several categories:
- Formal vs. informal communication
- Internal vs. external communication
- Oral vs. written communication
- Upward, downward, or horizontal communication
- One-way vs. two-way communication
Now let’s take a closer look at each type of communication and why it matters.
Most managers use pre-defined communication channels to share important information, such as company policies, product updates, memos, and reports. This type of information is presented in a specific format and flows from top to bottom.
For example, annual reports are standard and provide a detailed overview of an organisation’s financial performance, achievements, or future goals.
Similarly, internal meetings usually have pre-defined agendas, allowing leaders to share key updates and discuss current issues.
Other examples of formal communication may include handouts, bulletin boards, conferences, speeches, presentations, and emails from leaders. However, some leaders share their messages with the company’s intranet or less formal channels, such as RingCentral’s team messaging app.
The interactions between a company’s employees outside of work fall under informal communication. These are often spontaneous and unplanned and may include:
- Water cooler talk
- Casual conversations
- Team-building activities
- Brainstorming sessions
For example, two employees having a quick chat over lunch are communicating informally. The same goes if your team members use social media to connect outside work hours.
Informal communication can strengthen the bond between employees, leading to better relationships in the workplace. Depending on its nature, it may also increase efficiency, boost job satisfaction, and improve teamwork. In some cases, it encourages the free flow of ideas, driving innovation.
However, these interactions may also result in conflict and misunderstandings. For instance, gossip and rumours can negatively affect employee morale, productivity, and job satisfaction. If left unaddressed, these problems can escalate, leading to high turnover or even lawsuits.
You can break formal communication down into several categories.
Let’s start with internal communication, which occurs when employees interact with each other within the organisation. Some examples include:
- Face-to-face meetings
- Phone calls
- Video conferencing
- Company newsletters
- Internal social media
- Employee intranet
- Performance reviews
- Training sessions
- Employee feedback sessions
- Employee recognition programs
A potential issue is that some communication channels pose risks to organisational security.
Let’s say your employees use disposable email addresses for internal communication.
This practice allows them to filter out and manage emails related to a specific project or task, among other perks. But, in some cases, it may create confusion or miscommunication if the recipient isn’t expecting communication from that address.
Additionally, anyone, including hackers, can access disposable email addresses; therefore, you should never use them to share sensitive information. This guide explains what a disposable email address is and how to spot one.
Companies also communicate with the general public and other parties, including customers, vendors, trade associations, etc.
In this case, communication occurs outside the organisation and can take different forms:
- PR outreach
- Marketing materials
- Social media updates
- Trade shows and conferences
- Corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports
- Public relations
- Investor relations
- Sales prospecting
- Job adverts
For example, a company’s sales team may use LinkedIn video prospecting or other outreach strategies to generate leads. In this scenario, communication takes place between employees and potential customers.
Oral vs. written communication
Your staff members may share information face-to-face or via email, social media, instant messaging, and other written communication channels.
Oral communication allows instant feedback and clarification, often leading to more dynamic interactions. For example, it’s one thing to call an employee to your office and tell him what he is doing wrong and another thing to address this issue by email.
When you’re having a meeting or making a phone call, people can hear the inflection in your voice. As a result, they will understand your message more clearly and respond in real time.
By comparison, written communication is more formal, structured, and permanent. Therefore, you should use it to document decisions and convey complex or technical information.
However, the line between oral and written communication is becoming increasingly blurred in this digital era, given the widespread use of instant messaging, social media, and online collaboration tools.
Upward, downward, or horizontal communication
In an organisation, communication can flow in different directions based on the parties’ status. These include:
- Upward communication, which flows from bottom to top (e.g., an employee reaching out to his manager);
- Downward communication, which flows from top to bottom (e.g., a manager sharing information with his team);
- Horizontal communication occurs between people at the same level in the organisation (e.g., brainstorming sessions).
A fourth category may include diagonal communication, where information flows between departments.
These internal communication networks vary from one company to the next. In general, startups and small businesses have a flat organisational hierarchy where information flows horizontally and diagonally rather than upward and downward.
One-way vs. two-way communication
Leaders often share company policy updates, reports, and other documents without expecting a reply or feedback. In this scenario, we’re talking about one-way communication.
But when it comes to team meetings, brainstorming sessions, and similar interactions, the sender expects a reply or some sort of feedback. The parties listen to each other, exchange ideas, and share their thoughts.
Two-way communication is usually more effective because it ensures a continuous flow of information between parties. The recipient can provide feedback, express his concerns, and request further information.
However, one-way communication has its role, too. If done right, the sender can get his point across without interference.
Best practices to kick-start your communication strategy
Effective communication does more than just facilitate teamwork and reduce workplace conflict. It also enables organisations to adapt to changing market conditions, stay ahead of the competition, and meet or exceed customer needs. Great communication can often be the difference between good and great companies.
This practice can boost employee motivation and engagement, leading to a more productive workplace. Not surprisingly, 85% of employees say they’re more motivated when their superiors update them on the company’s progress.
Similarly, companies with great internal communications deliver 47% higher returns to stakeholders than the average business.
For example, multimedia news provider Thomson Reuters launched the #dare2disrupt campaign in 2016 to drive innovation in the workplace. Employees were encouraged to attend regular team lunches, brainstorm ideas, and participate in boot camps. This initiative improved the company’s internal communications and sparked innovation across teams and departments.
Experian, Microsoft, 3M, Netflix, and other global companies have similar initiatives, and their efforts pay off. They all know that good communication is the backbone of organisational success.
Whether you’re a startup or an established business, you can and should improve your communication strategy. Moving forward, follow these practices to overcome communication challenges and build a thriving workplace.
1. Make every interaction count
First, be intentional in your interactions with the company’s employees, stakeholders, and other parties. Ensure every meeting or conversation has a clear purpose. Speak clearly and concisely, ask clarifying questions, and avoid jumping to conclusions.
For example, we can all agree internal meetings are essential for the proper functioning of any business. But unfortunately, many companies hold unnecessary meetings, keeping employees from doing their work.
A staggering 71% of senior managers agree most meetings are inefficient, and about 65% say this practice interferes with their work. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the average employee attends at least 25 meetings per week.
You don’t need to hold so many meetings to get your point across. Instead, consider using team communication apps to share whatever is on your mind.
Go one step further and cut the meeting time in half. Only invite people who can make meaningful contributions or are in a position to make decisions. Alternatively, record the meetings for those who cannot attend in person.
2. Encourage one-on-one conversations
According to Officevibe, about 40% of employees don’t feel appreciated. Moreover, 65% of professionals say they need more feedback, and only 2% remain engaged after receiving feedback.
Officevibe also found that 43% of highly engaged workers received feedback once a week or more often. On the other hand, those who superiors ignore are twice as likely to be actively disengaged compared to the average worker.
One solution is to have one-on-one meetings with your staff. It’s an opportunity to provide continuous feedback, acknowledge good work, and address employees’ concerns.
Over time, this practice can improve team morale and engagement. Plus, it allows you to identify and solve any issues that may arise proactively.
3. Prioritise two-way communication
Similarly, leaders should prioritise two-way communication to exchange valuable feedback and give employees a voice. Doing so can strengthen team alignment and collaboration, boost productivity, and help people grow in their roles.
Let’s say you plan to close a regional office or make budget cuts. You could send a memo to inform your staff about it, but they might need help understanding why you decided. As a result, they may end up feeling frustrated and disengaged.
A better option is to use RingCentral Rooms or other platforms to discuss with your team members. Explain the reasoning behind your decision, listen to what they have to say, and be open to alternative solutions.
Gather and encourage feedback—and, most importantly, act on it.
For example, your employees may be willing to accept lower pay if you allow them to work remotely. Someone in your team may propose using new tools or technologies to increase efficiency and cut costs. a
4. Use data analytics to improve communication
Regarding external communications, leaders can leverage data to increase their outreach.
Data analytics lets you identify the most relevant and engaged stakeholders, customers, vendors, and third parties. Then, based on this information, you can tailor your message to their specific needs.
Furthermore, leaders can use data analytics to gather and analyse customer feedback, measure outreach success, and gain insights into the competition.
For example, ZoomInfo Data Cubes lay the foundation for enterprise growth through business intelligence. These data bricks enable users to optimise sales and marketing processes, cross-functional collaboration, and external communications.
Data analytics can also reduce uncertainty and improve decision-making. As a result, you’ll be able to back up your message with facts and communicate more effectively. Returning to the previous example, you may use data analytics to help employees understand why you decided to cut spending.
5 .Use the right communication tools
Organisations use various tools to share information with their staff in this digital age. Yet, over three-quarters of employees need to catch up on company updates and news.
You don’t need to use every tool and platform to keep in touch with your team. It might be better to set up a centralised communication hub, such as RingCentral MVP.
Another aspect to consider is that employees have different communication styles and preferences. For example, some still rely on email or the intranet, while others use the latest collaboration tools. Therefore, the information they get is often spread across multiple platforms, creating confusion and ambiguity.
Gather your team members and discuss their communication needs. Ask for feedback and try to reach a consensus regarding the tools used.
Choose a real-time collaboration platform where they can chat, share files, take notes, and manage projects. Ensure the platform works with your existing apps and supports individual and group interactions.
RingCentral MVP includes instant messaging, cloud VoIP, project management tools, visual voicemail, and other features.
Users can set up virtual meeting rooms, upload documents, attend video conferences, and bookmark group messages. Moreover, RingCentral MVP integrates seamlessly with Slack, HubSpot, Microsoft Teams, Zendesk, MailChimp, and other popular apps.
Harness the power of communication for business success
Organisational communication poses challenges for businesses of all sizes, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Identifying who you are talking to and what they need to know matters most, and then tailoring your message accordingly.
First, evaluate your current communication strategy. Try to determine what works and what can be improved. Next, discuss with your team and choose the best course of action.
For example, you may realise that your employees struggle with information overload. Chances are, you don’t need to send them five emails a day or share updates every 30 minutes. In this case, planning your communications and being more intentional makes sense.
Last but not least, good communication requires ongoing effort—and there’s room for improvement. Even little things, such as having one-on-one meetings with your staff members and encouraging them to speak up, can make all the difference.
Originally published Dec 18, 2023