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A guide to organizational communication

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Whether you’re running a large corporation or a small nonprofit, communication is essential. Your customers, clients, and stakeholders want to see a professional attitude and clarity in your messages. The best business leaders create open and honest working relationships and build trust through organizational communication.

But workplace communication isn’t just about your customers. It’s about your employees, too. Employees are at their best when they have transparent relationships with each other and their managers. Being able to express views, share thoughts, and trust in the information received is the bare minimum in a workplace.

For most of us, communication is becoming more complicated than ever. Wide-scale remote work means many teams are working away from the office. Face-to-face communication feels like a thing of the past, and we’re relying more on email, instant messaging, and social media channels to communicate. As such, it’s important for all teams to use the best possible technology, like RingCentral Glip™, to ensure that communication doesn’t let them down.  

Organizational communication is important in all industries. But what exactly is it, and how can it help you? 

What is organizational communication? 

Organizational communication is the term used to define communication that takes place in business environments. But there’s a bit more to it than that. 

The roots of organizational communication lie in a field of study that has fascinated researchers for years. Works by Herbert A. Simon and W. Charles Redding have paved the way for further analysis and set communication theory in motion. 

Those interested in the academic field of communication study can take it to a doctoral level. While this could lead to a career as a professor of communication, it can also lead towards a career in the following business roles: 

This is because communication is essential in business. Organizational communication isn’t just academic: it’s prevalent in any workplace. Most job adverts will mention communication skills as a requirement, and human resources should hold communication workshops and training to ensure effective communication occurs in every role. 

What are some examples of organizational communication? 

There isn’t one simple answer when it comes to organizational communication. If there was, organizational communication research wouldn’t be necessary. 

Organizations with effective organizational communication have a number of techniques to get it right. Here are some examples of effective organizational communication:

Team meetings

Team meetings are an important part of organizational communication. All teams should regularly share ideas, ask for feedback, and freely voice their opinions. 

While team meetings more commonly happen in person, they can also take place virtually. At RingCentral, we focus on helping employees work effectively from anywhere. Because of this, we’ve made video meetings easier than ever with RingCentral Glip. 

With HD meetings for up to 200 participants, enterprise-grade security that encrypts all your conversations, and carrier-grade infrastructure that keeps you online all the time, team-building meetings feel as natural as possible. Plus, you can easily screen share so everyone is on the same page. Don’t let distance stop you from uniting your team. 

Remote work training

Business communication can be more difficult when employees aren’t sharing the same workspace. As such, the best companies provide remote work training to ensure that all employees know how to communicate. 

Feedback

A successful business creates an environment where employee communications are prioritized. As such, they are always looking to improve organizational communication techniques and encourage feedback. They use qualitative and quantitative data to better the company and improve communications systems. 

Social events

Effective communication can’t take place if colleagues are awkward or uncomfortable around each other. Social events such as team-building exercises help to create open, honest, and professional relationships and show employees effective ways to communicate. 

A successful organization builds employees’ attitudes by organizing social events and encouraging them to interact. Social events create positive organizational cultures and lift employee spirits. 

What are the types of organizational communication? 

Organizational culture can be split up into the following four categories: 

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And, within each organizational structure, there are a number of subcategories that come into play. Let’s take a look at the main types of communication.

Formal and informal communication

This category is quite simple. It’s all about the language and tone an organization uses when communicating. Corporate communication calls for the ability to assess what level of formality is required in a particular situation. 

Formal communication

Formal communication is often used when communicating with customers and clients, especially during an official press release. Formal communication tends to follow a specific organizational structure, such as mass communication in a carefully crafted email campaign or at a meeting. It may be used in the following circumstances:

The key to formal communication is professionalism. It calls for careful wording and a communication strategy. Strategic communication makes miscommunication unlikely and organizational success likely. However, formal communications can sometimes feel stilted and impersonal.

Informal communication

Informal communication, also known as “grapevine” communication, is equally important, as it is the most common way internal organizational communication occurs. Employees use informal communication to connect with each other to:

Many organizations favor informal over formal communication as it can help employees feel more in control of their own workload. However, miscommunication is more likely as informal communication is less strategic. As such, it’s important for organizations regularly using informal communications to have guidelines or employee handbooks for communication practices.

Directional communication

Source

Organizational communication is directional. This means that the way we communicate changes depending on the position of the person we’re talking to. There are three types of directional communication: downward, upward, and horizontal/lateral.

Directional communication—downward

Downward communication refers to an employee communicating with another employee in a lower-ranking position. Downward communication is most commonly used in an instructional sense, such as:

In most workplaces, downward communicators will take place via email or messages. However, they can also take place via video call or face-to-face.   

Directional communication—upward

Upward communication is the reversal of downward communication. It’s most commonly used in the following workplace situations:

Upward communication is effective because it can help build a more equal workplace. When an organization encourages employees to speak about their experiences to senior management and make suggestions for improvement, it’s likely to see more engaged employees and a boost in productivity. 

Directional communication—horizontal

Horizontal communication refers to the communication of employees on the same hierarchical level. It might occur in the following situations:

Horizontal communications often occur face-to-face. However, with more companies working remotely, employees are needing to find fast and effective ways to communicate through a screen. Communication channels such as team messaging services enable employees to chat horizontally throughout the day, no matter where they’re based.

Internal and external communication

Communication in organizations can also be split into internal and external communication. This refers to the types of people employees communicate with.

Source

Internal communication

Internal communications focus on the way employees interact with one another. This workplace communication may involve the following:

Internal communication focuses on employee engagement and employee communication. Businesses need to ensure that employees can bond and make effective professional connections. This can be more challenging for large organizations or those that encourage employees to work from anywhere. 

External communication

External communication applies to the way an organization communicates with the outside world. This includes:

External communication is important for building a brand, as well as maintaining strong customer relationships. There should be an overarching tone to all external communication in order to show a cohesive organizational image. It needs to fit with the organization’s mission, ethics, and industry. Additionally, having clear guidelines on how to communicate with customers ensures a consistent, high-quality customer experience.

Oral and written communication

The final category when analyzing organizational communication is oral and written communication. Both types are used regularly and play a big role in organizational success.

Oral communication

Oral (spoken) communication is important. It’s the way a person communicates face-to-face to their colleagues, employees, or customers. Interpersonal communication relies on body language, eye contact, and gestures, as well as the words being said. An employee may use oral communication in a one-to-one session, a small group meeting, or in front of a large crowd of people. As such, oral communication helps us to form stronger relationships and build trust. 

Remote working can mean that oral communication is more challenging. But, considering its importance in building and maintaining professional relationships, it’s still necessary. Many organizations rely on video calling to ensure that teams can stay connected and have interpersonal communication.  

Written communication

Written communication is also important when running a business. It occurs via email, instant messages, and social media, and can be both formal and informal.  

There are a number of benefits to written communication over oral communication. For example, an employee has more time to think of their response and ensure it adheres to the company guidelines. Written communication is less impulsive and therefore can be more strategic. 

However, written communication can also have its drawbacks. It can be more difficult to portray the company’s personality, and organizations risk losing a tone of voice if the written communication is shared among many members of staff. This is where a handbook is useful. 

Why is organizational communication important? 

Organizational communication is essential in building a business. The downfall of an organization is often a result of ineffective communication. 

Organizational communication should never be overlooked. Here are some reasons why:

Employee engagement

Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. Good organizational communication can help employees feel more engaged with their work and the business as a whole. They are likely to find their role more satisfying, feel trusted by their employer, and more motivated to reach goals and please customers. Strong communication also means employees will have a greater understanding of the business and of their role within it.

Public relations

There are no secrets within businesses, whether it’s a large corporation or a nonprofit. When a customer hears something negative, it reduces the credibility of the business and can drive them away. Having effective internal and external communication can reduce the chances of such negativity and, if a problem does arise, deal with it well.

Reducing misunderstandings: Organizational communication ensures that all organizational members are on the same page. This reduces the likelihood of any miscommunications or misunderstandings. Employees know how to communicate with their customers and won’t accidentally share incorrect information. As such, a business is less likely to lose customers, receive legal disputes, or earn a bad reputation.

How do you manage organizational communication? 

All businesses should have an organizational communication plan. A communication strategy relies on everyone in the business to play their role and contribute. This includes:

The CEO and senior managers: Those at the top of the workplace hierarchy are responsible for setting the tone and establishing the culture. These organizational leaders should lead the way by example.

Human resources teams: HR professionals should set an example and create the documents and guidelines for other members of staff. They should always be available to receive feedback and must take any complaints or concerns seriously.

Managers and team leaders: Those responsible for managing teams must create routes for effective communication, organize meetings, and be willing to listen as much as speak.

All employees and frontline staff: Every other organizational member must communicate, listen, and provide feedback when necessary. Those who sit back when an issue arises cannot expect it to be resolved if they don’t communicate their concerns. Employees’ attitudes can have a huge impact on the day-to-day operations of a business, so make sure they’re being heard.

Each organization’s communication strategy will be different. However, all organizational communication strategies should use the following elements: 

Training

Training is important in organizational communication. Employees should be trained in company communication policies and both written and oral communication. And, when it comes to remote working, they should know how to communicate via team messaging apps and video calls. 

Employee handbook

Organizational communication also relies on the right resources. Employees should have access to a handbook that has a code of ethics, guidelines on communicating with customers and clients, and a clear social media policy.

Responding to issues

Effective organizational communication relies on action. Employees won’t trust their managers if they repeatedly report issues and don’t see changes. So, an organization’s communication strategy must include responding to employee and customer issues and acting upon concerns. Otherwise, resentment will grow and employees won’t feel valued.

Dealing with external media

Organizational communication isn’t just about your internal team—you also need to think about external media. HR, public relations, and a content team should be able to write press releases and develop formal policies for dealing with external media. If an issue arises, the key is to respond quickly and make your stance clear.  

Measuring results 

Data is important in organizational communication. All organizations should be measuring qualitative and quantitative data such as turnover rates and employee satisfaction to create a more effective workplace. These results must always be acted upon. Otherwise, surveys are pointless. 

Don’t overlook organizational communication

Organizational communication is the backbone of any business strategy. Effective organizational communication helps employees engage with their work and guarantees organizational success.

So, now that you know exactly what organizational communication is and how to implement it, make it your organization’s mission to communicate properly. With a little help from the video and messaging products at RingCentral, you’ll get it right—every time.  

Originally published Jan 22, 2021, updated Jan 26, 2021

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