Organizational communication can be defined as a method of conveying and sharing information such as organizational goals, plans used to achieve those goals, policies, rules & regulations, and other trivial details.
Informally, communication in an organization might take place in different ways, but, formally, each organization follows a particular communication method to convey information.
Organizational communication is an integral part of every organization, and it plays an essential role in building a successful business. Communication in an organization affects the way people behave in the organization. Communication in an organization is a vital managerial component because the role of management is to make plans and give directions.
People working in an organization, whether managers or employees who work at the front line, must be aware of how to behave to create the best working environment in the organization.
Communication in an organization also shapes the way people behave in the organization. The behavior of people in the organization affects the way people motivate each other to achieve organizational goals. Organizational communication plays an essential role in the way people interact with one another in meetings.
On the other hand, ineffective organizational communication results in misunderstanding, lack of coordination, and incompetence in the organization. Therefore, it is essential to have effective communication in the organization to execute plans effectively and contribute to the organization’s success.
Effective communication in an organization is so vital that nowadays, even recruiters look for communication skills as one of the primary skills in the people they want to hire. You will commonly find phrases such as business communication, corporate communication, or organizational communication skills in job advertisements.
Types of Organizational Communication
Communication is an integral part of every organization. No organization can survive without proper communication among the people working in the organization.
There are four different types of organizational communications. Some organizations strictly follow one kind of communication, whereas some organizations follow a mix of these communication types.
Let us first learn about different types of communications that take place in an organization to learn about their impact on the organization.
1. Formal communication
Formal communication is one of the most common types of communication that take place in most organizations. Formal communication takes place through pre-defined communication channels.
These communication channels are used by management and employees working in the organization to communicate with each other. Formal communication mostly takes place in organizations that have a hierarchical organizational structure.
In such organizations, a front-line employee cannot directly communicate with the top management. The communication between them takes place through middle management.
2. Informal communication
This type of communication is the opposite of formal communication. Informal communication doesn’t take place through formal channels. The organizations that use informal communication to reach out to each other don’t follow any pre-defined communication channels.
That means communication between the management and employees of the organization can take place through multiple communication channels.
Unlike formal communication where communication happens through proper channels and mediators between top management and front-line employees, informal communication can take place directly between top management and front-line employees.
Moreover, organizations that use informal communication don’t have a properly defined hierarchical structure. All the employees working in such organizations are considered at the same level.
3. Vertical communication
Formal communication can further be categorized into two categories, such as vertical communication and horizontal communication. The vertical communication is a type of communication that takes place between the managers and their subordinates.
The vertical communication can further be fragmented into upward vertical communication and downward vertical communication. In upward vertical communication, communication takes place from managers to their subordinates.
Whereas, downward vertical communication takes place from subordinates to their managers.
4. Horizontal communication
Another type of communication in an organization is horizontal communication. It is a type of communication that takes place between people working at the same level.
Horizontal communication is considered formal communication between the people working at the same level to share information.
Importance of organizational communication
- The first importance of organizational communication is to keep employees working in the organization informed. The employees have communicated the goals they need to achieve and the method used to achieve those goals. They are not only told the techniques but also conveyed feedback to improve their work. The organizational communication helps in clarifying doubts or misunderstanding of the employees.
- Communication in an organization plays the role of a source of information. Information is conveyed to the employees through communication. That information helps the employees in critical decision-making as having this information provides them an alternative course of action to perform a particular task.
- Communication is essential for socializing. Through communication, employees working in the organization socialize with one another. Socialization is also necessary to make strong bonds among the employees, which is essential for an organization to grow.
- Healthy communication in an organization helps shape the attitude of people working in the organization. A well-informed employee has a positive attitude as compared to the less-informed employee.
- Written and formal communication in an organization is more effective as compared to the other types of organizational communications. Therefore, many organizations spend in publishing corporate magazines and journals to share important annual information with the employees of the organization.
- Organizational communication plays a vital role in the controlling process as the role of managers is to give guidelines to their subordinates and to take feedback from them. Effective organizational communication makes these tasks better. The subordinates can perform their tasks efficiently when they are communicated well as well as they can clear their doubts from their supervisors when they face any problem in their work.
Challenges of organizational communication
Even though organizational communication is an integral part of any organization, there are still many challenges that an organization faces when it comes to preparing an effective communication plan.
Organizational communication can never be effective and efficient when the challenges related to organizational communication are not taken care of. The following are organizational communication challenges that one must be aware of before preparing an organizational communication plan for the organization.
1. The relevance of the plan
The first and foremost challenge that one might face while preparing a communication plan is its relevance. It is quite challenging to make a communication plan which is relevant to everyone working in the organization. Different departments and different functions in those departments require different solutions for communication problems that might arise.
For example, in the sales department, most salespeople work virtually and rarely visit the office. The meetings with the sales manager are also conducted through video calls or phone calls.
The teams in the organization who like to work on their own and don’t prefer to meet regularly. Therefore, it is a challenge to prepare an organizational communication plan which is relevant to everyone working in the organization.
2. Size of the Organization
The next challenge that one might face while preparing an organizational communication plan is its size. Especially in large organizations, it is challenging to make an effective communication plan. Because in large organizations, there are multiple departments and sub-departments.
Hundreds of employees work in those departments. Some employees work within the office premises, and some employees work virtually far from the office premises.
In such cases, it becomes quite challenging to prepare a communication plan so that effective communication can be established among all the employees working in the organization.
Accountability is one of the most critical challenges that one must consider while preparing a communication plan. How can you ensure accountability? How can you make sure that the message or information shared is not distorted while being communicated?
What actions should be taken when the data is changed? And how can the source of lapse be tracked? It is essential to have answers to all these questions. It is challenging to maintain accountability in the absence of an effective organizational communication plan.
The last but not least challenge of organization communication is the integrity of information. This challenge is faced by organizations that opt for informal organization communication methods. In an informal environment, the chances of the integrity of the data being affected become high.
Therefore, it is a prominent challenge to make sure that the integrity of the information can be maintained while communicating it in the organization.
The impact of effective organizational communication
Effective communication impacts the organization and the people working in it positively. Let us learn about those impacts one by one.
- Effective communication helps to reduce misunderstandings among the employees and with the clients and business partners. Hence, the number of lawsuits and complaints also minimizes.
- Effective communication in the organization builds the confidence and morale of employees working in the organization. The employees feel more satisfied in an organization where they are well-informed.
- Effective communication improves the procedures and processes that take place in the organization, as a result of which efficiency in the organization progresses, and the cost of production also reduces.
- Excellent and clear communication in the organization helps employees understand the organization’s policies and rules & regulations. That helps them to become loyal towards the company.
- Proper communication in the organization helps in establishing healthy bonds among the employees and management. The employees trust their management and trust the decisions that they take for them. The main advantage of this scenario is that the organization remains union-free, and people communicate their problems and demands and look for a mutually beneficial solution rather than on strikes.
- Employees feel free to voice their opinions and ideas. It is advantageous for the organization as it helps the organization to grow.
- Planned organizational communication is helpful in the execution of production plans.
Impacts of ineffective Organizational communication
- Ineffective communication causes altercations among employees and management because of the misunderstanding created by ineffective communication.
- Ineffective communication in an organization causes incoordination in the departments. Incoordination causes heated arguments between employees, wastage of resources, and high cost of production.
- It is difficult to meet customers’ demands and expectations when there is ineffective communication in the organization. The sales department would not know what the marketing department has been promising to the customers.
- Ineffective communication can also cause a high rate of turnover. Employees feel dissatisfied and ditched when they are not appropriately communicated.
Here is a video by Marketing91 on Organizational Communication.
How to prepare an effective communication strategy?
An effective communication strategy can only be built by considering important factors such as organizational structure, goals & objectives, and the organization’s values. The following are the steps that can be followed to prepare an effective communication strategy.
Step 1: Analyze the size of the organization
It is essential to consider the size of the organization while preparing the organizational communication plan. In a large organization with multiple departments, a formal and well-planned communication plan is necessary to keep all the employees working in all the departments.
Informal communication can prove to be ineffective in such organizations and can cause various misunderstandings among the employees working in the organization.
Step 3. Ask your employees for ideas
Sometimes, considering the ideas and opinions of employees might help you to create an effective communication plan. They know better the shortcomings of the existing communication plan and what can be done to eliminate these shortcomings.
Step 4. Take inspirations from a similar organization
You can look at the communication plan of organizations of similar size and speak to their leaders to ask for their help. You can modify the communication plan used by other organizations as per the requirements of your organization.
Step 5. Take feedback from employees and managers
Finally, managers and employees will be the ones who will be using the communication methods on a day to day basis. Therefore, they can come across the shortcomings of the communication plan and can provide suggestions to enhance the plan.
How to address the challenges of organizational communication while preparing an effective organizational communication plan?
The challenges associated with organizational communication cannot be neglected while preparing an effective communication plan.
However, these challenges can be addressed by considering the following practices while creating a comprehensive communication plan for an organization.
1. Plan meetings frequently
Miscommunication or lack of communication between employees of two or more departments is one of the most common problems that most organizations face.
They might be working on the same project, but they are not aware of the work done by one another due to the lack of communication. To eliminate this problem, the management should make sure that the employees are given ample opportunities to sit and talk with each other.
For example, you can conduct Q&A sessions, or lunch and learn meetings, or add a feature of interdepartmental feeds to your communication plan.
2. Perform regular assessment of the current organizational communications
Assessing your current organizational communication plan helps you in identifying its shortcomings. To get a more detailed assessment, you can look for the answers to the following:
How often do employees miss the deadlines?
Are the employees making the effective use of modern technologies for communication?
Having the answer to such questions will help you to learn about the issues in the current communication plan. Eliminate those issues to create an effective organizational communication plan.
3. Include digital tools
Technology has solutions for every problem. Therefore, you should also give great importance to using the latest technology to create effective communication in the organization.
In the present times of technology, most youngsters consider face-to-face meetings as a waste of time. They believe that the work that can be done using technology doesn’t require the person’s physical presence.
Therefore, by using the latest technology, you can stay in touch with the employees working virtually as well as in different departments.
4. Incorporate a variety of communication styles
Lastly, having one standard communication method will not work for all the people working in an organization. Different people consume information differently.
Some people can work well through face-to-face meetings, and some might like online updates to be informed. To create effective communication in the organization, you should incorporate different communication approaches. The people should be given as much as available options.
Effective organizational communication is the backbone of an organization. Without proper communication, no organization can survive. Creating an effective communication plan for an organization requires a proper deeper understanding of the organization structure, its size, its goals, and its values.
However, creating an organizational communication plan is not an easy job. It comes with a variety of challenges that should be considered and taken care of while creating a plan for organizational communication.
Effective communication plays a vital role in helping the organization to grow their profits and minimize their cost of production, and ineffective communication can create misunderstanding among the employees.