Face to Face communications is recognized as the single most important vehicle organizations have at their disposal. At the same time, it may be the least understood.
In working with clients we have come to understand that in most cases face to face communications is understood by most managers and communications staff to mean “yet another meeting”.
Of course, the thought of ‘yet another meeting’ is about as appealing to management and staff as salt to a slug.
Research study after research study has shown that the level of trust in organizations is highest between employee and their supervisor or manager. And for good reasons – these people work together on a daily basis and have a degree of understanding built up through that relationship.
For organizations to take advantage of that trust, it is essential that communications staff do whatever they can to support the manager in connecting with their staff. Providing a package of overheads and a “detailed briefing paper” (an oxymoron if ever there was one) – the apparent choice of so many communication campaigns in businesses today – according to the managers we have dealt with, just doesn’t work. Managers find themselves in the awkward position of calling an unwanted meeting, telling staff that corporate sent these slides and they have to attend. The slides get shown and are received with little, if any enthusiasm. The meeting ends having generated more sarcasm and cynicism then questions and understanding.
So what then needs to be the focus?
First of all, we need to develop the interpersonal communication skills of our front line managers. And this does not always mean that we need to train them on specific skills such as active listening – sometimes it means we just have to give them an opportunity to practice using the skills they already have, or have had training in.
Next, we have to ensure that we do all we can to help front line managers understand the core messages that need to be delivered. And to achieve this, we need to focus on developing their understanding of the context of the messages. In other words, we need to help managers understand why a decision was reached, the related business case and surrounding customer and marketplace forces.
And finally, we need to establish systems to support the managers in getting answers to questions that arise and to feed issues back up the organization to assist in identifying new or clearer messages that can then be shared with staff.
If you focus on these three areas, your front line managers and supervisors will be well prepared the next time they stop by the water cooler to answer the questions members of their team may ask. And it is the water cooler and parking lot exchanges that go the furthest towards building an workplace that is truly engaged.
- 5 top tips for making the most of water cooler gossip (edensprings.co.uk)
- How Communication Resolves Internal Issues (seomoz.org)
- Acknowledge and appreciate the new… (chandermohannagpal.wordpress.com)