No one can argue that clear information and communication are critical to running a successful facility. Everyone has to be on the same page to make the operation run seamlessly. However, how do you find one level of communication that works with the many different levels of your workers?
Where To Find It?
Communication is all around you. It needs to work successfully in all functions of the organization: company goals, policies, job descriptions, training, supervision, performance appraisals, skill enhancement, customer service, sales, maintenance, and safety, to name a few. We have all been in situations where poor communication caused a problem or prevented a problem from being solved.
In order for all employees to understand directions, set a level of written communication that must not be overruled. An eighth grade reading level is generally understandable by most people. Set language policies, specifying which language will be used throughout the company. Set policies forbidding slang and shortcuts. Set policies regarding critical information and whether or not it can be conveyed via electronic means. Whatever your fail-safe level is for proper communication, set the standards, publish them, constantly hire and train employees using those standards, and do not compromise.
When To Use it
You do not want to dumb-down your organization to the point of hampering creativity and growth. When workers, trainers and managers are operating in a face-to-face role, leaders should be comfortable talking at their normal level of communication. However, they must carefully observe their audience to make sure everyone understands the ideas that are conveyed. If that is not happening, the leader must change the level of the communication, and make it understandable.
When Not To
Avoid using slang. Only employ the use of humor or informal communications when you are face-to-face. If the employee or guest is required to gather information by reading, make sure all such communications are simple and clear, leaving no doubt as to the written message. Require someone in the organization to regularly make sure all written documents are clear, conform to your target values, and do not leave ambiguity that could result in harm to persons or the organization. (What’s ambiguity? Is that an eighth grade word?)
Address the Ages
We are a diverse society. Trainers need to understand that multiple levels of education or communication will exist among workers. They must realize that people learn in different ways. Some like to be next to each other when learning. Others like to “have their space.” Management needs to address the age and language issues between workers and leaders, as well as culture differences. The solution is keeping all communication simple and clear. It may be boring, but it is necessary.
Work On You
Leaders must show a real interest in making sure that all people receive clear information on issues that concern them. Help others understand information when they are struggling. Forget the slogans and homilies. (What is a homily? My point, exactly!) Make sure your communications are always clear and understandable.
There are certain pitfalls that can create obstacles to clear communication such as e-mail, poorly written employee guides and policies, voice mail and texting. Make sure that if these mediums are used, the messages are short and clean. If you want a longer, more detailed transfer of information, do so face-to-face. Visual body language is an important part of clear communication. Unpolished or unskilled trainers can also create communication barriers, so make sure your company messengers are good at their task. Review their performance regularly.
Say It, Repeat It, Test It
Be clear in what you say. Repeat what you say and make sure the listener understands the message. Follow up to make sure the message remains clear over time and that the listener still remembers the correct data.
Management has the responsibility to make sure communication is always clear, understood and followed. The same level of communication must be used with suppliers or outside vendors.
When writing and editing this message, I left in several words that are part of my common vocabulary, but might have been tough for readers to understand. They would not normally appear in work communications. In my classes, I watch for confusion on the faces of the workers. If in doubt, I will ask if the class understood my meaning. If they did not, I clarify in simple terms, but I do so in a way that will allow them to maintain their self-worth. Never let employees feel uncomfortable if something is not understood. Doing it right in the first place is the key to success.