Communication Toolkit: Communicating Across the Organization

This article intended to help the organization as a whole optimize its company-wide communications. Throughout this article, you will learn what organizational communication is and how it flows throughout a company. Then, you will contemplate key points for ensuring that organization-wide communication is productive.

Communication Toolkit: Communicating Across the Organization
Communication Toolkit: Communicating Across the Organization

Content Summary

Understanding Organizational Communication
Tips for Effective Organizational Communication
Key Message
Evaluation

Understanding Organizational Communication

Employers seek to hire strong communicators and encourage employees to consistently improve their communication skills. They emphasize the importance of employees communicating well with customers, managers communicating well with subordinates, and so on. But, what about large-scale communication? You know … communication across the entire organization?

Organizational communication encompasses all the messages that flow within the framework of a work environment. This can be formal, meaning the organization has established specific channels for conveying the information … like policies, procedures, performance reviews, meetings, company newsletters, and so on. Or it can be informal, meaning it’s outside the established channels and can happen anywhere within the organization. This tends to be more relational and includes things such as social interactions and even office gossip. As you can imagine, organizations prefer to leverage formal methods to ensure messages are
standardized and clear.

Tips for Effective Organizational Communication

Now, with large-scale communication like that which occurs across an organization, messages flow in multiple directions. In fact, organizational communication can move vertically, either downward or upward, or it can move horizontally.

Downward communication occurs when messages are passed down from superiors to subordinates. It’s like when you receive coaching from your boss or learn about a new company initiative from the department head.

Upward communication occurs when messages are passed up from subordinates to superiors. Think of when you provide feedback to your manager or submit a proposal to the leadership group.

And, horizontal communication occurs when messages are passed between two people who are on the same level … like when you collaborate on a project with your coworkers or do cross-training with a peer on a different team.

So, why do you need to learn about all this? Well, when done right, organizational communication ensures employees know how they’re expected to behave. It fosters a more trusting, open, and productive environment. And, it allows everyone across the organization to move in the same positive direction.

How can you say no to those benefits? With all those great things in mind, how can you ensure your organization-wide communication is productive? Here are some important points to remember.

Tips for Effective Organizational Communication

Be open and transparent

It’s important to be as candid as possible in your organization-wide communications. Otherwise, you’re going to destroy any trust employees have in leadership and their employer in general. Share what you know. Let people know if you DON’T know the information. And, if you’re not allowed to share information for some reason, say so! People just want to see that you’re being as open and truthful as possible in your communication efforts.

Be timely

Don’t wait to share pertinent information with your organization. Do it now! If you don’t, you can bet that gossip and rumors will run rampant … potentially hurting your workforce’s engagement and productivity. Formal communication is preferable to informal communication, remember?

To ensure you’re communicating with the organization in a timely manner, build it into the schedule. For example, maybe you set up a recurring staff meeting for the first Monday of every month. Or, maybe you send out a detailed newsletter every Friday morning. The point is, you need to make communication regular and ongoing. You need to update employees as you learn new information or as changes occur. And, you need to give people the information they need at the time that they need it.

Use multiple channels

Just because you share a post on Facebook doesn’t mean that your entire workforce will see it. You need to be diverse in your communication efforts! Send an email out to the entire organization. Post about it on social media. Discuss it in the monthly newsletter. Pin a flyer about it on the bulletin board. Discuss it during staff meetings. By communicating information in a variety of ways, you can be pretty sure that everyone receives it and—hopefully—understands the message.

Be consistent

Yeah, you need to communicate through various media. But, what happens if your email message is different from your social media message, which is different from what you say in the town hall? Then, no one will know what the REAL message is.

Everyone will have a different understanding of what’s going on. And, overall, trust in the organization will be diminished. As a result, people won’t take communication efforts seriously anymore, which will almost guarantee that future communication efforts will fail. So, make sure that all messaging is consistent to ensure everyone across the organization is on the same page.

Get feedback

Organizational communication should be a two-way street … not just the higherups telling the frontline workers what’s what. To facilitate this kind of dialogue, it’s important to establish avenues for generating employee feedback. Now, this can’t be just a big hoax to make workers feel like their opinion matters. You have to truly encourage employees to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns and then actually APPLY what you learn. These workers are a lot closer to the real work being done, so their feedback is incredibly valuable. Make sure you’re leveraging it!

And, address communication barriers.

If something goes wrong and your communication efforts go awry … “Oh well,” right? … No! You need to manage your communication process if you want to reap all the benefits of effective organizational communication. So, evaluate your communication efforts, identify any problems, and commit to resolving them. Don’t let changes, disconnects, or any other obstacles get in the way of sending and receiving messages across the company. This is critical if you want your organizational communication to be successful!

Would you like to have a workforce that’s aligned toward a consistent goal and strategy? Then, you need to master your organizational communication skills! Fortunately, now you know how to make your company-wide communications as meaningful as possible.

Key Message

  • Organizational communication encompasses all the messages that flow within the framework of a work environment.
    • Formal communication goes through specific channels established by the organization.
    • Informal communication is outside the established channels and can happen anywhere within the organization.
  • Organizational communication can move in three different directions:
    • Downward communication occurs when messages are passed down from superiors to subordinates.
    • Upward communication occurs when messages are passed up from subordinates to superiors.
    • Horizontal communication occurs when messages are passed between two people who are on the same level.
  • Effective organizational communication:
    • Ensures employees know how they’re expected to behave.
    • Fosters a more trusting, open, and productive environment.
    • Allows everyone across the organization to move in the same positive direction.
  • Apply these tips to ensure your organizational communication is effective:
    • Be open and transparent.
      • Share what you know.
      • Let people know if you don’t know the information.
      • If information is confidential, just say so.
    • Be timely.
      • Don’t wait to share pertinent information—do it now!
      • Build organizational communication into the schedule.
      • Make communication regular and ongoing.
    • Use multiple channels.
      • By communicating information in a variety of ways, you can be pretty sure that everyone receives and—hopefully—understands the message.
    • Be consistent.
      • If you’re inconsistent, no one will know what the real message is, everyone will have a different understanding of what’s going on, and trust will be diminished.
    • Get feedback.
      • Establish avenues for generating employee feedback.
      • Encourage employees to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns.
      • Apply what you learn.
    • Address communication barriers.
      • Manage your communication process by evaluating your communication efforts, identifying any problems, and committing to resolving them.

This article describes how to make organizational communication as effective as possible. How does your employer communicate across the workforce? How can they improve?

Evaluation

Question 1

What do you need to do to be open and transparent in your organizational communication? (Check all that apply.)

A. Share what you know
B. Let people know if you don’t know the information
C. Withhold information that’s incomplete
D. If information is confidential, just say so

Correct Answer:
A. Share what you know
B. Let people know if you don’t know the information
D. If information is confidential, just say so
Answer Description:
To be open and transparent, you have to share what you know, be honest if you don’t know the information, and simply say so if information can’t be shared yet. You shouldn’t withhold information that’s incomplete. Just convey what you DO know and indicate that you’ll have more to share later.

Question 2

It’s important to get feedback from employees, but you don’t have to make an effort to apply what you learn.

A. TRUE
B. FALSE

Correct Answer:
B. FALSE

Question 3

You can manage your communication process by evaluating your communication efforts, identifying any problems, and committing to resolving them.

A. TRUE
B. FALSE

Correct Answer:
A. TRUE

Question 4

By communicating information in a variety of ways, you can be pretty sure that everyone receives and—hopefully—understands the message.

A. TRUE
B. FALSE

Correct Answer:
A. TRUE

Question 5

_______________ communication encompasses all the messages that flow within the framework of a work environment.

A. Departmental
B. Industrial
C. Organizational
D. Universal
E. Procedural

Correct Answer:
C. Organizational

Question 6

If you wait to share pertinent information with the organization, gossip will likely run rampant as people try to guess what’s going on.

A. TRUE
B. FALSE

Correct Answer:
A. TRUE

Question 7

How can you be timely about organizational communication? (Check all that apply.)

A. Share pertinent information immediately
B. Build organizational communication into the schedule
C. Make communication regular and ongoing
D. Wait to communicate until you have the full story

Correct Answer:
A. Share pertinent information immediately
B. Build organizational communication into the schedule
C. Make communication regular and ongoing

Question 8

If you’re inconsistent in your organization-wide messaging: (Check all that apply.)

A. No one will know what the real message is.
B. Everyone will have a different understanding of what’s going on.
C. Trust in the organization will be diminished.
D. People won’t take organizational communications seriously.

Correct Answer:
A. No one will know what the real message is.
B. Everyone will have a different understanding of what’s going on.
C. Trust in the organization will be diminished.
D. People won’t take organizational communications seriously.

Question 9

__________ communication occurs when messages are passed between two people who are on the same level.

A. Formal
B. Informal
C. Upward
D. Downward
E. Horizontal

Correct Answer:
E. Horizontal

Question 10

Effective organizational communication: (Check all that apply.)

A. Ensures employees know how they’re expected to behave
B. Undermines established policies and procedures
C. Fosters a more trusting, open, and productive environment
D. Allows everyone to move in the same positive direction

Correct Answer:
A. Ensures employees know how they’re expected to behave
C. Fosters a more trusting, open, and productive environment
D. Allows everyone to move in the same positive direction

Question 11

____________ communication is outside the established channels and can happen anywhere within the organization.

A. Formal
B. Informal
C. Upward
D. Downward
E. Horizontal

Correct Answer:
B. Informal