Finding the Right Communication Method
Research tells us that communication is the key to alignment and alignment is the key to good execution. Technology and continuous change have brought with them the need to communicate more frequently and offer many different methods of communication to choose from. A monthly staff meeting is no longer enough to keep people updated and informed. At the same time, the McKinsey Global Institute found that an average employee spends 13 hours a week reading and responding to email, proving it to be one of the most time-consuming work activities. The right communication method influences how well the message will be understood, accepted and aligned by the receiver. How do you know which communication method is right for your message?
COMMUNICATION IS PERSONAL
Depending on who you ask, how to provide good communication varies. Most would agree that good communication involves a clear, concise message conveyed with voice or text. Stakeholders who receive consistent, reliable communication are more engaged with their work. Choosing the right communication method allows for collaboration and relationship building to occur on your team.
To communicate with a colleague, Adobe Consumer Email Survey Report (2017) tells us email, face-to-face, and phone calls are the most used communication methods. Respondents noted that both email and face-to-face conversations are preferred, with preferences for face-to-face conversations increasing over the last year. However not everything can be accomplished in an email, and we can’t spend every minute in conversation with each other or we would never finish our work.
When we choose the right communication method we avoid conflicts and misunderstandings. Communicating effectively the first time, prevents the need to backtrack or start over, saving us time later. Some messages are easily misunderstood, spend the time before delivering a message to decide which method is the most appropriate.
COMMON COMMUNICATION METHODS
Best for focused, short, succinct messages. Emails are efficient and effective and can be opened at the receiver’s convenience. Be specific in your subject line. Remember with email you may not get a response, so if one is required another communication method may be a better option.
Best for quick questions which need little discussion, and short team communication items. Instant messages are also opened at the receivers’ convenience and you may not get a response right away.
Best for any conversations that shouldn’t take place in a group setting, or do not apply to the whole group. These meetings include new employee check-ins all the way to performance related conversations. Individual meetings can be formal or informal. Being face-to-face will strengthen relationships and is reserved for topics more serious than an email or instant message.
Best for any topic that requires a discussion and the person is not available face-to-face. If your emails are going back and forth on the same topic, it’s probably time to pick up the phone. Placing a video call is a great option as well.
Best for external communication or non-urgent internal updates. Newsletters that come in the mail vs. email are more likely to be opened and read. This is a form of communication often sent monthly or quarterly that is fun to read and contains more general updates, a variety of topics and personal elements.
Monthly Team Meeting
Best for collaboration and problem-solving. Provide current updates focused on alignment between team issues and organizational goals. Provide employees with clear actions and expectations as a result. If there is no problem to be solved or discussion needed see if another communication method would be more appropriate and effective than a team meeting.
Best quarterly and/or yearly to keep individuals and departments focused and aligned to their organization wide goals and expectations.
Best for “all staff” meetings for CEO updates to employees on the internal and external environment and provides other important information. You may have heard these called a forum or a town-hall meeting and attendance should be mandatory. In larger organizations where this is virtually impossible we have seen a rise in video email communications from CEOs to their entire staff.
Employee Communication Board
Best for visual, non-urgent information and messages related to a department or area. The boards provide a specific area to display material so everyone throughout the organization sees the same messages that relate to key focus areas. This is an area where you can let employees own their own communication. We have seen a rise in digital communication boards that are managed by a central communications office.
Best when speaking with a broad, external audience. Social media can be used to highlight the inner workings of an organization, so the public is able to feel engaged. There are also closed social media networks that organizations and teams can utilize for internal communication.
Best for collecting information from an external group such as the community. This method shows external stakeholders their opinions are valued. High performing organizations value time and efficiency. By choosing an effective communication method, stakeholders see you value their time which builds trust.
CHOOSE A COMMUNICATION METHOD IN 3 STEPS
Determine Your Purpose for the Communication.
- What kind of message do you need to deliver?
- Is the message brief, or will it take explanation?
- Could my communication be misinterpreted or result in conflict?
- Is there a problem that needs to be solved?
- How urgent is your message?
- Will you need to gather feedback?
Consider Your Audience.
- Who needs to know?
- Internal or External Stakeholders?
- Individuals or Groups?
- Are there any relationships at stake that should be noted?
- How will the message impact the work of my team?
- What’s in it for them?
Choose A Clear, Efficient Communication Method Aligned to the Message and Your Audience.
- Which method will provide your audience with the most value and understanding?
- Is it necessary to have a meeting, or can this be communicated another way?
- Prioritize human connections while showing you value time and efficiency.