Avoiding A Communication Breakdown

Avoiding A Communication Breakdown

At Ariel Capital Management Inc. (No. 1 on the BE ASSET MANAGERS list with $10.3 billion in assets under management), employees can be found attending the weekly Breakfast Club. More important than the food and socializing, the employees learn about Ariel’s operations and services portfolio, honing presentation skills, and building their professional skills — all part of a day’s work.

The Breakfast Club is a communication program at the Chicago-based investment management company. “The primary objective is to have everyone learn as much as possible about the firm, work as a team, and act as Ariel ambassadors — with current clients or anybody working with the firm,” says Toni Vollmers, Ariel’s director of training, education, and development. Vollmers adds that through internal communications, “we’ve created a knowledge-sharing environment” for Ariel’s 67 employees.

Like Ariel, more businesses are embracing internal communications as a way to keep employees informed and increase their understanding of the company’s goals and objectives.

Companies of all sizes stand to benefit from these practices. “Internal communication is more important today than in previous years partly because the business and market conditions are more complex, particularly in the telecom industry,” says Mirian Graddick-Weir, AT&T executive vice president of human resources. “There is a lot of information in the marketplace and it’s crucial that employees understand it. We put it in perspective — what does it mean to the company and the individual.”

America’s workforce may be inundated with information, but Graddick-Weir adds that companies could cut through the clutter by developing internal communication messaging and related programming that empower employees. “When you’ve got informed employees who understand the business, it helps them do their jobs more effectively.”

Putting together an internal communication strategy involves linking it to a company’s business strategy, its mission, and values. Another key component is the delivery vehicles used to bring messages and programs to employees. Senior leadership support of the internal communications strategy is also essential.

The development of a strategic internal communication strategy and its implementation can provide a number of benefits to organizations, such as keeping employees motivated and engaged, and sharing clear, consistent messages with employees in a timely manner. To achieve those benefits, management must take advantage of all forms of communication at its disposal.

Face-to-face communications: Meetings that bring together senior leadership to review business strategy and provide updates to large groups of employees, where employees also have an opportunity to ask questions.

Voicemail messaging: This can be used to disseminate critical, time-sensitive information to all employees. When it is used judiciously, employees take notice immediately.

Print: Hard copy publications that include company news and useful employee information, distributed on a periodic basis.

Electronic: AT&T produces an e-newsletter that features news coverage excerpts from various publications, company success stories, and employee letters. There’s also a Web-based strategic electronic publication that carries in-depth features on the company. Video, Intranets, internal product, and service events are other options to consider.

Employee feedback: This can be done through employee surveys, anecdotal interviews, and input and focus groups. It’s a good way to maintain a