Communication is an important aspect of a successful work environment. It does not only enhance understanding and effective work flow, but also encourages innovation through information sharing. Every organization must recognize the importance of communication in enhancing better workplaces and improving employee performance. Since organizations are composed of many individuals working towards the same goal, it is important for managers to ensure that there are clear lines of communication to build trust, reduce conflicts and create morale among employees.
Considering the importance of communication, leaders put in place various processes and strategies to improve interactions among employees in the workplace. There are several facets of communication that are worth considering within an organizational context. Four of the most important facets of communication include: organization, culture, people, and platforms
How individuals are organized and authority is shared affects the effectiveness of communication within the organization. Organizational structure determines how communication flows in the organization and how information is shared between departments. Some organizations with hierarchical structures and bureaucratic systems have vertical, rigid and slow communications. On the other hand, flat organizational structures allow flexible, fast and horizontal communications. A good organizational structure allows open communication and enables employees to share information throughout the organization, hence improving teamwork and organizational performance.
Culture is also an important facet of communication because it determines how things are done within the organization. Organizational culture refers to a set of shared values and rituals that reflect the image of an organization. It is affected by the collective attitudes and beliefs of individuals within the organization as well as national culture, organizational values, and purpose of the company. For example, a company that has the mission to improve customer satisfaction could use the value of effective customer service as an important facet of communication in the workplace. Furthermore, some organizations may prefer face-to-face meetings while others use emails to communicate. A positive organizational culture also encourages employees’ participation and engagement, and enables employees to raise issues or give their opinion about important issues.
Members of an organization play an important role in facilitating communication at all levels. This is why most organizations hire people who have good communication skills. People are the conveyors and recipients of messages in a communication process. However, people differ in terms of culture, personality, attitudes, interests and communication styles. Some individuals are more educated and use language more effectively than others. Such differences require people to be flexible and empathetic when communicating with people from different cultures.
Another facet of communication is the channel or medium used by individuals when communicating. In the past, organizations relied on traditional methods of communication such as memos, letters, and face-to-face meetings. Nowadays there are various platforms through which communications may occur, such as social media, phone calls, messaging apps, and virtual meetings. Communication platforms affect the way in which information is shared in an organization. Some platforms allow company-wide communication and coordination of activities within the organization. Others prefer physical office meetings and others use video conferences. Nowadays, technology plays a critical role in facilitating fast, reliable and flexible communications. This leads to quick and effective decision making in various levels of the organization.
In an organization, communication flows in various directions. Horizontal flow of communication occurs when the company wants employees to communicate with each other, within the same organizational level, and across departments. On the other hand, vertical communication occurs between individuals in different levels, such as between supervisors and frontline employees; or vertical communication between top and mid-level managers.
In highly hierarchical and autocratic organizations, information flows from the top downwards because employees are not always free to give their opinion. In this case, managers provide feedback to their employees in a downward communication process. Democratic and flat organizational structures allow employees to participate in decision making, which means that information flows in all directions. Upward communication occurs when employees feel free to give their feedback and views to the top management.