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Have You Lost Connection

How long ago did you have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself? Don’t remember? Well, how often do you really dive deep into your mind to chat with your inner self? Again unable to recall readily?

Don’t you find this rather embarrassing?

Well you need not, especially if you happen to be a young and ambitious business manager. In fact, you are in the company of innumerable peers who have lost their moorings, caught as they are in the turmoil of day-to-day business data.  

Therefore, it is no surprise that the current crop of corporate executives is missing the woods for the trees. Mired in tackling the daily challenges of business, these youngsters fail to see the bigger picture. The holistic view is missed. Consequently, employees’ engagement with the company vision and mission does not gain the requisite strength. Business suffers.

If you think deeply you will realise that there is little difference between humans and business corporations. When humans lose the connection between themselves and their souls, they tend to become rudderless. Similarly, when companies neglect internal communication their employees turn into a boat without an anchor. Such a boat sinks instantly when the waters get choppy.

when companies neglect internal communication their employees turn into a boat without an anchor. Such a boat sinks instantly when the waters get choppy.

Young managers must have noticed that most companies in Nepal focus largely on external communication. They use diverse ways to advertise their products or services to attract customers. They also work hard on communicating with other external stakeholders like suppliers, distributors, vendors, bankers, regulators, shareholders in case of public companies, etc.

Compared to this, scant attention is paid to communicating with company employees. The top management still believes in the archaic command-and-control system. In this backdrop, how can the rank and file of the company have their heart in the growth and prosperity of the company? Will they go out of their way to come up with novel suggestions to improve the organisation’s performance? How can they (do so), when there is no systematic process to encourage horizontal and vertical, particularly bottom-up, communication.

Enlightened companies in the world have realised the significance and virtue of internal communication to enhance employee engagement. They implement elaborate schemes to make their employees feel an integral part of the company’s decision-making.

The CEB/Gartner’s Internal Communications Summit held in November last year, highlighted the corporate world’s changing attitude towards the strategic importance of internal communication.

A release issued on the occasion quoted research scientists Peter Weill and Stephanie L. Woerner in their 2015 MIT Sloan Management Review as saying, “Most of the productivity increase seen in organisations nowadays originates – directly or indirectly – from digitization and big data analytics. […] the future of internal communication should be determined by the needs of future employees.” The attendees felt that a centralised digital workplace is a ‘core pillar of fostering employee engagement’.

Based on reports that in the Western world corporate employees spend 80% of their time on mobile devices using an app, the Summit participants inferred a widespread adoption of mobile workplace tools which would enable employees to instantly access company news, operation tools, workflows, communication channels, etc.

Corporate CXOs expect that mobile communication apps will promote real time or, at least timely, responses. With decision-making gaining pace the overall speed of doing business will increase. There will be fewer bottlenecks. Resolution of problems will happen faster as the top management will be in the loop and provide its valuable input. Just a mobile phone can help employees achieve so much.

No less important is the spurt in employee engagement which usually follows increased focus on internal communication. Implemented in right earnest, internal communication turns young managers pro-active and more involved in organisational affairs. After all, best ideas are not the monopoly of top management. Useful ideas can emanate from all levels of corporate employees. In fact, more practical and relevant suggestions come from managers posted on the production shop floor, in the field interacting with direct customers and distribution channels, procuring and managing raw material, etc. Often their advice is no less vital than strategic thinking at the top. Tactical input forms the bedrock of strategic decisions. So companies need to ensure that the movement of information between the two levels is regular and timely.

The Gartner’s Summit observed, “…Employee engagement leads to rich company culture, a vested commitment to the success of colleagues, and a sense of pride working for a brand that cares about its people.”But it is easier said than done.

It has often been observed that middle level management proves to be the biggest stumbling block in the implementation of internal communication. Middle managers draw their power and authority by holding on to information. Transparent and democratic flow of information breaks their hold on younger managers.

No wonder, many Western companies got rid of the middle managers during the global meltdown. In fact, the process had begun much earlier during the dot.com bust in early 2000. The exercise came to be known as de-layering in management jargon. The middle level layer was done away with as they had lost their utility. Only decision-makers and implementers remained. The trend is gradually creeping to the non-West corporate world as well, though with lesser force and momentum. But one cannot stall a movement whose time has come. Either the middle management will have to change in keeping with the new corporate changes or it will have to make way for younger managers who are amenable to the new business reality.

Company biggies need to put their heads together to promote internal communication.  It is the time to enhance intra-company communications using new digital tools and technologies to “encourage productivity, community, and mutual respect among” the entire workforce.

Communication
technologies like Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are increasing and growing by the day. Therefore, companies need to spend time and resources to refresh and perfect web copy, meta tags and back-links. This is all the more important for companies engaged in e-commerce.

The Gartner’s release made another vital observation when it stated: “Whereas digital experience platforms will become an increasingly important fixture for ensuring employee engagement, maintaining a traditional CMS or intranet hub will continue to be a tried and true method to host more static company assets.” It gives rise to feelings which are more lasting than what one might have heard or done.

However, a company should embark on project internal communication only when it is ready to remain on its toes and keep its communication tools and content updated and fresh. Otherwise, all that goes in the name of internal communication remains a one-time ritual.

Unfortunately, that is the case in most companies in our part of the world!

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