Communications is an industry today, of vital importance to organizations. Know more about it.

The Business of Business Communication

A two-way street

Communications is a two-way street. We must accept and respect this fact for success in any situation. Business communications - both internal and external - are vital to any organization. The recent re-engineering and restructuring processes at organizations have invariably included communications as a vital aspect in this. Communicating the organizations image, values and ethos to stakeholders has become imperative. With human resources becoming the most important organizational resource, effective communications is necessary to motivate employees, build teams and their working for achieving the objectives of the organization.

Over the years business communications as a discipline has been refined and made into a sophisticated tool. But it has not been mastered fully. Whenever one has thought that one has mastered this skill, something new has developed, resulting in its practice having to be changed and improved yet again. Today for instance the Information Highway, the Internet and e-Commerce have created a communications revolution never seen before, and its full impact is continuing still. Communication is thus in a constant state of metamorphosis.

Quality of communication
Within this the "quality" of communications is most important for success. The message and the media mix has to be right and for the desired impact and results. You can be efficient, but you need to be effective! Effective communication is purposive interchange of ideas resulting in workable understanding and agreement between the sender and the receiver of the message (communication). In India's freedom struggle, Mahatma Gandhi's simple message "Quit India" moved 400 million people to action and achieve what was to

To be effective, business communications must be:

 

Clear, concise, and transparent
  • Presented with objectivity - be relevant
  • In a manageable form to avoid being rejected
  • Regular and systematic - timely
  • Open to questions and discussion

 

The flow of effective communications is horizontal and vertical in an organization. Research shows that 65 to 75 percent of this is oral and written. In top management areas this is as high as 90 percent! Irrespective of whether the people in an organization are marketers, accountants, planners or manufacturing people, the importance of communications and communication skills cannot be over emphasized.

Responsibility of communications
Good workplace communications involves everyone in the organization. Successful business communications, internal and external, needs needs positive support and leadership from top management, irrespective of size or type of the organization.

It is important that one of the senior managers or a group of managers is made responsible for ensuring that communications are well channeled and result oriented. This responsibility in large and professional companies rests on the PR and/or the HRD head of department.

Management should also ensure that adequate facilities and opportunities exist for obtaining feedback from employees and external audiences. This needs to be done through establishment of internal systems for which enable employees to express their views and participate in decision making. Market research is another way. For feedback from external audiences and groups. This along with employee audits and research among the different stakeholders is today quite normal in professional companies.

Satisfying business relationships through communications
Effective business communication is a result of five basic efforts:

  1. Your audience feels valued - you wish them to understand and you understand them in return.
  2. You are sensitive to their needs.
  3. You owe it to yourself to perform as well as you can.
  4. You are always open to improvement and constantly endeavor to improve.
  5. You believe in mutual benefit.

Proper and timely Proper and timely communications solve more problems. Something that is in the open communications solve more problems.

Communication objectives and forms of communications
All communications must have predefined and clear objectives. What is to be communicated and what is the result expected in respect of the perceptions, attitude and behavior of the audiences - internal and external. No communication strategy and action plan is complete without objectives. When to communicate and how (which media) is decided only thereafter, and depends on the resources available (for instance budget).

Objectives must flow from general objectives to action objectives to communication objectives. Time is generally too short and valuable to waste on communications which do not have objectives and which do not achieve them.

Communications in an organization take the form of verbal, nonverbal, written and audiovisual communications. They are for internal audiences and external audiences; and at the individual, organizational and product/brand levels.

Verbal communications

Managers and supervisors spend most of their time at work communicating verbally in speaking to their colleagues. All of this is to achieve understanding, to get work done and achieve results. Verbal communication is used to inform, instruct, ask, praise, appease, criticize and a host of similar objectives. It is the chief medium by which managers organize, motivate, and control their staff. It is therefore in every manager's interest to learn to speak well and communicate correctly and effectively. This will help improve his or her own and the organizations performance in the short and long term.

Oral or verbal communications in business are in five main forms:

  1. Personal one-to-one conversations
  2. Telephone conversations
  3. Meetings
  4. Presentations to a group
  5. Interviews - formal personal conversations

The written word
Verbal communication is largely two-way with the other person responding right away. Written communications in the first instance is one-way from the sender to the receiver. The response is later and follows. It is slower. The writer is rarely present to see the response of the reader directly.

The written word has probably contributed most to the progress of communication technology than any other single factor. From cipher (the figure zero) to the present day Internet. It is most important that we try to get it right always as there can result a lot of misunderstandings and misinterpretations because of the gap in the sending and receiving of the response. We see this every day in our worklife with letters, memos and reports!

In trying to achieve this we need to first define our objectives as to what is to be communicated. If this is not possible then we need not write, and use other means. If we are satisfied with the purpose of the communication, we then need to understand and work within the principles and techniques by which we can make it effective - obtaining the understanding and reaction of the other person or persons.

Nonverbal communications
Nonverbal business communications in our context involves use of media that support the verbal and written communications on the one hand, and personal mannerism and approach - body language - on the other hand. Both are important supplementary means for effectiveness. Used properly they can be extremely valuable in effective and result oriented communications in any situation. Nonverbal communications can be as good or bad as you make it depending on your objectives, mindset and resources you have at your disposal.

Problems in communication
Whether it is a friendly conversation or a formal meeting, a number of problems can occur at each stage in the practicalities of business communications process.

First, the sender may or may not use the right language in framing (coding) his message (words, pictures, illustrations etc.) leading to lack of understanding. Problems with language can often make communications ambiguous and a waste. Second, at the other end, the receiver will subconsciously or consciously mix and use his frame of reference and experience in decoding the message. The message will be seen in terms of his own perceptions and biases. He will see only what he wants to see, or hear, or read! Thirdly, all of us possess only a limited information processing capability. Hence we select only bits of communication which are "more" relevant to us, and ignore the rest. This filtering often affects the objectives of the communication resulting in a problem. Hence for effective and successful communications we have to work and safeguard all three aspects.

Ultimately, in all communications - verbal, written and nonverbal - it is YOU who are the most important factor. A communicator with certain skills, attitude and outlook, and the right tools. If you accept this it will be help you maximize the impact of your communications inn getting the right results.

Importance of feedback
Receiving and analyzing audience reactions, response and feedback is critical to all business communications. Not only from the point of view of results, but also because communication resources are invariably limited.

Organizations can and must review the effectiveness of its communications and take necessary steps to improve the strategies, system and working. They may even benefit by calling in an outside expert or firm to:

  • assess the current communications and policy;
  • discuss the needs for the present and future; and
  • where appropriate set up a working group to improve the communications.

Corporations need to do this to keep their competitive edge in internal and external communications.

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