Building Your Communication Infrastructure
To some people communication and information can be used interchangeably. They are definitely connected but they are different. Communication refers to the transmission of a message. Information refers to facts, details, and opinions about a person, place or thing. Information is what is transmitted through communication channels.
Information can be accurate or inaccurate, it can be necessary for the work or not, and it can be interesting or boring, the possibilities are numerous. Within the workplace, information is necessary to complete various duties and so it needs to be accessible, clear, accurate, and sometimes private. It can show up in conversations, manuals, technological systems.
Communication channels facilitate the movement of information up and down an organization, laterally and otherwise. Information should move in tandem with the workflows so that it arrives at its destination when its needed. Many companies develop internal communication strategies because they understand the links between information, communication, performance and results. For example, when decisions are not communicated in a timely manner bottlenecks can happen. Another example of the links happens when there is a challenge in a particular workflow and the key persons responsible for the flow are not speaking to each other even though their work is interconnected.
Formal information is official information that flows through various channels. It can show up in the form of policies and procedures, it can originate with clients, or it can be transmitted through emails or the intranet. Informal information flows through informal channels, like the grapevine, social media, or a conversation in the hallway. Opinions can flow as informal information, so it is important to substantiate your information. Some people have exceptional skills for presenting opinions as facts.
Internal Communication and Information Strategies
When companies create internal communication strategies to ensure information is moving through an organization adequately, it is important for infrastructural designers to determine what information is critical to the organization’s operations so they can ensure it is accessible and for information that is non-static, they can ensure it travels through the appropriate channels at a pace that is compatible with inherent workflows and cycles. For example, employees and their managers need to accumulate the information required for populating performance appraisals based on the performance cycle. If employees don’t receive scheduled feedback, this can impact their performance. How can they make changes if no-one gives them the information they need to course correct.
The next step is to ensure the right channels of communication are used for different types of information. For example, companies should not use unsecure social media apps like What’s App to share confidential information or data. They should use communication modalities that employees are most likely to read, watch or listen to.
Nine Components of Effective Information Strategies.
An information strategy identifies information deficits and addresses them.
It considers what employees need to know and when they need to know it, treating information as an important resource.
The strategy is built with the knowledge that information is always changing. It also accommodates exceptions when necessary and blockages that impact information flows.
Information is important enough to have owners assigned to the different types of information. In this way someone is responsible for updates, dissemination, and deletions.
There should be continuous improvement of the quality of the communication channels, policies, information availability etc.
Ensure employees are not receiving so much information that important information is buried in volumes of irrelevant messages or emails. For example, some companies that use instant messaging to communicate, have employees who receive so many “pings” that they start to ignore messages. Information overload it’s just as ineffective as sharing no information at all.
There should be clear guidelines regarding which communication modes should be used to transmit information. For example, unsecure platforms should be used wisely, even though instant messaging can be used to facilitate more efficient communication, it should be treated as an informal communication channel and a formal channel like an email should be used at the end of a process to communicate the end result. In this way, all the essential information is in one place, not buried in multiple simultaneous IM conversations that people waste time sifting through.
One form of information is data. In addition to the company’s internal data privacy and protection standards many companies also have to consider data privacy and protection laws that define national standards. Ensure your information strategy is in compliance at this level as well.
Take the time to get the messaging right for the different stakeholder groups. Each group needs different levels of information depending on the complexity of their responsibilities or their investment in the organization.
As you can see, information and communication are inextricably linked and when leaders interweave them strategically, they can transform cultures, engagement levels, and ultimately results.
With knowledge gained from over 30 years of Fortune 500 and international consulting experience, Yvette shares her rich experience and proprietary model for changing businesses from the inside out. She is a thought leader in the areas of trust, leadership and organizational ecosystems, an award winning author and cultural consultant.
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