Is there open and respectful communication throughout your organization? Do teams communicate effectively with each other? Are tasks defined clearly, with little room for misinterpretation? Do employees feel safe and comfortable speaking up?
Creating intentional communication channels is key to creating a culture of trust. It leads to increased productivity and efficiency, fewer mistakes, a more validated and motivated team, and ensures everyone is on the same page.
Research by a US company, Gartner, shows that 70% of a company's mistakes are due to poor communication. Proper conversation affects every facet of your business (Source).
On the flip side, there are many advantages when companies have open communication channels, such as:
Increased innovation when employees feel like they can actively contribute;
Enhanced team building and relationships;
Less misunderstandings and mistakes; and
Create an Effective and Intentional Communication Cycle
Think of building trust as a bank account. With every interaction, you are either growing or depleting your ‘trust’ fund.
Companies can create opportunities that lead to interactions that either build or detract from trust. For example – if a company doesn’t readily share information about business results or communicate through change, they may be inadvertently creating opportunities for interactions that are based on rumours and diminish trust. If they instead got ahead of the messaging by transparently communicating and then conducting an open Q&A session with their teams, they are identifying opportunities to create positive interactions and establish trust.
Creating an intentional strategy and finding ways to seize or create opportunities to foster positive interactions allows you to build that culture of open communication and trust, bit by bit, over time.
Implement a Comprehensive Communication Strategy
The key is to develop an intentional communication strategy that every employee can follow. Knowing what to expect and having a clear line of communication helps build confidence within the organization and its leaders.
A good starting place is to assess the flow of communication within the workplace. The three main directions are: top-down (management to employee), bottom-up (employee to management) and horizontal (between peers). Effective communication strategies address all three flow directions.
Top-down refers to how information flows from the leadership team downwards to the entry-level employee. Senior leaders strategically decide what to communicate, how and to whom.
A strong, intentional communication plan for top-down flow should address questions such as:
Are managers at all levels equipped to deliver the message without diluting the meaning?
Are there opportunities for our leadership team to connect directly with employees?
How frequently does the top-down communication need to take place?
A good measure of an effective Top-Down plan is whether people are clear about the organization's vision & purpose and genuinely feel valued and cared for as people, not just employees.
Bottom-up communication is reversed, with the cycle beginning with entry-level employees. The key is to let employees know who they should go to with ideas, issues or clarification.
Key questions could be:
Are there enough forums for people to voice their feedback or opinions?
How frequently are suggestions sought from our employees?
Are people informed on the status or action plan resulting from their suggestion?
Employees should feel valued and know their suggestions and feedback are appreciated. This will go a long way to building trust within an organization.
Horizontal communication is all about peer to peer communication either within your team or across departments. Each department should know its part in the bigger picture of the company and communicate with honesty and respect.
Questions to answer:
How frequently do peers meet to have productive conversations?
Are peers across teams able to empathize with each other to ensure the best approach?
Does everyone feel equally valued and that they are all part of a bigger picture?
An effective communication plan can work wonders in ensuring the organization is a well-oiled machine with very few breakdowns.
A Culture of Trust starts and ends with communication. Leaders have a critical job creating a strategy, implementing it across all levels, and continuously evaluating communication channels.