If you are communicating to improve perceptions, you need to check how your message is received. Managers are often very bad judges of this. Remember there is only one reliable source of information on perceptions: the recipients of the messages.
The acid test of whether internal and external communications are successful is what the recipients perceive. An unfavorable perception is either merited, or the intended message did not get through. Whichever the case is, you must take action. Honest analysis of the reasons will provide a basis for effective communication in future.
LISTENING TO STAFF
The most important feedback is in individual, informal conversations between managers and those managed. However, you can also check how management is perceived by using a more formal approach, such as conducting attitude surveys, although these are sometimes expensive to carry out. Other ways to get useful information include more limited surveys, sample polling, suggestion boxes, and focus groups. For example, try polling with your employees twice yearly to discover how they rate management. Targeted enquiries like this will raise issues, amend give more general indications of morale. As with all feedback, what matters most is how you respond to what you hear.
GETTING OUTSIDE VIEWS
If problems are revealed by internal questionnaires or through focus groups, one-to-one employee interviews, or any other meeting, the chances are that the external perceptions of the company also need to be improved. Get feedback by talking to your suppliers, clients and customers, or perhaps by conducting a survey of target groups. Also, check the general response to recent advertising or PR campaigns. If the feedback suggests any dissatisfaction, you need to handle remedies fast.
To improve internal communication, stressing their responsibility for communicating clearly and consistently at all times. Decide whether other staffs also need to improve their communication skills. For external communication, agree a plan of action with all the relevant people. You must get to the root of any problem, strengthen your effectiveness, and shift perceptions, or mistakes will be repeated.
- Talk honestly to staff if you want to get honest answers in return.
- If more than one or two make the same complaint, it may be widespread.
- If you get only positive feedback, it may well not be the whole truth.