What would you do if a pollutant in your firm was killing $5,000 of profit? What would you do if every employee created that much pollution each year? Ineffective communication in your organization causes smog that prevents clear communication and kills profits. Low-level communication smog causes an average loss of 40 minutes of time for every employee, every day, every year. As the pollutant builds, it can cause significant damage to your organization.
Most companies operate in a continual state of Category 1 communication smog, with the typical employee losing 167 hours of productive time each year. At the 2015 average United States salary, benefits and tax levels, that equates to $5,200, per employee, per year. Most people don't realize the amount of time lost daily due to issues, such as seeking clarification; asking a question multiple times; resolving conflicts; never-ending email threads; crisis management; and rework.
Companies often do not recognize the importance of these issues because the impact of each issue is too small to be noticed as a financial impact. While these pollutants could be considered insignificant at the individual issue level, over the course of a year, a company with 20 employees could lose over $100,000 of productive time. At this level, a good breeze of coaching can clear the air, regain productive time and prevent further pollution.
At this level, ineffective communication pollution continues to thicken the smog covering your organization. In addition to all of the Category 1 impacts, in Category 2, you begin to experience:
- Lost sales and customers
- Increased marketing, customer acquisition and customer service costs
- Increased staff turnover
- Decreased operational continuity
With Category 2 communication smog, the following symptoms appear regularly:
- Sarcastic, negative comments emerge
- Employees resistant to raise issues
- All levels of staff operate in a "cover your assets" mode
- Lack of faith in the organization
At a Category 2 level of dysfunction, the cost, time, resources and organization discomfort required to correct the issue is exponentially greater than Category 1.
When communication problems evolve to Category 3, the smog becomes so thick that issues gain a high financial impact. You will observe:
- Prevalent sarcasm and negativity
- Inappropriate comments about customers and management
- Conflicting objectives
- Complete communication breakdown
- High employee turnover
- Legal costs skyrocketing
- Large-scale customer defections
- Loss of reputation
Category 3 smog requires hurricane force winds to clear the air. Success will be difficult without a wholesale cultural change. Ineffective communication is a slippery slope that, unattended, can grow silently until you lose valued customers.
Clearing the Air
To clear the air, employ acknowledgement, identification and remediation. For any plan to be successful, all levels of management must agree that communication is important and that everyone has room to improve. Once there is acknowledgement that communication needs to be addressed, you can move to the next step. To maximize the results from any remediation plan, it is critical that communication problems with the highest impact be addressed first. To assign priority, an assessment should be done evaluating communication based on:
- Job title or position
- Duration of service with the company
- General categories of communication
- Common communication issues
Your remediation plan should focus on the processes and skills required to create an environment for clear communications. By launching initial elements of the remediation plan on high target areas, you can quickly gain momentum and create a ripple effect that will be required to flush the pollution from your environment. A common sequence of learning priorities is:
- Establish a clear intention
- Maintain a focus on others' needs
- Deliver messages with clarity
- Enhance your message with improved presentation skills
- Formulate and ask powerful questions
Take an intentional approach to communication in your company, and you will create an environment where communication flows freely and effectively.