Friday, 11 January 2019

Communication Health Audit

My children are always concerned about their ‘health’ and not the health that requires trips to the doctor but their level of health in whatever video game they are playing. They even have me roped in. My seven-year old recently set me up on Duolingo so I could learn Spanish for an upcoming trip to Panama. Duolingo measures my ‘health’ based on how many correct answers I get. My son assures me my health is ok for today.

I am forever quoting Peter Drucker, ‘what gets measured gets done’. You want to lose weight, step on the scales so you know where you are starting from, want to save money, set a figure to reach. Want to assess your health then figure out how to measure it. The health I am referring to, is the communication happening within your organisation, not external, and even deeper than the general understanding of internal but the people to people interactions that happen every day. How we treat each other.

A communication audit is a really useful tool which provides a snapshot of these transactions and allocates a value to the process. It has greater value than just relationships between colleagues but how is information transferred, how is it utilised and how is knowledge created. This is the tacit return on investment that is hard to capture.

Different layers of communication exist in an organisation, the business needs to communicate with its stakeholders; customers, shareholders, employees etc. This needs to be a two-way street, internally the business must engage its employees. Treating your employees right ensures they have the tools to look after your customers. There is another layer in this web of communication and it is how we interact between department, between teams, with our office mate, between each other. These small and often seemingly insignificant interactions affect the overall health of relationships. Small issues can chip away until suddenly it is the straw that broke the camels back.

A formal audit allows you to do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of the health of the communication within your business. Maybe you already know there is an issue, or perhaps you are concerned another issue is happening because of an underlying communication concern. A systematic approach will allow you to identify and analyse. Bring in a consultant who can objectively gather information through interviews, questionnaires and observations to provide a fuller picture of the health within your communication system. In collaboration with management the consultant can then support and guide you to make an informed strategic communication plan to improve employee communication and create a healthier work culture for everyone.  It might not be as much fun as a video game but hopefully a lot more effective.

Connection for the Remote Introvert

Introverts adore their own company, think comfy PJ’s in front of a roaring fire, it recharges us. Despite the myth portraying the stereotypical hermit, we do in fact need and sometimes even crave social interaction too. Remote working is an ideal work scenario for the introverted, offering the quieter alternative to a busy overstimulating office environment but at times this option can be lonesome and come with its’ own set of challenges. Statistics demonstrating low employee engagement and lack of inclusion augment the need to support ourselves and our colleagues in harnessing the power of personality type to be the best we can be at work. 

Social Beings
Human beings are born to be social, we are here for connection. Scientist Matthew Liebermann says this need is as fundamental as food and water. Work is more than just a function to earn a living, it is a way for us to collaborate and express ourselves among others. Introverts are no different in this goal and remote workers share the same need albeit the connection may not be physical.

Liebermann further states that feeling pain in social situations is equal to feeling physical pain, the phrases we use such as ‘he hurt my feelings’ are not far from the truth. 70% of introverts are termed highly sensitive people, often overly aware of elements in the environment, picking up on non-verbals, others feelings and gaining meaning where others may not. In a remote working situation much of this can be lost leading to lower engagement, less understanding, frustrations, and break downs in social connections. Many remote working companies insist on annual or often more regular face to face meetings and these can be very valuable.

As a leader, manager or colleague of remote workers you might be interested to consider some of our what are kindly termed ‘superpowers of introverts’ but might just drive an extrovert crazy without understanding.

Introverts can often be self-judgemental and with no one there to recognise the hard work done to complete the task be sure to provide positive and supportive feedback for a job well done. In their book ‘Conversations Worth Having’ the authors say that people ‘long for meaningful engagement that builds connection, fuels productivity, and generates positive change’. Pay attention to the conversations you are having with your employees.

As we discussed above, we are social beings. If a worker is 100% remote provide opportunities for engagement in other ways such as attending networking events, training sessions or perhaps volunteer as part of a company-wide effort to support local communities to provide that physical connection with others. It is shared experiences that connect us.

Our introversion influences how we work. We may procrastinate over decisions although not always a bad thing according to Stephen M. Fleming, Principal Research Associate at University College London who says, slower decision making is more effective when facing novel situations. So allow us time to process before coming to any conclusions.

We are unlikely to self-promote so provide opportunities to share achievements although privately would be our preference. A dislike of conflict and confrontation may mean grievances go unsaid, ensure you ask the right questions to assess a situation.

Offering flexible and remote work options is essential for the workforce of the future but ensuring their engagement is equally important to build an effective and sustainable team. By recognising differences in temperament you can successfully put communication strategies in place to support your team.