This is a paper that I wrote while working on my MBA.
The Role of Effective Management Communication
The Role of Effective Management Communication in Creating and Maintaining a Cohesive Team Environment
August 21, 2011
MBA 525 – Professional Development
Effective communication is vital for managers to create and maintain a cohesive team environment. This is achieved by understanding the roles of effective communication and effective management within a company. Once those roles are understood, then it is possible to understand how managers need to communicate to create and maintain the team environment that is desired.
The Role of Effective Management Communication in Creating and Maintaining a Cohesive Team Environment
In most companies communication is taken as a given but when the communication process is properly looked at it reveals that many companies have major problems in the area of communication. Poor communication skills lead to a loss of productivity, poor employee morale, and high turnover rates. Companies need managers who have more than good communication skills but have excellent communication skills. Excellent communication skills help create and maintain a cohesive team environment which helps companies overcome the previously stated problems.
Communication skills are taught to managers, either through formal education or on-the-job training, and most manager’s use those communication skills to let the employees under that manager know what tasks need to be completed and any other pertinent information that the manager sees fit to share with the employees. Problems arise when the communication that is needed from the manager is not what the employees are receiving. It is important to understand what the roles of communication and management are in an organization in order to understand how to better improve communication to foster a team environment.
Roles of Effective Communication Within a Company
There are four main goals of effective communication within a company: (1) present the company’s missions and goals, (2) transfer ideas and instructions, (3) create a team environment, and (4) maintain the team environment once established. These communication goals are so important that when not met they can cause decreases in productivity and employee morale while increasing employee turnover. According to Richard Schuttler, Ph.D., a survey completed by the 2004 Economist Intelligence Unit stated that out of 273 senior executives surveyed in the United States and Canada, that 43% of the senior executives rated their respective companies as successful or very successful at carrying out strategic initiatives over a 3-year period and that the largest barrier challenge was communication between senior management and front line employees (Schuttler, 2010, p. 6). This shows just how vitally important communication is in a company.
The first goal of effective communication within a company is to present the company’s mission and goals. If employees have a better understanding of what the company’s mission and goals are, then it is easier for them to help the company perform better. However, it is the responsibility of management to ensure that the employees know exactly what the mission and goals are. Rue and Byars state that the employees need to know why the company exists, who the customers are, and what is expected of them (Rue & Byars, 2005, pp. 131-133). Stephen Robbins and Timothy Judge, in their book Organizational Behavior, Twelfth Edition, state employees perform better when the employees goals are specific and challenging and then receive feedback on their progression to the given goals (Robbins & Judge, 2007, p. 674). Without clear and precise communication of the mission and goals of a company, the employees are unable to understand the decisions of management, which can cause problems when the employees are asked to make change.
The second goal of effective communication within a company is to transfer ideas and instructions to employees. The transference of ideas is vital to a company because it allows employees to receive ideas ranging from improvement ideas to occupational safety ideas. Management needs to assure that the employees understand the ideas that are being presented to achieve buy-in, which is vitally important with improvement ideas. If the employees do not understand the ideas then the employees are more likely to resist the idea or change even if the idea or change would be beneficial to the employee. Without employee buy-in the management initiatives will fail. Instructions for employees need to also be clear and precise in order for the employee to better understand what is expected of the employee in regards to specific work requirement. Instructions such as how to perform tasks, handle shipping, processes and procedures. Richard Schuttler, Ph.D., states that when communication between management and employees is poor then it causes a stressful work environment for the employee which impacts productivity in a negative manner and increases employee turnover rates (Schuttler, 2010, p. 9). According to Rue and Byars when managers fail to communicate instructions clearly and precisely, they find that employees perform poorly because the employees are unclear of what is expected of them (Rue & Byars, 2005, p. 46). This can create quality issues which causes customer service complaints possibly leading up to a loss of customers and profits for a company.
Clear and precise communication is important when creating a cohesive team environment. Dr. Joe Pace states that teamwork is a group of people working towards the common goal of creating high-quality goods and services that will satisfy a company’s customers (Pace, 2006, p. 44). Teamwork is growing in importance in today’s workplace, and thus communication in creating a cohesive team environment is vital. According to Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler, when communicating it is important to create safety within the conversation and team (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler, 2002). When safety is established within a team, the conservations that may be difficult to project are made easier because the employees feel that they are able to communicate issues and problems which are difficult to communicate to management. When teams are able to discuss difficult ideas in a safe environment it helps establish performance-related norms. Creating performance-related norms within a team creates cohesiveness, according to Robbins and DeCenzo (Robbins & DeCenzo, Supervision Today! Fifth Edition, 2007, p. 309). These performance-related norms are established through the process of communication, which makes communication vital to establishing team cohesiveness.
Once a team environment has been established it needs to be maintained, and communication is the way to maintain the team environment. Team members need to understand the role that they will play within the team. Without communication it would be impossible for a team to establish the roles that each member will play and how the team will work as a whole. It is the selection process of those roles that makes communication vital, according to Robbins and Judge, manager’s select team members to fit the needs of the group (Robbins & Judge, Organizational Behavior, Twelfth Edition, 2007, pp. 348-349). These needs have to be expressed through the processes of communication. Once the roles of a group are established and the team is in the phase where tasks are being worked on, communication becomes the most important aspect of the team. Effective communication enables a team member to let the other members know what he/she has worked on, the progress of the goals of the team, what needs continued work, and what is completed. When communication within a team breaks down, then the team is rendered ineffective and unable to complete even the simplest of tasks, thus making the team a waste of time for the members and costing the company money.
Roles of Effective Managers Within a Company
Managers within a company have four major roles to fulfill: (1) give employees directions and goals to complete, (2) keep employees satisfied in their jobs, (3) keep employee turnover rates low, and (4) keep employee productivity high. Each of these roles is vital to a company’s profit margins and need to be properly handled. When a manager fails to complete any of these roles, it is the company that suffers the consequences, and when companies lose money the employees and/or manager has the potential to be laid-off or terminated.
As stated earlier, employees work better when they are given challenging goals to work towards (Robbins & Judge, Organizational Behavior, Twelfth Edition, 2007), which increases productivity and the company profit margin. According to Aamodt, goals should posses the certain qualities that can be described using the acronym SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound (Aamodt, 2004, p. 298). With goals, directions on ways to achieve those goals need to be given to employees. According to Larry Sheeley, when employees have a good understanding of what is expected of them and how they can achieve their goals then those goals are more likely to be achieved in a timely and efficient manner (Sheeley, 2011).
Job satisfaction is vital to employee retention, so it is a manager’s responsibility to ensure that employees have job satisfaction. Rue and Byars stated that when employees are satisfied with their jobs it reduces employee turnover rates, accidents, absenteeism, grievances, tardiness, and union strikes (Rue & Byars, 2005, p. 282). When turnover rates, accidents, absenteeism, grievances, tardiness, and union strikes are reduced, it not only makes the employee more satisfied, it helps the manager to have a more satisfying and rewarding position. Happy employees are employees who are willing to work harder, work overtime, and generally help their managers, because the employees know and understand what the manager needs of them and are happy to do whatever it takes to assist. Moral Issues in Business, Tenth Edition by Shaw and Barry suggests that companies need to improve employee job satisfaction in order to help improve employee productivity, customer satisfaction, and be more competitive (Shaw & Barry, 2007, p. 343). To ensure higher productivity and customer satisfaction and lower employee turnover rates it is imperative that managers ensure that employees have high job satisfaction.
Employee turnover rates can damage a company’s ability to produce a quality product in a timely manner due to having to continually train new employees for job assignments. Many factors contribute to employee turnover rates but the largest factors are training and motivation. John M. Ivancevich concludes that when employees feel ineffective, unneeded, or unwanted, there is a higher chance of the employee quitting but proper orientation training can reduce the possibility of employees leaving the company (Ivancevich, 2010, p. 393). By providing training to employees, it enables those employees to see that management is interested in their progression within the company and that management is interested in their well being, as well the well being of the company according to Larry Sheeley (Sheeley, 2011). Employee training is another contributing factor to achieving high quality of work and higher employee productivity, enabling the employee to have a better understanding of the job that the employee is performing. Training feedback is critical to an employee learning process by allowing the employee to know what needs improved upon and what areas the employee is excelling in according to Rue and Byars (Rue & Byars, 2005, p. 259). Once training is accomplished it is important to help the employee to continue to produce a higher quality of work and productivity by providing the employee with motivation. Just as job satisfaction can reduce the employee turnover rate, so too can proper employee motivation according to Rue and Byars (Rue & Byars, 2005, p. 271). What works as employee motivation will depend on the regional culture, company culture, and the employee, so it is important that a manager understands what works as motivation in his/her company.
Keeping employee productivity high is another major role for managers. Low productivity can indicate that employees are not given proper directions and goals, not satisfied with their jobs, not trained properly, and/or not motivated enough to produce at higher levels. When managers fulfill the above mentioned roles, employees are provided with the directions, tools, and motivation to reach and maintain higher and higher productivity levels. Employees will also be more willing to adapt to changes made within the company structure when these management roles are meet.
Roles of Effective Communication in Management to Create and
Maintain a Cohesive Team Environment
Dr. Richard Schuttler uses the metaphor of a stop light when it comes to management communication and employee performance, suggesting that companies communicate at one of three levels – red (danger), yellow (caution), and green (proceed as planned) (Schuttler, 2010). When managers have poor communication skills then employees only do what is absolutely required of them and may require discipline, but when management has excellent communication skills, Dr. Schuttler suggests that employees feel valued, are properly motivated, and need little if any discipline (Schuttler, 2010). This suggests that effective communication skills are the most important skill that any manager most possess.
Figure 1 shows the communication process as presented by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler, 2002, p. 185). It shows how a manager and an employee would exchange ideas and where problems can and do arise. This communication model also shows the possible effects of improper communication between two individual. There are other communication models that show the sender → message/medium → receiver, as shown by Goetsch and Davis (Goetsch & Davis, 2010, p. 237), which describes the process of communication, but not all that can go into and happen during the communication process. When the communication process does not go as planned, and one of the people in the conservation does not feel safe, then the person whose safety is at risk will either go into silence or violence, as presented by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler, 2002).
Safety in communication as presented by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler is vitally important to an organization in which managers need to be able to create this safety with their employees (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler, 2002). Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler suggest a set of five steps listed below to follow to establish safety and regain safety once it is at risk (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler, 2002):
- Step out, make it safe, then step back in
- Notice which safety condition is at risk
- Apologize when appropriate
- Contrast to fix misunderstandings
- CRIB to get mutual purpose
- Commit to seek mutual purpose
- Recognize the purpose behind the strategy
- Invent a mutual purpose
- Brainstorm new strategies
Once a manager has established safety with his/her employees it is possible for the employees to come to the manager with problems and issues that the employees might have otherwise not spoke up about. Safety is communication shows that management is able to communicate at level the green level. When employees feel safe to speak, then trust can be built within the manager’s team; which helps the team produce better ideas, better products, fewer errors, more efficient use of time, and more productive employees according to Dr. Pace (Pace, 2006, p. 49).
Understanding ideas and instructions is vital to employee performance, so it is equally important that a manager is able to communicate the ideas and instructions to ensure that the employees reach high performance levels. As stated earlier, improper communication of ideas and instructions can lead to an unsatisfactory and stressful work environment creating poor employee productivity and efficiency. Managers need to be able to communicate in person and through written forms of correspondence the ideas and instructions that employees need. To achieve this level of communication, a manager would need proper training themselves in such areas of communication like public speaking and business communications. With this type of training it is possible for a manager to more effectively communicate with his/her employees and help the employees have higher productivity, better efficiency, and more job satisfaction. Employees understanding of ideas and instructions enable those employees to work better as a team, increasing the ability of the team to achieve work goals in a timely and efficient manner.
The same training would also be useful when managers communicate to their employees about the company’s missions and goals. The missions and goals, as stated earlier, are important to an employee because it helps the employee understand why the company is in existence, who the customers are, and what is expected of them. Once again, when communication skills are used to express the company’s missions and goals, it helps provide the employees with a since of job satisfaction which increase productivity, efficiency, and quality while reducing employee turnover rates, absenteeism, and other employee issues. With knowledge of the company’s missions and goals employee teams have knowledge of what goals need to be reached to better achieve the company’s missions. This produces a cohesive team environment by giving each of the team members, and the team as a whole, multiple goals to work towards and achieve.
Change within a company, whether it be restructuring or continuous improvement projects, can be frightening for employees, which can cause employees to resist the proposed change. It is the manager’s responsibility to properly communicate the proposed changes and obtain employee buy-in. Larry Sheeley suggests that during a period of change it is vital to the success of the proposed change to involve and communicate with the employees that will be affected by that change (Sheeley, 2011). The article Change Management states the employees affected by a change need to understand, accept, and have a chance to decide how the change will be managed (Change Management). By allowing an employee to take an active role in the proposed change, it provides the employees a since of being wanted and appreciated. When employees feel wanted and appreciated they are more likely to work with the proposed change. Taking ownership of a change provides the employees the opportunity to make improvements to their job and encourages the employees to help others improve their jobs as well. This idea of helping not only helps establish a teamwork environment but also helps maintain that teamwork environment. When managers fail to properly use their communication skills to communicate to their employees about any proposed changes then the risk of failure for the proposed change increases dramatically, damaging the environment for teamwork.
It is evident that communication is not only an important part of a company culture and a vital management skill, but is necessary to create and maintain a cohesive team environment. When companies and managers fail to communicate effectively employee productivity, quality of work, job satisfaction, and willingness to work within a team environment are damaged to the point that very little can be done to repair the damage. It is up to companies to ensure that their managers have the capabilities to effectively communicate to the employees to ensure that company missions and goals are met, whether this is through formal education, or seminars that managers attend. Without a cohesive team environment companies today struggle to meet their missions and goals and sometimes end up failing all together, closing their doors and laying off all their employees.
|Figure 1 – Communication Model (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler, 2002, p. 185)
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