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2.4 Internal and External Communication

2.4.1 Why Effective Communication is Important and the Methods Used to Achieve It

Effective communication seems simple, but even between two people talking face to face there can often be misunderstandings. As business grows they have thousands of employees spread across hundreds of countries, speaking numerous  different languages. We need to know the: different means of communication, benefits and limitations of each, and also how to overcome communication barriers like language or culture.

For effective communication we need to ensure: 

  • Message is sent using the correct communication method
  • Message is sent to and received by the correct person
  • The receiver understands the message
  • The receiver provides feedback to confirm they have received and understood the message.

 The critical aspect to remember is that communication is not just one way, the receiver of the message has to show they have understood the message, and give feedback.

Effective communication and its importance to business 

Effective communication is hugely important to business. The simplest reason is that it avoids mistakes. For example, ineffective communication could result, in a missed order, losing a valuable customer which can lead to massive loss in sales.

Effective communication means decisions can be made more quickly and businesses can respond to changes in the market. If the right information gets quickly to the correct employees it can give a business a competitive advantage.

Improved coordination between departments is a direct result of effective communication. If the operations department is aware of the marketing departments product launch, they will ensure they have sufficient production to meet demand.

Employees often complain “I’m the last to hear anything” or “nobody tells me anything”. If businesses are open and transparent with employees and communicate effectively,  they can improve motivation as workers they feel more valued and involved.

Finally, effective communication improves customer relationships. Many marketing managers use the  4c’s rather than  the 4’ps where promotion is actually “communication with the customer”. In order to retain customers, businesses increasingly aim to keep customers fully informed about orders, respond quickly and effectively to customer queries, and update customers about new products or services.

In day to day business situations, many of these factors link together. If a marketing department fails to coordinate with the operations department, they may not raise production to the correct level. If the information doesn’t get to the right people quickly enough then it will take a long time to come up with an alternative plan. This means customer demand won’t be satisfied, so the relationship with customers will be negatively impacted, as will motivation as employees will have to deal with more complaints, and may not have all the information to explain why the issues occurred.

Poor communication means employees are confused and demotivated.

Benefits and limitations of different communication methods including those based on information technology (IT).

People in business have a huge range of different communication methods they can choose from. In most communication exam questions, you will be asked to choose between two or three of the most common methods of communication, so we will focus on them. The most important thing is to be able to understand that all communication methods will have advantages and disadvantages.

Email – has the combined advantage of being written and electronic. As it is written there is a record of the communication that can be referred back to. As it is electronic it can be sent instantly, and can contain visual information or links to further details. As a result, email is now hugely popular and in many organisations has almost replaced face to face interaction. 

Email
+  Visual information
+  Written Record of communication
+  Written Record of communication
X Employees can be overwhelmed by high volumes of emails
X Can be unsuitable for in depth discussions

However, for in depth discussion, face to face communication is often more time effective than sending multiple emails back and forth. Moreover, important emails may be missed, as so much information is sent by email.  

Furthermore, an organisation which relies too heavily on email may find motivation dropping among employees, and lower team morale, if workers only see each other as messages on a computer screen rather than having face to face conversation.

Meetings  allow a number of people to meet to discuss a project. It allows ideas to develop and employees to focus on one issue. If minutes (notes) are taken it provides a written record.

Meetings can also be used as a way to communicate with many different members of staff.  For example, if there is an important announcement, or new procedures have to be introduced.

Meetings
+  Can allow ideas to develop between multiple employees
Can be time consuming
X Can be dominated by more assertive employees

However, meetings can often be time consuming, and dominated by more assertive employees. As a general rule, the more people there are in a meeting the more difficult it is for everyone to give their point of view. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ pizza rule: “there are too many people in the meeting if two pizzas can’t feed them all”,  may apply here.

Face to face conversation or “having a word” with someone is often a good way of finding out people’s honest opinions. It also increases motivation to have the personal contact of talking one on one.

Face to face conversation is suitable for getting honest feedback.
Face to Face Communication
+  Can improve motivation+  Allows honest feedbackNo written record of communication
X Time consuming

However, talking with everyone individually is time consuming and there is no written record of the conversation.

Noticeboard – can be a useful way of sharing information with a wide range of employees. Visual information can be shared, in addition to written communication.

Noticeboard
+  Visual Information can be shared
+  Seen by a wide range of employees in a less formal setting
No guarantee all employees will see messages 

However, there is no guarantee that all employees will see the notice board, so it may not be the most effective for important messages.

These are just a few examples of the different forms of communication within a business.

Cambridge doesn’t specify in the syllabus what methods of communication you need to know. Therefore, you can use other examples that may be more popular in your country like a telephone call, report, diagram letter, text message or video conferencing.

⭐⭐⭐Top Tip ⭐⭐⭐
Cambridge doesn’t specify in the syllabus what methods of communication you need to know. Therefore, you can use other examples that may be more popular in your country like a telephone call, report, diagram letter, text message or video conferencing.

When choosing a means of communication you need to consider:

How urgent is the message? If you need to communicate a message straight away and make sure the receiver understands, face to face or a telephone call is more suitable.

How detailed is the message? If there is a lot of information in the message, a written communication like email is much more suitable so the receiver has a record of all the information and can refer back to the details if necessary.

Does the message need to be discussed? Is quality feedback required? Meetings allow detailed feedback from the receivers; this can be much more difficult via email.

Is a written record of the communication required? Often the sender will need evidence that they have sent a communication, with a record of the time it was sent. This avoids later disagreements over what “he said/she said”,  or employees claiming they took no action because they did not receive a message.

Is the message confidential? If a message contains sensitive information the sender should ensure that the message is not shared with only those employees who need to know the information.

It is important to remember that communication methods can be used together, provided the message is the same. For example, if a financial manager creates a report on reducing costs, they can present the information to other managers at a meeting, take questions during the meeting and allow face to face discussions at a later date. Many managers have an “open door” policy – so employees can come and ask questions if they are unsure about any message.

2.4.2 Communication Barriers

So why does the message not get through? A communication barrier is anything that gets in the way of a message being understood. We need to know examples of communication barriers and how they can be overcome.

Communication barriers can result in ineffective communication which will lead to the opposite results of effective communication. It can result in mistakes, demotivation in staff, poor coordination and decision making within the business and poor relationships with customers.

So let’s look at the three main communication barriers and how they can be overcome.

Problems with the physical environment. If there are high levels of background noise, for example, noisy machinery in a factory message may not be clearly understood. This can be fixed by giving instructions in a quiet area of the factory, or developing a system of visual communications

Multinational corporations, operating in many countries, may also have to overcome the physical barriers of being far away from other members of the organisations. Technology can increasingly overcome these challenges, by using video conferencing like Zoom, email and instant messaging.

Problems with communication channels. If chains of command between sender and receiver are too complex, the message may get distorted or it may take too long for the message to be given and feedback received.

If highly technical information is given in a form that employees not skilled in that area can’t understand, then this can also lead to the message not being received.

This can be overcome by ensuring all communication is in simple straightforward language, so that all employees can understand.

Barriers between Sender and Receiver

If there is a lack of respect or trust between sender and receiver, the message may be misunderstood or not carried out. Demotivated employees may also ignore messages or parts of communication they disagree with.

This is possibly the most difficult barrier to overcome, as it comes from employees’ emotions, so there is no easy technical fix. However, if companies build a culture where there is trust and respect between all employees, these communication barriers will be removed.

In all circumstances there are some top tips for communication.

Keep the channel of communication short, to minimise potential distortion.

Adapt the message to the receiver. If the receivers of the message don’t speak English as a first language, use simple language, and speak slowly.

Feedback not only to allow the sender to check that the message has been understood, but also to allow the receiver to talk through any questions or concerns.

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