By D'Aprix, Roger
Communication World , Vol. 26, No. 2
In his new book, The Credible Company: Communicating with Today's Skeptical Workforce, consultant and author Roger D'Aprix, ABC, IABC Fellow, recommends robust communication programs to meet the complex change communication needs of the workforce--particularly now, as the global financial crisis and recession threaten the well-being of companies and employees alike.
The following excerpts from The Credible Company high light points from the book's mare chapters. The first letters of each chapter title spell the acronym INFORMS, and each chapter discusses an area that communication professionals need to address to help their organizations reach employees.
The challenge for the communication profession is to determine how to use and manage information thoughtfully and efficiently and to deliver it properly to a skeptical audience--an audience already drowning in raw information in a time-pressured world where they are often stretched close to the breaking point. We need to be cautious about adding to that deluge of raw information as opposed to information that has been tested for insight, truthfulness, accuracy and value.
Technology, with all of its profound advantages, has opened up a Pandora's box and revolutionized the way we interact in organizations and the ways in which we will do business going forward. It has also raised expectations as well as perplexing questions about the proper role of the internal communication professional in relating to it and to effective information management and delivery.
Perhaps ... the mitigating factor that will allow us to manage both information and technology appropriately will be the business and human needs of its users. That's the real goal we should be pursuing.
Needs of the audience
Whatever else we can say about the communication process in organizations, it's clear that in the final analysis it's all about people and what they need and want to know. That sounds so obvious that it should not need to be pointed out, but it's amazing how often human needs for communication in organizations are ignored.
Truthful and effective communication requires, above all, an understanding of the audience. All communication strategy and tactics should focus on, as a first cause, what information the audience wants and needs....
What's interesting is the commonality in all of [the research on employee communication needs]. Intelligent communication professionals need to study such data and ensure that their counsel and their various strategies are consistent with the well-documented human needs on the job. In particular, that requires careful attention to communication as the holistic and dynamic process it really is in the workplace. It's not simply internal journalism; it's attention to a process that is closely allied with the entire issue of organizational leadership and the requirement to lead people responsibly and effectively if we want results.
It's tempting ... for the professional communicator to presume that effective face-to-face communication is none of her business. Those who define their responsibility as simply the keeper of employee media are especially prone to this view. The trouble is, employees rarely see such media, including the company intranet, as their primary communication sources in the company.
I often run focus groups in which I ask the participants to identify their primary internal and external communication sources for what is going on in the company, as well as company priorities.... It's always instructive that the initial responses all have to do with things like meetings, teams on which they serve, their bosses, coworkers, and other live-and-in-person sources. After several minutes, they may or may not identify the various company media as sources, and when they do it's usually with a dismissive tone. …