In today's world we are all bombarded with an ever-increasing amount of information, yet more than ever, employees don't have the information they need.
We have email, smart phones Intranets, and videoconferencing that allow us to rapidly communicate with each other. But our surveys of more than 50,000 employees in 85 organizations show that half of all employees do not receive the information they need to do their jobs well. As a result, employees feel frustrated and the quality of the organization's products and services suffer.
Employees complain that they need more information from management, supervisors, co-workers, and customers. Here are a few of the key questions that frequently go unanswered from:
• Management: What changes are taking place that will impact my work?
• Supervisors: What exactly do you want me to do? How well am I doing?
• Coworkers: When will the work I need from you be completed?
• Customers: How satisfied are you with the products and services I provide to you?
1) Start at the Top.
Senior managers must force themselves to communicate with employees on an ongoing basis about information that affects employees. Annual briefings about the state of the business are not enough.
2) Promote Supervisors on the Basis of Their Communication Skills
Since the ability to effectively communicate is the most important supervisory skill, it should also be the most important factor in promotion decisions.
3) Re-write Job Descriptions.
Most job descriptions don't identify the critical information that must be passed on to others in the organization.
4) Update Standard Operating Procedures.
A systematic analysis should be conducted for each job, each work group, and each department. It should outline what information is needed, from whom, and spell out deadlines. The results of this analysis then should be fully integrated into the organization's standard operating procedures.
5) Conduct an Internal Customer Communications Survey.
Ask each employee to indicate how much they agree or disagree with statements such as, "I receive the information I need from marketing," "I receive the information I need from human resources," and "I receive the information I need from sales."
Then segment the results by department. You will be able to create a matrix that will clearly indicate which departments need to communicate better with other departments. For example, it might show that the marketing folks are not receiving the information they need from production or sales. Armed with this insight, you will be able to identify the key areas in need of improvement.
6) Conduct Customer Satisfaction Surveys.
Customer satisfaction surveys should be conducted on an ongoing basis. Most importantly, senior management should not hoard the information obtained from these studies. It should be communicated to all employees, especially those with customer contact.
7) Improve Interdepartmental Communication Using "the JFK Exercise."
A major reason that information is not shared in many organizations is that departments do not work well together. They often engage in finger-pointing rather than in readily sharing the information they need from each other.
In his inaugural address, John F. Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." My firm's JFK exercise invites a client's rival departments to a one-day workshop where we help them focus not on what information they need FROM other departments, but on what information they will commit to providing TO other departments.
In summary, the sharing of information within organizations is critically important. Senior management needs to learn what information employees need to do their jobs well and then make certain they receive it.
Dr. Katcher is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and president of Discovery Surveys, Inc. of Sharon, MA. He specializes in conducting employee opinion and customer satisfaction surveys. He is author of the award-winning book, "30 Reasons Employees Hate Their Managers" published by the American Management Association. You can read more than 100 articles he has written about "Improving the Workplace" at http://www.DiscoverySurveyscom.