Workplace Communication:  But I already told them that!

By Frank Kenna

“The problem with communication is the illusion that is has occurred.”
-George Bernard Shaw

Importance of Clarity and Repetition in Workplace Communication

Have you ever become frustrated when an employee asks you a question you’ve previously answered?  Or one of your department managers thinks a customer is dumb because he’s asking a question about how to use a feature of your product for which the answer is right there on your website? 

And then you realize that in the first case, your “previous answer” was in an email last summer, and that the answer to the customer’s question is indeed on your website—six screens deep.  Per Shaw’s observation above, we often have the illusion that we’ve communicated, when in reality the intended recipient is clueless. How do we fix this?

A Lesson from the Ad World

The answer is simple—the workplace communication process never ends.  Whatever your topic is, whether product knowledge, workplace safety, human resource updates or employee recognition, you must repeat the message over and over.  And over again. 

Think of how often companies advertise their products   They don’t just run an ad once and call it quits, do they?  Of course not – we all know intuitively that wouldn’t work.  So why do we expect it to work for our own communications?  That’s where the illusion comes in: because we “handled” a certain piece of information once, we mentally check it off the list.  But little actual communication has taken place.

Studying how advertisers sell their message is a great way to get ideas.  And I’ve written on the topic before, and how digital signage can help with repeating the important messages for your team..  But the first step is giving thought to how well your current workplace communication efforts are going.  Are you a real communicator—or an illusionist?

Jude Carter
February 7, 2012

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