Workplace Communications: TMI

By Frank Kenna

“They never tell us anything around here.”  Ever heard that one?  If you’ve been in and around workplaces enough, you have many times.  It seems like many – if not most – employees feel that workplace communications just aren’t up to snuff at their companies.  But is it possible to have too much information?

I say yes.  But the real answer is what type of communication.  Let’s say you want to communicate about a change to your 401k plan.  Adding one line to an email to employees about general operations would be too little.  One the other hand, a 10-page document explaining the 50 funds along with a prospectus from the investment company would be overkill.  The trick is finding the balance between starving your people for information and overwhelming them. 

The best way to approach with dilemma is by planning.  Here’s a good approach to overall communication in your company:

Get together the department heads who will be involved in communicating, for example, HR, corporate and safety communications.  Brainstorm a list of recurring topics from each department that are important, and get consensus.  Using a monthly calendar, write down the topics on the day they are to appear.  Be careful not to over commit… it’s easy to be too enthusiastic in the beginning and then have trouble creating the actual content.  Then assign each piece to the appropriate manager along with its due date.  Someone will also need to be the owner of the process, as if nobody owns it, it won’t get done. 

By following this framework, you’ll be communicating the right topics, at the right time… not too little and not too much. 

Cartoon:  Barron’s, July 11, 2011

Jude Carter
July 20, 2011

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