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Would You Like $500,000?

This is an article I wrote for the upcoming issue of the Rhode Island Small Business Journal.  Basically, it points out the high cost of poor communication.  Keep in mind that the costs quoted don’t include lost opportunities (what employees could be doing if they didn’t have to correct mis-communications), nor does it include the cost of poor employee moral or the cost of low employee retention.

So, here is the article.  Oh, by-the-way – if you have not read the Rhode Island Small Business Journal you should.  It’s a great publication.  (And they have really good contributing writers!)

WOULD YOU LIKE $500,000?

Sounds good.  How can I get that?  The short answer?  Communication.   Effective, relevant, and timely communication.

A study conducted by SIS International, a global marketing research company revealed that 70% of small to mid-size companies consider ineffective communication to be their primary problem.  SIS’s research further shows that a business with 100 employees will, on average, experience 17 hours a week clarifying, correcting, and other-wise managing mis-communication.  This amounts to an annual cost to a business of $528,443.

Ineffective communication impacts employee morale and loyalty, and influences performance and retention.   Poor or confusing communication leads to missed opportunities and negatively impacts existing or potential customers.  When these are factored in to the equation, the annual cost of ineffective communication to a business can be significantly higher.

I know what you are thinking, because many of my clients tell me,“But we communicate to our people all the time.”  That may very well be true, but, are you communicating effectively?  Is it relevant?  Is it timely?

Working for multi-national companies in the U.S. and around the world, I’ve seen more than my share of poor communication.  Think about some of the communications you have seen, or perhaps even sent out.  Was it information you already knew?  Was it meaningful to you and your responsibilities?  Did it raise more issues then it answered?   These are questions you should ask before communicating anything.

So, how do we ensure that our communication is effective?  Here are some tips.

  1. Is it clear, accurate, and unambiguous?
  2. If written, did you state what you need in the first few sentences?
  3. Is it timely?  Keep in mind, you want to communicate early and often, but not too soon.  If things are still up-in-the-air, you could be setting yourself up for confusion and back-tracking.
  4. Listen.  We have two ears, one mouth.  Provide ample opportunity for feedback.
  5. Feedback must be crouched in positive terms.
  6. When using e-mail, remember “content and context.”  Email is a great communication tool; however, tone, clarity, and politeness are often omitted in electronic messages.  Re-read you email carefully for context before sending it to avoid mis-understandings.
  7. Confirm that your message is understood.  Communication is not complete until the receiver understands it.
  8. When possible, have face to face conversations.  Research shows that 60% to 70% of what is communicated depends on non-verbal clues such as body language, tone of voice, inflection, and a host of other factors.
  9. Consider the person with whom you are communicating.  What is their age, education, ethnicity, and industry knowledge?  Failure to understand any of these factors can create misunderstandings.

10. Leverage your available technologies (email, skype, webinars, etc.).

Obviously, these are just a few suggestions.  But the message (pun intended) is clear.  Consider every communication as important.  Think about it, plan it, and run it past someone else.  Make sure your communication is effective, clear, unambiguous, and necessary.

So, who wants a half million dollars?

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