Chris Moerdyk
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Chris Moerdyk
Marketing Tips

Important do's and don'ts about internal communication

Motivated, committed employees make for increased productivity and more profit. And the way in which management communicates with them can be the key to successful motivation or an absolute confidence and commitment killer.
There is no doubt that a major contributor to the success of a business is a manager's capacity to interact with his employees as often as possible and be seen to be leading by example. To cheer them on, motivate, encourage and perhaps even chastise them from time to time. Staff appreciate the personal attention which makes them feel special and part of a team or family.

It's not too difficult when one only has a few employees but the big challenge for any chief executive is to maintain this personal contact as the business grows.

Problems arise, for example, when this personal contact is longer possible and it is replaced with a programme of internal communication.

Now, there are very few people in business who have a problem with the notion of internal communication being the foundation of a well run business. Even some accountants and bankers have been known to agree that communication with the rank and file is important and not just something else that marketers in the company have dreamed up in order to waste money.

But, what many even seasoned marketers don't grasp is that communication is not only about word but very much to do with deed as well.

Which is often why, boards of directors - marketers and accountants alike - substitute personal contact and leadership by example with things that won't take up any of their time but which they hope will have the same motivational effect on their staff. So, in their valiant quest for zero defect in the way their employees go about their daily business, they rush headlong towards excellence, enrolling staff in quality colleges and making them swallow heaven knows how many other management elixirs in an effort to find that mystical quick fix that will turn ordinary, uninspired people into gung-ho gang-busters brimful of enthusiasm and capable of miraculous work rates.

Unfortunately most of these programmes last about a week at best and then its back to business as half-baked usual. Not because there is anything wrong with the programmes.

The main reason is because communication is restricted entirely to the word. Employees are given lectures, motivational talks and attend ra-ra sessions to beat the band. Without anyone giving a though to tossing in a deed or two.

And of course, the most important deed is leading by example. Just the way that entrepreneurial boss did when he was able to have personal contact with all his staff. For some strange reason the bosses believe that all these programmes are only for their minions and that none of the principles apply to them.

Take customer service for example. The bosses will exhort, cajole and come closing to outrightly bribing their employees to "take ownership" of customer complaints while at the same time taking refuge in their own ivory towers after having given their PA's and secretaries strict instructions to keep irate customers at bay and even worse to make it as difficult as possible for employees to seek their counsel.

Senior and middle managers are urged to "get out and meet your customers and to for heaven's sake not forget your internal customers" After which bosses aren't seen again for weeks.
Which leads one to that most ignored of communications and management pursuits called MBWA - management by walking about.

Perhaps the name itself is its biggest enemy, because it suggests either goofing off or a time-wasting and silly pastime in which no serious businessman would indulge unless his company was doing so well he could afford the luxury.

In fact, it is one of the most powerful internal communications and motivational tools ever invented.

I have seen myriad motivational programmes implemented in all sorts of companies, but never have I seen anything that can rival the massive motivational power of a managing director or chief executive moving among his people.

But, this deed alone is not what this facet of management is all about. It also depends largely on what the big boss does when he goes MBWA.

What he certainly shouldn't be doing is questioning employees about job specifics and giving them the impression that he is checking up on what they're doing. This gives the impression that he doesn't trust them and is making sure they're not just goofing off playing solitaire on their computers or wasting time with social gatherings around the tea trolley.

Frankly, to get it right he should avoid everything to do with work. Rather ask employees about family, hobbies, personal aspirations and best of all if he can manage a pat on the back he'll find that usually uninspired, quiet slogger will change instantly into some who would happily fly to the moon at his bidding.

I can't recall how many chief executives who have agreed with me that MBWA is the biggest contribution to internal communication and motivation any boss can make. But, there have been precious few who have had the courage to put it into practice.

It is a powerful tool but one of the most difficult to acquire and use properly.

4 Sep 2008 11:15

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About Chris Moerdyk

Apart from being a corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk is a former chairman of Bizcommunity. He was head of strategic planning and public affairs for BMW South Africa and spent 16 years in the creative and client service departments of ad agencies, ending up as resident director of Lindsay Smithers-FCB in KwaZulu-Natal. Email Chris on moc.liamg@ckydreom and follow him on Twitter at @chrismoerdyk.




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