Communication strategy Featured

11:03am EDT July 21, 2004
Poll just about any organization and you'll find that one of the most common problem areas is communication.

There are many ways to communicate, but a multifaceted approach is probably your best bet for letting employees know about everything from the company picnic to the organization's strategic plan. The Cleveland Museum of Art uses several methods to get important messages across to its 414 full- and part-time employees.

"To start off, we communicate with the staff using all-staff e-mails," says Heather Weisenseel, human resources administrator for the museum. "We also have four bulletin boards throughout the building for those that don't have access to e-mail. ... The third method is through department meetings, but not everyone has department meetings."

The museum also has an intranet, which it uses as a storehouse for information such as the employee handbook, job postings for open positions and work orders.

As in most organizations, the messages coming from the HR department run from the mundane notice of a just-for-fun employee event to a notice of a major policy change. The challenge is making sure that everyone gets the message.

"Some people see the e-mail labeled as 'all-staff' and don't take the time to open it up," says Weisenseel. "They then later find out they missed the deadline to sign up for health benefits."

It is more challenging to communicate with part-time employees, however, because they are in the building for limited times, and most are in positions that don't have access to a computer, which is why repeating information on bulletin boards is important.

But no matter what the make-up of your organization, repeating the information through different mediums is important to maximize employee exposure to the message. How you structure the message is also important.

"It has to be short, brief and very specific," says Weisenseel. "The information has to come from department heads on down in meetings. It has to be shared knowledge." How to reach: The Cleveland Museum of Art, (216) 421-7340

Talking points

In the 2004 ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices survey, respondents indicated they use a variety of methods to communicate with their employees. But still, the message doesn't always get through.

* Only 58 percent indicated that everyone in their company knows the organization's mission statement, but that may relate to the fact that 16 percent indicated their company has no strategic plan.

* While 86 percent said they meet at least quarterly to review financial information with employees, 14 percent said they never do.

* 77 percent said they have and distribute job descriptions to employees for their positions.

* 88 percent said that each employee receives a company handbook.

* 88 percent said they use bulletin boards to communicate.

* 86 percent use e-mail.

* 50 percent use in-house publications like newsletters.

* 40 percent use the organization's Web site or intranet.

* 56 percent use pay envelope inserts.

* 83 percent use staff or departmental meetings.

* 34 percent use "town hall" style meetings.

* 10 percent use video, DVD or CD-ROMs.

* 45 percent use voice mail.

Office revelations

A survey of executives around the globe conducted by office supplies manufacturer Esselte revealed some interesting facts about the modern office.

* 48 percent of executives surveyed admit to having a messy desk but claim to know where everything is, while 12 percent say they have an organized desk but have no idea where to find anything.

* In 2004, employees around the globe logged 28 percent fewer hours than they did just five years ago - an average of 44 hours each week compared to 60.5 in 1999.

* On average, Americans work 46.3 hours each week, more than any other nationality.

* Three in five respondents think that being organized is a learned quality, while 40 percent say that organization is an innate trait. Nearly 60 percent say their organizational skills could be improved.

* Four out of five American and Australian employees depend on "to do" lists to maximize efficiency and organization, while 35 percent of Germans say they never use to-do lists.

* Five years ago, 41 percent of employees reported that on a typical day, they received no e-mails. Today, the average executive receives 45 e-mails each day.