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Formal versus Informal Communication Methods

Submitted by  on October 29th, 2010

How are your managers and supervisors communicating with your staff? Are you worried that they are only using formal methods in communicating with employees? There are no inherent drawbacks in using formalized methods as such. The trick is in getting the right mix of formal and informal communication and in using the right form at the right time and in the right circumstance.

Formal methods, for example, are more suited to mass communication from the higher levels of management. Employees want to know where their organization is headed and where they are now. Receiving an email newsletter or watching the CEO on video can serve that purpose well, and does it at a cost-effective price.

What kinds of informal methods are effective in communicating with workers? Informal methods can be separated into those mediated by technology and those that are not. Technology-mediated methods include telephoning, emailing, text messaging, video conferencing, tweeting (on Twitter), and so on. Technology free methods include hand-written notes and impromptu face-to-face conversations on the job and at the water-cooler.

How can informal methods such as these help in dialoguing with staff? Well, each employee wants to appreciate where they fit into the bigger picture; what their role is in achieving the organization’s objectives and how they are doing. As a supplement to formal meetings with employees, each supervisor and manager can spend time in casual conversation with each and every employee to really get to know them; their drives, likes and dislikes, what’s happening in their life, and so on. They need to give enough time in every working day for those conversations that will allow employees to feel important and good about their job.

Such conversations also need to include talk about department and team goals and where the employee fits in. Most importantly, these conversations need to encourage feedback both ways on performance and expectations. This opportunity for genuine two-way dialogue is the key strength behind the more informal methods of communication. If managers and supervisors can do this well, your organization is well placed in creating and sustaining a motivated workforce.

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