How much has poor communication cost your company in past twelve months? Chances are, you have no idea. Chances are even better it's a lot more than you can afford.
But you won’t find numbers in financial statements or year-end departmental reports. Nothing shows up saying "lost productivity due to miserable meetings" or "missed business opportunities through sorry selling skills" or "employee quit because there's no communication around here."
Why? Because most people aren't sure what communication really is.
Consider this: When companies conduct internal needs assessments, communication virtually always surfaces near top of list. But if you ask ten people who put it on list exactly what they meant, you’ll get ten different answers. People often can’t pinpoint problem—they just have a vague feeling communication isn’t happening. Unfortunately, this vagueness relegates communication to bottom of action list.
Truth is, communication isn't some warm and fuzzy "nice to have"— it is nothing less than lifeblood of your organization. If blood doesn’t circulate at just right pressure and speed to all parts and extremities of human body, that body sickens and eventually dies. So, too, does an organization where communication doesn't flow freely.
Communication isn’t limited to vision and mission statements from top; it’s not just news releases publicizing financial results or new product announcements; it’s not just internal or client newsletters, annual reports or videotaped messages to troops. These are all important, but they form just a fraction of communication—and miscommunication—that takes place every day in workplace.
What I call applied communication is written, spoken and non-verbal interaction among people in order to get things done. It takes co-operation to create a product. It takes collaboration to approach a new market. It takes teamwork to implement a strategy. It takes this applied communication to oil and run machinery of business. And if that machinery breaks down—as it often does—a great deal of money is lost. It's in this area, applied communication, that we need to look for financial drain.
Loss of time
What does your time cost company for each hour you are at work? A good rule of thumb in calculating hourly cost is: annual salary divided by 2000 (based on 50 40-hour weeks). When you know this figure for your own time as well as that of your staff, you can begin to calculate cost of applied communication at work.
Meetings Regardless of its purpose, a meeting is an exercise in applied communication: you speak, you listen, you interact. I’ve never met anyone in business who has not complained about meetings: too many, too long, too boring. I would add to that: too expensive.
Consider meetings that are supposed to last an hour but somehow expand to use up most of afternoon. Calculate hourly cost of total participant time and multiply by length of meeting—and keep in mind that higher level participants more expensive time. The result may not sound too alarming, until you consider how many of those meetings take place in your organization every day, every week, every year. Do arithmetic.
Correspondence Letters, reports, memos, and now ubiquitous e-mail—written communication is an integral part of doing business. Unfortunately, statistics show that corporate employees spend altogether too much time writing it, and badly at that, so that those on receiving end spend too much time reading it!