Communication is vital for companies competing in the race against time. In markets as well as within organizations, communication is increasingly at the service of corporate strategy and represents an essential tool in the day-to-day management of human and financial resources.

To this end, Lacoste (2001) states that “nothing seems more necessary and widespread than communicating in order to work, yet communication remains a difficult process, with only partial successes”. Communication is often seen as the cause of all ills, while also as the remedy that can solve all problems. As a result, it has become quite common to reduce all company dysfunction to a “communication problem.”

Nowadays, communication is at the heart of decision-makers’ concerns within companies. The emergence of tensions, conflicts, and communication problems between the various players are indeed factors that lead an organization into endless difficulties. Any company wishing to ensure its longevity should invest in effective communication, a healthy work environment and social framework, so that all its players can carry out their professional duties under favorable conditions. This can include reducing unnecessary pressure, providing sufficient feedback, listening to employees, considering their needs, and emphasizing the values of honesty and respect.

How can an organization invest in effective internal communication?

To answer this question, it is interesting to take a closer look at the communication process. From the Latin communicare, (“to put in common”), it represents the action of sharing or exchanging something with the aim of transmitting something clearly. This could be a message, information, a feeling or even knowledge. Communication is commonly defined as a tool that promotes interaction between one or more transmitters and receivers.

Figure 1: Communication Process between Transmitter and Receiver

Source : T. Kemdji, M. Kechemir, L’audit de la communication interne Cas de COSIDER OUVRAGES D’ART, 2017

While this model of transmission is important, it has been shown to be rather reductive because it fails to consider the relational aspect of communication.

Being a complex and dynamic system, communication must also be seen as a process that contributes to the creation of human relationships. It is not only about exchanging information; it is also asserting one’s identity, values, feelings, emotions, influencing others, etc. All of it is part of internal communication.

Internal communication is the foundation of corporate communication. It represents all the principles and practices that enable the exchange of messages, ideas, and values between members of the same organization. This is why, to ensure its smooth running, an organization should take a keen interest in its internal communication to preserve the quality of relations and exchanges between its players.

There are four requirements an organization should fulfill for better internal communication:

The administrative requirement

The main idea is that the company must put in place directives and procedures that provide relevant information to structure, supervise, and guide the activities of individuals in achieving their objectives.

The relational requirement

Establishing effective communication practices facilitates decision-making and problem-solving. A company’s performance depends on the quality of the relationships maintained by its members.

Therefore, a good social climate is a key success factor for an organization.

The symbolic requirement

It “represents the human collectivity” C. Michon (1994). Communication serves as a means of transmitting the company’s missions, values, and vision. It creates a common goal to which people within the company must adhere to successfully carry out their missions.

The strategic requirement

“It is the representation of a power that aims to direct, control, influence and master all individual strategies” C. Michon (1994). The main idea is to manage and frame individual strategies through communication.

In addition to this, it is important to mention that an organization must have a good corporate culture. Corporate culture can be defined as the product of the interaction between two different cultures: organizational and national cultures (K. Lassoued, 2006). Within an organization, it can appear in several aspects: beliefs, representations, myths, symbols, rituals, etc. (K. Lassoued, 2006).

An organization brings together a group of people with different beliefs and interests (K. Lassoued, 2006). It must, through communication, dissolve these differences and propose a harmonious and collective environment based on mutual respect at all levels within the organization (J. Belga, 2017).

It is worth noting that in companies that foster a positive internal atmosphere, employees are more involved and motivated in their work. These are the ingredients a company needs to ensure its own continuation and to improve its performance.

Now, let’s look at some barriers to effective internal communication to better recognize and manage them. They can be grouped into three types:

Material barriers

  • Noise (telephone/video circuit, nearby machinery or traffic)
  • Computer network failures or interruptions
  • Poor layout of premises

Structural barriers

  • Lack of structure (too much information)
  • Lack of feedback
  • Inadequate communication systems
  • IT systems that are outdated (delays, bugs, etc.)
  • Lack of sector-specific information

Human barriers

Individual factors

  • Mood changes (due to fatigue, emotional dysregulation, stress, illness, etc.)
  • Individual behavior (introversion, megalomania, aggressiveness, etc.)
  • Fears of alienation, manipulation
  • Isolation, unfit for group relationships
  • Confidentiality, rumors
  • Lack of empathy, consideration
  • Disinterest

Socio-cultural factors

  • Language (different native tongues)
  • Expectations related to cultural norms (gender, race, religion, age)
  • Influence of groups (peer pressure)
  • Non-verbal communication, codes of conduct
  • Lack of training and education

To overcome some of these barriers, organizations can, for instance, encourage greater employee involvement in the process. This involves not only making more information available to them, so they feel involved and valued, but also raising awareness of these barriers and their impact on communication.

To conclude, here are some tips and tricksorganizations can apply to improve effective internal communication.

Respond, don’t react

Beware of quick reactions. When listening, it is important not to judge or analyze based on your perceptions alone. More often than not, our own motivations get in the way of interpreting other people’s behavior. Make sure you understand the speaker, and do not give advice based on your own experiences.

Respect boundaries

Pay special attention to the degree of openness of your interlocutor. Do not force a conversation when the other person is not ready or is unwilling to engage. Rather, propose to have a conversation at a more convenient time or place.

Practice active listening

In an effective conversation, listening is half of the work. When you’re listening, pay special attention to practicing empathy and setting aside your prejudices. Adopt an active listening posture to show your own openness to dialogue and allow other people to express themselves without interruptions. Verify if you understood the interlocutor by rephrasing their message in your own words.

Remember the usefulness of effective communication for your organization and the significant role that people play in it. Effective communication is a key success factor from working in harmony to managing any conflict or crisis.