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Tin-Can Comms Are Hurting Workplace Communications - theEMPLOYEEapp

Tin-Can Comms Are Hurting Workplace Communications

Tin-Can Comms Are Hurting Workplace Communications

Last updated on November 15, 2022 at 09:47 pm

You probably played the game of telephone as a kid or in a team-building offsite. And it usually results in some memorable misquotes. That’s the idea of the game, right? Once you get to the last person, the message you started with has been changed into something almost entirely unrecognizable. But this phenomenon isn’t confined to this game. It’s playing out in your company right now. This game of telephone is really the Cascade of Communication—where you have to rely on passing workplace communications down through multiple levels just to reach your frontline teams. We must focus on investing in better channels to improve workplace comms, or we risk the monumental costs of poor communication in our companies.

top-down communication cascade example

Cascading Messages to Teams

Here’s an example of how the Cascade of Communication is hurting your workplace. 

Think of your third shift on the manufacturing line or your overnight critical care nurses in a hospital. They have their pre-shift meetings typically at midnight before they start a shift that can last 8 to 12 hours. The critical information provided to the managers on that shift is often carried over by their supervisor. And the distribution of that message can vary in effectiveness, validity, and completeness. Messages start to break down here.

But it’s not your shift manager’s fault. Most of the time, frontline managers are not trained communicators even though communication is essential to a leader’s role. Expecting these workers to effectively receive, interpret, and communicate effectively to their team presents significant challenges.

animation of a male worker holding a dollar that's disintegrating

The Cost of Poor Workplace Communications

When we ineffectively communicate—or fail to communicate altogether—the financial costs are staggering: 

But poor workplace comms don’t just have financial impacts. It can also hurt culture, team morale, and retention. Ineffective communication also drives up anxiety at work, creating burnout cultures. Over time, this degrades employee engagement levels and the customer experience.

middle-out communication graphic

How to Avoid “Tin-Can” Workplace Comms

At theEMPLOYEEapp, we know that not being able to reach your entire workforce directly contributes to the cost of miscommunication. You set yourself up for failure if you rely on the cascade and untrained managers. This has to stop. Here’s what you can do about it.

Use Mobile to Communicate Directly

For our clients, mobile has elevated their workplace communications and ended their reliance on the “tin-can.” Introducing a direct channel bypasses the cascade method by delivering critical messages directly to their workforce on their mobile devices. No more static, mixed messages, or personal interpretation of the messages by the manager.

Finding that clarity was key for our client Kreg Tool:

“We had daily start of shift meetings where information was shared with plant employees, but depending on who was delivering that message, we couldn’t guarantee they were communicating the appropriate information in the way it needed to be received.” — Melany Stonewall, Kreg Tool Company

Audit Existing Workplace Communications  

Breaking the cycle of tin-can comms also starts with an effective comms audit. This exercise will show you just how much you rely on the cascade of messages in your company. And then you’ll be able to plot out the messages that your frontline teams need to receive directly.

A critical step in this process is to consider your audience’s needs. Do your managers need better talking points for their shift meetings? Would your hourly workers benefit from more videos from senior leaders catered to them and their roles? Look at your existing messages, cadence, and channels and determine how you could be better at directly reaching and targeting each group. Using our internal comms audit guide and template can help you start this process.

Train Your Managers

Managers aren’t going anywhere. Employees still trust managers and rely on them for information. Auditing your comms channels and introducing new channels that are more accessible will help. But you also need to invest in manager comms training. Companies that train their managers can improve engagement.

Want to learn more about our internal comms tool? Request a demo today.

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