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I’m always amazed when I go into a business organization how little is done to improve the frustrations and low morale of the workers. So many simple things could be done to make a huge difference to improve communication in our organizations.
Yet wherever I go, I often see idle staff members that could be used to work on these simple things if only there was a communication person to recognize and delegate those simple tasks. Unfortunately not many organizations have such a person and neither do they have self-driven individuals who could take this on themselves.
Many years ago, I remember working for the vice-president of finance of a large automotive parts distributor. He was a good communicator and a hard worker. One day, beholding an accumulation of boxed files, he happened to mention to me that these needed to be sorted and brought into a current and feasible condition.
He knew well that this was no small task. There were many years of financial documentation and files which, as they were, took many hours to decipher every time information was required. Plus there was no extra spare time to get them organized. However, once he told me the need for this job to be done, I immediately set out to make extra time and get it done by working on it at least every week.
And every week I would come into his office and take him away from whatever he was doing, to sit down with me for half an hour to go over my sorted batches with issues to be clarified or questioned. I remember distinctly how impressed he was at my continued and relentless charge to get through this large job. Within a few months, after years in array, these boxes of files were finally in proper and efficient order.
Big task, yes. But simple. It was just a matter of ‘doing it’ – one bite at a time. And in any organizations, there are multitudes of tasks that need to be done in order to make things more efficient and pleasant for the improvement of employee morale, positive communication and working condition.
There are many such areas in need of simple ways to improve communication in organizations in order to make everybody’s work easier, more pleasant and more efficient. Five of them I will now share in this article.
1) Chronological dates:
Over and over I see work places using various ways to write dates on business documentation and paperwork. This simple thing leads to an enormous amount of wasted time and recurring errors in reading and searching for information. Some departments are more vulnerable than others. In accounting where people work with invoices, billing, accounts payable, receivables, credit and collection, etc., it is highly prominent. Other areas are legal departments and logistics, administration and manufacturing, inventory, shipping, etc… where a lot of tracing needs to be done to answer suppliers expediting and customers inquiries and investigations.
For example some will put month first, i.e. 12/, then the day, 11/, then the year 09. Is this December 11 or November 12, 2009? Is 09/07/10 September 7, 2010, or July 9, 2010, or July 10, 2009, or October 7, 2009? Some write year first, then month, then day; others write day first, then month, then year, etc. Great amounts of errors and time take place every day, costing millions of dollars in time and productivity losses.
The simple thing to do is to implement standards for every one to use in recording dates. I personally favour writing out the month in letters rather than digits, followed by the day and then the year, i.e.: November 12, 2010. Can’t misread this. Sometimes for practical reasons, a company might need to write the year first, 10/11/12, 2010, November 12. Of course with computers within accounting or operations software, the standard for chronological dates is already set in the system, which every department should be instructed to follow.
In the same manner as above, the need to use standards in every department also goes within the filing of all file systems. The simple rule to follow is: digits first, 123 Pencil Company, 234 Staple Company, not under ‘P’ or ‘S’; ‘The’ at the end of company names, i.e.: The ABC Machine Works Co. would be filed under ABC Machine Works Co. (the); nothing comes before something – i.e. M. Brown Enterprise and Man Brown Enterprise, would be M. before Man; and individual names are filed under last names and company names under first names, i.e.: John Doe and John Doe Automatic Blenders would be filed as Doe, John (under D) and John Doe Automatic Blenders (under J). Again simple and elementary.
I recall a company where hours were spent daily, looking through hundreds of customer lists and consulting with other staff members and supervisors to find any given names for billing and credit and collections processing. It was particularly frustrating for new and temporary employees to the point of creating an unusually high turnover.
3) IT & Help Desk:
Here, when computers are down in any given department of an organization, IT and Help Desks people should take care of those departments that are most costly to the company – i.e. customer service, sales, order desk, collections, etc, where the money comes from. Of course you don’t do this at the obliteration of other departments. Everybody in the company should be involved in the identifying and prioritizing process of these most important departments through each their mission statements and purposes.
An accounts receivable clerk transferred an entry to another customer account, and referenced the move on the report as “Transferred into correct account”. No reference note was made in the “correct” account.
There were two accounts involved, #13730 and #12670. The transfer was made from 13730 into 12670. “Correct account” is only good for the one who knows what accounts are involved. Even then, after a while, that person will forget. To any other person (a supervisor looking for information in the absence of his subordinate, a new or temporary employee, an auditor, etc.), this reference note means absolutely nothing. The proper entry would have been “Transferred acct.#13730 into acct.#12670. Now everyone knows. Lots of frustrations and searching time has just been eliminated.
The amazing part is that these types of mistakes are made right under the noses of many a supervisor or manager and nothing is done about it – nothing is said; the subordinate is not corrected and the mistakes continue and multiply. Enormous time is wasted looking for information when needed, rectifying errors when found. Crisis management increases year by year – and we wonder why.
5) Needful Information
A company had transferred all the customer files from a US parent office to a regional location. On a daily basis, the staff would spend large amounts of time when information on a customer was needed, such as correct name and contact, address, phone number, credit information, etc. After the inability to find the data, they would call long distance the US to check, or assume certain details.
Amazingly, the simple solution to eliminate this waste of time and frustration was to include a copy of the customer information in the file which contained all of the necessary details. Yet, again no one did anything about it.
Why did I pick these five specific areas? Because they are five real areas of concerns that I have observed over and over, in many companies, where individuals and departments have operated without any direction.
There are many more such areas of opportunities with simple ways to improve communication in organizations. These are obvious ones that should trigger the ideas of what to look for in any department of business.
The key is for managers and supervisors to implement these simple tidbits of communication and administration standards – the 1000 improvements of 1% rather then the 1 improvement of 1000%. Not just tell their staff to do it but also follow-up thereafter that they’ve been done, even carry these out themselves as continuous examples and reminders to the rest of the staff – leadership by example.
Diane M. Hoffmann is president of Hoffmann-Rondeau Communications Inc., which offers ONline and OFFline business services and resources. She is the founder and creator of http://www.build-your-internet-business-now.com and author of several books, e-books and articles on how to start, build and grow your Internet business now.