Internal Communication – Directions, Characteristics, Barriers

Internal Communication – Directions, Characteristics, Barriers

The least invoked concept from the local HR management, internal communication defines the total amount of communication means and ways employed inside the company.

Though many consider it unidirectional, internal communication actually presents two types of orientations:
On the vertical – between top managers and the great mass of employees;
On the horizontal – between departments or entities which have collaboration relations, not subordination ones.

Vertical communication can be ascendant – from bottom to top and descendent – from top to bottom.

The descended one, raises real problems for HR specialists because of the differences between the transmitter and the receiver. Thus, the message must always respond to the need of these two entities, which is in one hand the needs of the top management, who wants to communicate something and on the other hand the employees, who want to hear another thing. As a mediator, the HR department is the one who adapts the message and communicates it in an intelligible and optimal manner which will produce the expected reaction.

What do the top managers want to communicate? In general they want better performances, with lower costs, talk about efficiency, discipline, respecting procedures and rules.

What do the employees want to hear? Generally they want to hear that they did a good job and they want to be involved in making decisions.

How do you unify the two types of expectations? The compromise solution is always optimal. Also, the more the message is simpler and direct, the greater are the chances that it will be received in a correct way.

Talking about the ascendant communication, often it loses its message on the way, because few top managers consider the fact that employees have something important to say. The only efficient ascendant communication methods are the ones organized and led by the HR departments (employees satisfaction surveys, 3-4D evaluations etc)

How can the vertical communication be optimized? The first step would be to encourage it. The opened-door politics, editing messages according to the organizational culture, constant feedback, are the methods that can create both efficient communication ways, and a relieved working environment.

Horizontal communication also raises some issues considering the fact that being on the same organizational ladder, both the transmitter and the receiver have the interest to deform the message sometimes in accordance with punctual interests. And again the ungrateful role of the HR specialist comes into sight and he mustn’t allow the distortion of the essential message.

How can you create an efficient horizontal communication? By sketching out a communication diagram which is valid and unanimous respected. For example, in organizational environment, something which has a great importance and is verbally communicated mustn’t remain like that. Vorba Volant, Scripta Manet. Moreover, defective communication between departments must be mediated as soon as the first signs appear.

The main barriers in internal communication, regardless of its type, are:

o Defective organizational culture. If the top management creates a paranoid organizational culture, based on controversial or conflictive pieces of information, the rest of the teams will only propagate this tendency.

o The lack of identity when it comes to recruiting employees. If the teams are heterogeneous, without empathy and cohesion, they will always communicate in a defective manner. In general, when new colleagues are recruited and selected, the HR specialists must consider the adhesion to the same type of values, the similitude regarding cultural level or any other common view. If, for example in the Sales department, are chosen only the best, in the Technical department, the cheapest, and the secretary is the boss’s niece, there are great chances that these individuals wouldn’t find that common bench-mark to help them communicate.
o There are even incidental barriers. As I said, interests of moment, unmotivated people, conflicts which are more or less spontaneous, all of this can influence internal communication. Regarding vertical communication, in the company’s hesitation moments, this is greatly influenced by the lack of credibility which the top management has obtained.