Communicate Like You Mean it & Eliminate CRS

How many times have you heard or read something that you later have a difficult time recalling? It struck a chord at the time, but all the messages your overtaxed brain receives from multiple channels keep you from internalizing the main point(s). We are constantly processing, so we regularly experience CRS (can’t remember stuff).

Let’s agree that:

  1. good communication is more challenging than ever; and
  2. since communication deeply affects employees and clients—from morale to productivity and revenue—communication greatly impacts company success.

I do believe that it’s the initiator’s responsibility to ensure that recipients understand and retain messages. It’s one thing to transmit messages, but to ensure messages are understood as the sender intended and retained is quite another. It’s important to be aware of the limitations that each mode of communication has, such as:

  • Email lacks the ability to convey emotion, tone or body language; yet it is the “go to” communication in business.
  • 93% of communication is interpreted through tone and body language¹, leaving 7% of communication heard through words.

So how can we eliminate CRS, achieve our communication goals, and truly be heard?

The principles we incorporate in communications programs that improve our clients’ employee experiences are no secret. Yet we’ve seen how easily they can slip through the cracks without a dedicated system. The real secret: strategic planning and steadfast implementation.

We wouldn’t create a communication plan without incorporating the following principles:

  • Understand your audience and their perspective:
    • company wide
    • senior leaders
    • managers
    • team, individual
  • Effective messaging
    • aligned to company objectives, values, and voice
    • clarity for the audience receiving it
    • consistent messaging presented in a way that can be heard and understood by
      the particular audience
  • Calculated distribution
    • spaced repetition that recognizes it often takes a number of times for the
      message that is communicated to be heard, and internalized
    • integrating closed-loop techniques as appropriate
  • Channel Integration
    • use of multiple channels
    • delivery of consistent message

Communication that Engages Employees
A middle-market manufacturing firm wanted to create a more people-centered, engaged culture. One of the biggest rumblings was that employees felt uninformed, left out, or confused by messages they did or did not receive. Throughout the company growth—organic and acquisition—communication patterns had not changed much.

In considering an employee survey to gain a clear and complete understanding of employees’ beliefs, leadership became skeptical about participation in an email survey. Employees were overheard discussing their concern for the lack of anonymity and fear of retribution for negative answers. Leaders felt this would deter employees from expressing their true feelings. Yet without a solid survey they would be shooting darts at a board to understand how employees really felt.

With a communication goal of making sure that employees understood that their participation in the survey would help the company improve the employee experience, we created a plan with the following highlights:

  • Packaged a singular message about the employee engagement initiative and gaining insight into what people really thought
  • Delivered the message over a two-week period through:
    • Personally: in-person company-wide and department meetings
    • Digitally: eblast, intranet
    • Tangibly: through a coffee mug left at each person’s workstation
  • Senior leaders, managers, directors, and culture committee to peers delivered the same message to each group they engaged with.
  • Message deliverers encouraged questions and easily provided answers that were prepared in advance.

This detailed plan exceeded the 60% participation we determined would be a first-time survey success. The client was delighted by 83% actual company wide participation, which included all levels of personnel in U.S. and international offices.

Closed Loop Communications to Achieve Goals
After several weeks of attending a healthcare client’s weekly 90-minute senior staff meetings as part of developing a plan to improve employee engagement, I detected an important element was missing.

There was always a well-defined agenda, meaty discussion, and action items assigned to specific individuals. However, after a few weeks I noticed these meaty discussions and action items never seemed to resurface with an update. I began asking some curious questions about progress on these action items. There was lots of head turning and expressionless faces but no updates to report. Without an intentional plan that closes the loop many of these action items were not initiated, they were sitting in limbo. We worked to create a closed loop process that made it easier to resurface these issues and hold people accountable.

Since culture infuses the organization from the top down, it’s important that senior management (and all employees) be held to effective follow-up standards.

The Rest of the Story
A Seimens Enterprise Communications study confirms the impact of today’s ineffective business communications on performance and results:

  • The majority of employees say they don’t see their company’s big picture.
  • 71% of employees report their manager has not invested enough time explaining goals and plans.
  • Communications barriers cost a company more than $26,000 per employee annually in lost productivity.
  • 57% of projects stumble because of poor communication.

Conversely, effective communication breeds positive business outcomes, according to research²:

  • It is estimated that $37B can be saved annually when employee business objectives are well communicated, limiting errors or omissions due to misunderstood policies, process, or job function.
  • 91% of employees will work toward company objectives when they understand how their work fits into the big picture.
  • Companies with highly effective internal communication deliver 47% higher total returns to shareholders.

How does your company’s communication compare? How does it rate on frequency, clarity, and variety?

If you’re looking for help in shaping communication practices that keep your company tightly connected and end CRS call us. We’re experienced engagement builders.

Toll free: 800-742-6800 In Minneapolis/St. Paul: 952-933-8365 email:

¹ Mehrabian Study
² Towers Watson, Melcrum