Communication in small and large companies

Guest contribution by | 27.02.2020 | Processes & methods | 0 comments

Is there a change in communication “in business”? Does the same apply to communication, rules and channels for both small and large companies? Up to what size of business does communication work best? And what is a good tool to improve the exchange between employees over time?

Typical communication problems in companies

In start-ups or family businesses, you would think that the information flow would be better and more direct. After all, the working atmosphere is amical and everyone knows, like in a village, also the private concerns of the other. An international company, on the other hand, resembles a big city: there is much more privacy than in rural structures and you enjoy the retreat in anonymity.

Surprisingly, however, many of my customers from small and medium-sized enterprises tell me about exactly the same communication problems as those from “big corporations”. The two most frequent complaints are quite contradictory:

  • “I have the feeling that every time I receive an e-mail I am put in cc and therefore littered with uninteresting information.”
  • “I’m not getting important information.”

Do you know the feeling of having to tell everything twice? Or waiting in vain for information, only to hear afterwards that information is a debt to be collected? It is a dilemma!

Which communication channel would you like?

If you need to send a message to a group of people, do you use email or a service like WhatsApp? The biggest difference between large organisations and smaller work units is probably the way they communicate with each other: The flatter the hierarchy, the more likely messages are shared via Whatsapp. “It’s faster, you can see if all recipients have read the messages and spelling is not so important” is often cited as a reason.

Of course, the preference for WhatsApp – or comparable services such as Threema or Signal – over communication via email is not only a question of company size, but also of the age of the communication participants. It is therefore not surprising that other communication channels are used in large, international companies, where often a large number of employees have “some life experience”. Or can you imagine that at Siemens, the board of directors and middle management regularly communicate via SMS?

So, in terms of the channels used, a change in communication can be seen. And how does communication change in the hierarchy? 

Hierarchy and communication

Large organisations benefit from standardised processes and clear reporting structures. Mueller reports to Johnson, who reports to Smith. Only in exceptional cases do you turn directly to your “bossboss”. Usually, you do not “overrule” your own manager.

If the head of a department turns down an idea to his department head, then logically the latter is not happy about it. Experience shows, however, that people in large companies take rejections less personally than in friendly managed SMEs. If chef Sepp ignores the suggestion made by restaurant manager Leo, then things rarely run smoothly. If a weakly decided chef comes into the picture, who runs the restaurant according to the motto “find your own way”, then sand quickly gets into the gears.

Interestingly enough, Matthias Horx, a future & trend researcher, recently told me that “organisations up to almost 50 people worked best because they would resemble village structures. In terms of management span and hierarchy depth, smaller units would be more manageable even in large companies and the communication circles would be correspondingly easier to manage”. Sounds comprehensible, doesn’t it? But I cannot see any change in communication here.

Rules of communication

Weak decision-makers are never a blessing, but they are better cushioned by the existing structures in large organisations. In smaller companies, a “bobblehead” as a manager is a permanent threat to his company and to the atmosphere in the team. Why? The naturally grown authorities among the employees will soon lead him from below and establish themselves as grey eminences. Injustice and special privileges are the logical consequence. Some of these increased powers and special positions are not comprehensible to others in the team. Therefore, especially in small companies, clear rules of the game are necessary.

Every boss should be able to answer the following questions immediately:

Who controls time accuracy in our company?

“Kathi is always late for meetings. That is the case with her. But she can work well for it.” In some companies, measurement is carried out with varying degrees of accuracy. This is not possible with hygiene factors such as time agreements or salary.

Who will sell me solutions instead of problems?

“Management by Babysitter” is one of the most common management mistakes. When does the mother take the child out of the cradle? Right when he’s crying. Employees who prefer to report problems have instinctively learned that you listen to them. Bosses love to take care of the moths, while others who do their work well and offer solutions independently are deprived of this attention.

What are the motivators of my employees and what hygiene factors do they find?

The US-American professor of ergonomics Frederick Herzberg already pointed out two essential factors in professional life in the 1960s. The motivators for an employee are, for example, recognition, praise or prestige and, above all, the variety of tasks. In addition, people in the “rush hour of life” are primarily concerned with prospects and opportunities for advancement.

On the other hand, employees need solid hygiene factors such as salary, management style and working conditions. This includes interpersonal relationships with employees and the boss as well as a secure workplace.

Who is my deputy in an emergency and why is it this person?

In some companies you get the impression that people are paid and promoted according to the “calcification principle”. Whoever is in the running the longest is most likely to move up. This gives little hope to young team members in particular. The deputy therefore has an important function; both in terms of the company’s reputation, but also in terms of the specific tasks in the event of a takeover.

Which employees are passing through?

There are travellers in every company. Some walk a few kilometres with us, get involved and learn from us. Then they move on. This is a natural process that can even be fruitful as long as the manager knows who the tourists in the company are.

What role does the company play in the life of the individual employee?

Not everyone works just for the money. For some people it is much more about prestige. They are proud of the name of the company and are happy about this reference in their CV. For others, the operational network that can be built up here is the main focus. “Harmoniser” enjoy the social ties and feel the team is a kind of second family.

A practical tip

Modern communication rules also include – like the captain of a ship – keeping a logbook. Over the years, an organisation manual has been developed which, like a manual, records all important decisions, problem solutions and strategies. It must be maintained continuously, it serves as documentation in companies with compliance requirements and, above all, offers new employees a good basis for training. In a fluctuating time, the logbook guarantees another advantage: long-standing employees are not frustrated with the feeling that they “reinvent the wheel of time every year”. The organisation handbook is suitable for large company teams as well as for small and medium-sized companies.

 

Notes:

Information on Tatjana Lackner can be found at www.sprechen.com. She regularly publishes interesting facts about communication (in German) at www.sprechen.com/blog.

Tatjana Lackner has published a few more articles here in the t2informatik Blog:

Communication Trends
Emojis in communication
Generation Talk

Tatjana Lackner
Tatjana Lackner

Tatjana Lackner is one of the leading communication & behavior profilers. Her eye captures people. Her ear hears personal details from every voice. She recognizes the smallest aspects of behavior. The “Trainer of the Year” (Magazin Training) is a politician coach, 6-time bestselling author, 2-time mother and already a young grandmother. Tatjana Lackner is by her effective Coachings Top Trainerin of German-language radio and television moderators, of many high-level personnel, managers, politicians and successful enterprises at home and abroad. She recognizes the potential learning fields of her clients in a flash. She formulates her trainer feedback in a precise, accurate and noticeably honest way. Tatjana Lackner’s trainings, seminars and events guarantee a high fun factor.