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How to improve organizational performance with better communication
By Kim Harrison,
Consultant, Author and Principal of www.cuttingedgepr.com
In addition to your traditional communication role, you can make your presence felt by improving operational communication and therefore operational performance.
You may ask why you should become involved in operational communication. After all, it should be an operational responsibility. The answer is that workplace communication is probably the most important communication of all—because it directly affects profitability, or in the case of government entities, their efficiency and effectiveness. And if operational managers aren't addressing operational miscommunication problems, then it is legitimate for the public relations staff to initiate action in everyone's interests.
It is probably wise to first get clearance from the chief executive and senior management to follow up such situations, or you may be perceived to be interfering in operational areas outside your responsibility.
Operational miscommunication is widespread. Staff, especially frontline staff, in any workplace will volunteer many examples of delays, duplication and unnecessary cost. Public relations staff would also have observed many examples of workplace miscommunication. The bigger the organization, the bigger the waste. The most common occurrences take place during changeover of shift, between divisions, and between head office staff and branch staff or field staff.
Communication issues identified in past work may have been ignored because they didn't relate directly to the PR department's job responsibilities.
You can help to solve these miscommunication problems by acting as a catalyst—conducting interviews and focus groups to identify the problems with potential bottom-line impact that seems to have communication gaps.
The next step is to quantify the cost of the operational waste caused by the miscommunication. You can gain approval to observe relevant operational processes at close range and to talk to the operators about their communication as they do their work. It would be prudent to seek approval from the relevant managers and supervisors in these activities and to discuss solutions with them. Their experience would be important in assessing the worth of the proposed changes and they are more likely to support the changes if they are part of the solution.
With the help of the local management or supervisors, the operational problem can be defined along with its cost in higher expenses or lost revenue each time it happens. If the main inefficiency is wasted staff time, the cost can be calculated by multiplying the hourly wage or salary rate of the relevant staff (including indirect costs such as employer contributions to their superannuation or pension fund, etc) by the amount of their lost time for each episode. By multiplying the cost of each episode by the number of times they happen, the total cost can be calculated for a given period of time and can be communicated to senior management. Then the cost of solving the problem by applying communication techniques can easily be calculated against the improvements achieved to give a very high rate of return for the PR effort.
All operational improvements resulting from such communication improvements can be quantified in financial terms by simply calculating the dollar impact of increased sales, higher productivity, improved safety, better quality, etc. The improvement can be calculated in terms of lower cost or higher revenue.
In every instance, the annual potential improvement would be far greater than the cost of PR staff who may be involved in the project, thus creating a very high and measurable return on investment (ROI). These figures build a strong case for senior management support for the public relations department as well as increased respect from operational management.
About the Author
Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website, www.cuttingedgepr.com, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.
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