Is Organizational Structure Stifling Your Workplace Communications?

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Surprise! Organizational structures are getting denser!

Managerial employment in the US workforce expanded by 90% between 1983 and 2014, according to research reported this month in the Harvard Business Review. Meanwhile, employment in other occupations increased less than 40% during that same period. 

“Today, more Americans are working in large, bureaucratic organizations than ever before,” according to the study. For example, Fortune 500 firms now employ 27 million people compared to 20 million in 1995.

Often, as my experience has shown, the voice of front-line staff gets muffled as management grows. Organizational complexity stunts the speed and openness of direct communication between the top and bottom. 

Companies with expansion trends need to work harder than ever to build human connections through human communication. Success requires time, effort and genuine intent. While these are absolute requirements, they generally arise as assets in short supply. 

However, the dividends from that investment can be readily seen in organizational performance, as measured by these key indicators from my firm’s Spectator-Free Workplace™ program:

  • The quality of the actual interchanges, the rapport-building practices such as team meetings and one-on-one chats that guide communication
  • The quality of the information shared through these interchanges, including information about the company’s performance and its people
  • The quality of inquiry generated by questions to learn from and about others
  • The quality of intake comprised of direct comments, questions and ideas triggered by questions

A quick poll can deliver baseline data from the front line about the current state of these four powerful productivity drivers. As I’ve indicated, evaluate their quality. Uncover, through a combination of multiple choice and open-ended questions, what’s working well and what’s not. 

But don’t stop there. Involve front-line folks through action teams to improve the practices driving interchanges, information, inquiry and intake. Despite their increasing numbers, managers don’t have the right or best fixes. The mounting levels have distanced most from the reality of their workplace. Bust through bureaucracy. Employee teams are one of the most effective engagement tactics for bridging gaps—in communication and organizational structure. 

 

Dulye & Co. president and founder Linda Dulye is revving up to address the General Assembly of YMCAs  on July 16 in Kansas City, where she’ll reveal “Communication Strategies that Create Big Connections.”

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