Sometimes the results of poor internal communications can be unexpected, even funny. I was recently working with a financial services company when the Human Resources group decided to introduce the Buddy System. They’d received feedback that the induction process (what Americans call ‘on-boarding’) was not working well; people joining initially found the organization disorientating (most induction programmes are about as enjoyable as ‘water-boarding’).
The Buddy System is designed to overcome this. Essentially, an existing employee at roughly the same ‘rank’, is delegated to mind the new staff member for a month or so, until they get settled. The practical impact is that new hires get to know the geography of the physical building, are brought to lunch, introduced to other staff members and have an easy reference point for queries that arise during that first, confusing period.
Quick Launch: The HR department, keen to launch the new system quickly, sought volunteers to look after a new hire who was joining the following Monday. When no one jumped at this opportunity, one of the female managers in the Finance department was assigned the task. The finance crew was particularly busy and a little annoyed at the short notice – but this was hardly the fault of the new hire. Despite the time pressures, the Finance Manager took on the job and decided to give it her best shot. So far, so good. However, the HR staff forgot to tell the incoming employee about the Buddy System and how it operates. The new hire was somewhat taken aback by the ‘friendliness’ of the Finance Manager, who diligently carried out the role as assigned. After 3 weeks, the new employee had a word, in confidence, with his own boss about how to deal with a peer manager who was hitting on him. Needless to say, there was great embarrassment all round when the story unraveled.
Don’t Ask: A couple of weeks ago, the CEO of a well known not-for-profit organization was meeting a marketing agency for the first time. The Agency boss was a woman. Early in the meeting the CEO was curious to establish if the agency worked in both the Republic and Northern Ireland and asked: “Are you 26 or 32?” Without losing a beat, she responded: “Actually, I’m nearly 40”. Apparently, the room erupted with laughter when he rephrased the question.
Glue Needed: Great communications is the glue that holds the disparate parts of an organization together. Get this wrong and the outcomes are seldom funny. The more usual result is that a lot of the good stuff which you have put time and effort into developing unravels. People access information in a range of ways – through the internet, social media and the grapevine (there’s a good chance that not everyone is paying attention to the CEO’s monthly email). And while everyone moans about ‘poor communications’, few organizations actually do anything about making sure that this vital information plumbing system is really working. When is the last time that you conduced a root and branch analysis of your communications system? Only your best buddy would tell you this!
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