The transition from campus to corporate is often a painful one, not least because MBA grads are far from finished products. The area where deficiencies are most acute and damaging, is business communication.
Business communication is basically defined as communication that promotes a product, service, marketing, or organization; relays information within a business; or functions as an official statement from a company. Here, we concentrate on the communication which happens within a company and enables its business to function smoothly. Most organizations nowadays have a functional structure, where different departments or divisions are responsible for different functions. Therefore, communication needs to happen both within each department as well as among different departments.
A very basic business model that can be conceived is one in which a company gets a project and makes money once the project sees the light of the day. Now for the project to get duly completed, different departments need to collaborate on different fronts. For example, if we think of a project in a company like Infosys, then communication might be required among its Development Team, Testing Team, and Commissioning Team. Needless to say, people within each team also must communicate with one another.
The reason why different teams need to communicate with one another is because generally a project is seen as a sum of a number of small projects, with each team handling one or more such parts. Further, members within a team handle different aspects of that small project and hence, need to communicate with other members to ensure that everybody is up to speed as far as the progress or status of the project is concerned.
The different forms of communication generally found in an organization can be broadly listed as follows:-
Emails – This is the most common form of communication within companies.
1. Like letters of old days, the salutation and the signature in emails is very important and they set the tone for the formal discussion or information exchange that ensues.
2. It might also so happen that not all people are a part of an email thread right from its conception, but get added to it along the way as and when they become relevant to the project. The onus is on them to read and understand the discussion that had been going on thus far.
3. If people are being added to the loop at a later stage, the person adding them should mention it clearly in the body of the mail that someone is joining the discussion.
4. Since it is a written record of everybody’s opinions, comments, inputs, and reactions, care must be taken while writing emails. Things that people write can be held against them as emails serve as evidence or written records.
Written Reports – These are generally typed out on a computer and then circulated to all concerned, either as an attachment to an email or in the printed format. They contain the background of the project and the progress made so far.
1. The duration after which a report is to be generated must be pre-decided by the stakeholders – eg, it can be done once a fortnight, or once a month, etc.
2. The names, designations, and departments of the people among who the report is being circulated, must be mentioned in the introductory part.
3. All data references must be clearly mentioned.
4. Once the project gets completed, a final report is compiled either for internal records or may also be shared with the client.
Power Point Presentations – These can be thought of as substitutes for written reports.
1. The readability of the slides must be high.
2. If nobody is presenting the deck, then care must be taken to ensure that the slides are self-explanatory.
3. If multimedia and/or animation has been used somewhere, then somebody should double-check to see if they are working fine.
4. All data references should be clearly mentioned.
5. The slides should not be data-heavy and must be easy on the eyes.
Conference Calls – They generally come into the picture especially when people and/or teams are not located in the same geographies.
1. Logistics, such as a sound-proof conference room, a good speaker-phone, etc., should be taken care of well in advance.
2. Reports and/or slides must be shared before the call happens to ensure that the discussion is fruitful.
3. Each party should know who all are present in the conference room at the other end.
4. When somebody is speaking from one end, she/he must introduce herself/himself first for the benefit for everybody on the other end.
5. Somebody at each end should take down minutes of the meeting.
Social Media – The use of social media in business communication is fairly recent. It is majorly informal and mostly used for ad hoc discussions. The organization, by itself, has no say or control over its use. A few examples could be WhatsApp groups or closed Facebook groups, where people can chat about issues and also clear minor doubts that may arise. One problem associated with this is that since there is no external control, there is nobody to ensure that the discussions on these platforms are strictly restricted to the project or the business.
Peter Drucker and every other authority on communication has mentioned it time and again that communication is not complete with the sending of the message. Complete communication happens only when the receiver understands the message and sends a feedback. The same is the case with business communication as well. Work only gets done properly when people act either on or in accordance with the information conveyed to them. That is the mark of successful communication. In the corporate scenario, the jobs on offer ask for skills in Marketing, Finance, Operations, or any combination of them. But what they do not mention explicitly is the importance that communication has in all of them. Gone are the days when people used to work in silos and then integrate everything. This is the age where work needs to be done in an inclusive manner right from the onset in order to earn dividends – and communication is a means to that end.