Internal Communication in the Electronic Age

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After three months or more of busy season, after picking up 20 voice mail messages every morning and attempting to clear out the pile of unread messages in email boxes that may or may not be spam, managers and employees in most accounting firms are looking to reconnect personally, to talk about results, goals for the coming year and the roles they will play in accomplishing these goals.

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Smart and strategic internal communication takes real time, effort and planning, the Newark Star-Ledger says. Managers have to ask themselves what kinds of communication, personal and professional, their employees need to be both satisfied and motivated.

Good communication with teams and staff minimizes frustration and gets everybody on the same page, ready to pursue the same goals. Great communication, both internally and externally, creates a buzz, builds confidence and allows employees and clients to communicate problems, thus leading to solutions, the Star Ledger says.

Communicating can seem easy, but it can just as easily lead to trouble and in the worst case, result in the loss of some valued employees, says Annette Fazio, writing for Seacoastonline. Understanding the dynamics of one-on-one communication and your own communication style can help to avoid communication errors, she says.

Tone of voice, body language and facial expression communicate far more than words. Only 7 percent of the message received is in the words, 38 percent is in the tone of voice and 53 percent is in the body language of the speaker. Listeners filter messages through their own frame of reference and values.

Managers and employees need to listen and pay attention to the emotions of the speaker, Fazio says. Don't interrupt. Silence has great value. It turns off the listener's filters and helps him or her to analyze the situation. When the speaker has finished a sentence, the listener can repeat what they have heard to make sure they have understood what has been said. It may save time to think for staff members by doing the talking but that can also lead to misunderstandings.

And when opportunities for face time and good personal communication have allowed everyone to come together once again, how should managers plan to use electronic communication to minimize the impact of bottlenecks in email and voice mail? Many corporations are benefiting from using Instant Messaging (IM) internally, in productivity and customer response time, the New York Times says. Finding someone is much easier – at any moment, if the writer knows who is available and who is not. “If you want to talk to someone informally, using IM is like sticking your head over the top of the cubicle,” said Tim Bray of Sun Microsystems. “You can also make your cubicle walls infinitely high if you don't want to talk to anyone.”

Managers say that IM improves collaboration and creates a sense of community. “With IM you can educate an entire team, give them feedback in real time and . . . cement the team together,” Jeff Forbes of Intellicare Inc., a company that operates call centers for health care providers, told the Times. “Otherwise people working at home will feel isolated,” he says.

IM users can have mixed feeling about the new technology and with the kinds of communications it inspires, Lisa Belkin says in her “Life's Work” column in the Times. Johnny Wong, a public relations consultant from San Bruno, California, coined the term “Unamailer”, to describe someone who replies with one-word answers. Right, Good. Thanks. Ray Symmes, a business consultant in Portsmouth, Virginia, offers, as an offending kind of IM, an answer to a thoughtful email, “good anal. of world hunger.”


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