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Is Communication Just a Nice to Have?


Many years ago, I was on an Air Portugal flight from Lisbon to Toronto. We were a large group that had been on an incentive reward trip to the Algarve region of Portugal. After about ten minutes in the air out of Lisbon, we all heard some whirring and clunking in the mid-section of the plane. 

The co-pilot came back to the middle of the plane, looked out under the wings, and then went back to the cockpit. After some more whirring and clunking, the co-pilot repeated his journey and looked under the wings. After returning to the cockpit, nothing happened for about five more minutes. 

Shortly after, the aging 747 went into a steep bank and what appeared to be smoke came out of both wings of the airplane. Immediately, people in the plane panicked and began screaming: “we are going to die”. Others vomited; others put their head down between their knees and covered it with their arms as they had been taught in safety videos. 

About two very long minutes later, the captain came on the intercom: “Ladies and Gentlemen we will be returning to Lisbon. The landing gear is stuck in the down position and under International Aviation rules we are not permitted to fly with them in the down position. As the plane cannot land with the full weight of all the fuel on board, we had to dump the fuel out over the ocean.”

Now isn’t that interesting. What were the captain and co-pilot thinking? If they had communicated about this immediately, 247 people would not have had their lives flash before their eyes!

Why Communication Matters in Business

Running a business and leading a team of people is never as dramatic as this situation; however, the lesson stands. 

In fact, companies with highly effective internal communications have 47% higher total returns to shareholders when compared to companies with the least effective internal communications.

Communicating what you know – when you know it – will avoid a lot of unnecessary anxiety amongst your team. In the absence of information, employees will begin to imagine what is happening. Rumors will circulate. A suggestion that began as a mild concern will gain intensity and, of course, will be embellished in the chain of communications. 

According to an SMB Communications Study, the cumulative cost of productivity losses caused by communication barriers per employee per year is up to $26,041!

In the work I do surveying employee engagement, I am constantly faced with issues of communication: not enough feedback on performance, my opinions don’t matter, not being consulted on changes that directly impact me and my job, and so on. 

It really does make a difference.

If I could give leaders one piece of advice it would be to err on the side of over-communicating! 

When you set out to inform people, don’t assume that everyone hears the message and absorbs it the same way. Take the time to not only communicate but also to listen. Get people to give the message back to you so you can clarify if something is taken the wrong way. 

CommunicationThe Final Thought

You are missing out on building employee engagement through communication if you aren’t:

So, is communication just a ‘nice to have’? No way.

>> Get in touch with me to talk about improving communication and employee engagement in your organization.

Start communicating now! Download my FREE cheatsheet: Improving Employee Engagement in Just 10 Minutes.

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Written by Dwight Lacey

Dwight Lacey

Dwight is the President at Workplace Engagement Insights. He leads Workplace Engagement Insights with a clear understanding of the latest employee engagement research, survey best practices, and leadership styles that create successful businesses.

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