Effective communication is essential to organizational success. When a shelter can effectively communicate throughout the entire organization it strengthens unity, gets folks on the same page, and fosters employee engagement and well-being. Here are a few key strategies for improving organizational communication:
Begin with a committee
When you institute change, employees should have a voice — and that goes double for improving communication. Form a committee of representatives from throughout your entire organization and set a goal of finding 5 to 10 ideas or strategies for improving organizational communication. Implement these suggestions when possible. Where those ideas are not possible, or cannot be incorporated for some time, be sure to explain to your employees why those changes cannot be made. Typically, a committee like this will identify some “low-hanging fruit” ideas, easy to implement and quick to improve communication.
Use regular meetings
Meetings are important to have within every department. Many employees may rely on meetings to get information about their organization and to communicate about important concerns. Setting regular meetings allows for those within the department to accomplish many objectives, including agreeing on policies, planning for future events, or simply building team member relationships. During these meetings, highlight the successes of the week, promote employee input, or break up the meeting using problem-solving groups to hold attendee attention and interest. In addition to department meetings, meetings for the entire organization can create a sense of unity across the organization and ensure certain messages reach everyone. This is particularly useful for larger organizations where it’s easy to become sectioned off in one’s department.
While it’s often much easier to facilitate communication within departments, where people work alongside each other every day, it can be much more difficult to do so across departments. Holding regular meetings with at least one representative from each department present is a viable solution to this problem. Alternatively, nominate an “ambassador” who can represent departments that cannot send attendees, and have this person provide notes on the meeting to those absent departments. Of course, regularly scheduling these meetings helps avoid scheduling conflicts or surprises, but if there is nothing to discuss, it’s best to cancel the meeting. Additionally, if an employee does not need to be present at the meeting, allow them to opt out.
Give employees the opportunity to have a voice
A successful animal shelter is willing to provide time or opportunities where all employees feel that they can communicate upwards — after all, communication is a two-way street. These opportunities may take the form of open forums, suggestion boxes, or time allotted to regular staff meetings for employees to ask questions or raise concerns. Shelters can consider having an ask/tell program where managers approach employees to ask their needs instead of waiting for employees to approach them. The best way to ensure that employees know someone hears them is to provide feedback. If they had a suggestion that is not going to work for the shelter, someone responsible will explain why it won’t work.
Send and receive messages in ways that are easiest for your team
An organization should have multiple channels of communication. Hold regular meetings, send updates via email, post news to bulletin boards, have supervisors make announcements to their departments, leverage social media, publish a monthly newsletter or digest, etc. Whichever way you choose, use the strategy that reaches your team the best and remember the importance of communicating the same message in multiple ways. Having ample means of communication within the organization reduces the likelihood of miscommunication or missed messages and makes people feel involved and invested. It may take some fine-tuning to find the right balance of strategies, so solicit feedback and remain transparent as you expand your communication strategies.
At any point in this series, if you have any questions or ideas you would like to share, or if you are interested in how SeeDS could help your own shelter, please feel free to contact us at SeeDS@uncc.edu. We are a non-profit organization, and our partnership with The HSUS and UNC Charlotte has allowed us to provide shelters with heavily grant subsidized services at a fraction of the cost typically charged.