Communication is critical within any business setting, but most importantly within a manufacturing facilities − where the right communication can really impact change and translate into business success.
What’s the best way to communicate? How much should you communicate? How do you make sure your messages are heard? This guide will take you step-by-step through the communication process. It has simple, practical, easy-to-follow information you can put to use immediately.
In another Channel Instincts post (4 Steps to Building an Internal Communication Plan), we laid out the planning side of an internal communications plan. Now that the pre-work has been completed, it’s time to write the plan.
Step 1: Background
Establish the need for the communication plan
This section seeks to establish the need for the communication plan and focuses on the background or history of your location. This section enables you to understand how the organization reached the present situation.
It is important for this section to include a discussion of the organization’s mission, vision and values. The statements contained within the mission, vision and values impact all aspects of communication. For example, if part of your plant’s mission is to improve safety, this message should make its way into the communication plan.
Examples of things or events that may shape your current situation are:
- A merger or acquisition
- Union strike
- Attitude or behavior of management
Include in the background:
- Bullet point format list of major events leading up to the time you write the plan—the events and issues that have determined the need for the communication plan
- Mission statement—all communication should be linked with the mission or goals of the plant
- Statement of vision and values—all communication should reflect the thoughts contained in these document
Step 2: Situation Analysis
Get to the heart of the problem or opportunity
The situation analysis is an analysis of the root cause of the issues within your location. When creating your situation analysis, first examine the issues to be addressed in the plan. Then next to each issue, list the facts that support it, both positive and negative. This activity helps you get to the heart of the problem or opportunity. For example:
||Facts, or Effects of Issue
|The merger between XYZ and ABC companies is not complete, and the two cultures are not fully integrated.
||1. Low productivity
2. High turnover
3. Redundancy of various functions
4. Greater market share
5. Positioned as industry leader
6. Insecurity among employees—lots of rumors
|Recent downsizing was handled poorly, resulting in heightened mistrust and insecurity.
||1. Low productivity
2. Loss of key customers
3. Lower operating expenses
4. Communication department was not involved in downsize planning
Now that some issues have been identified, examine the root cause. In this example the root cause may be:
Employees are perceiving the company’s aggressive growth agenda as a threat to job security.
Until you treat this cause, you will continually deal with its effects. Once you determine the cause, you can formulate communication strategies that effectively treat the effects. The final component of the situation analysis is to identify the root cause.
Step 3: Key Messages
The best messages are simple, straightforward and easy for employees to grasp and personalize
What are the major overall messages you need to share? These should be aligned with the issues raised in the situation analysis as well as the agenda of company, business unit and plant leader. The best messages are simple, straightforward and easy for employees to grasp and personalize. It’s usually best to have about five key messages–too many can cause a loss of focus.
- The new re-engineering process has full support of management and the board of directors. We are committed to making this program work for the good of our shareholders, customers and employees.
- The gain-sharing, restructuring and training teams have been created with full support from both union and management and will contribute to the overall operating efficiency at the plant.
- Safety is a top priority at the plant.
Step 4: Target Audience
Who are you trying to talk to?
Identify to whom your plan is directed. You may have more than one audience, or a primary and secondary audience. For example, in a plant environment, your primary audience may be the primary employees, but many of your key messages should also be communicated to the company headquarters or peer plants. They should be listed as your secondary audience and different tactics may apply, however the key messages should be related.
Step 5: Objectives
What are the outcomes you expect?
Here’s where we get to the “guts” of the communication plan. What do you want your plan to do? What are the outcomes you expect or want as a result of the plan? This section should reflect your key messages and business objectives. It should also be aligned with the feedback received from the data gathering portion of the plan.
Objectives vary from key messages in that key messages are what you want to communicate. Objectives are how you want your key messages used.
- Promote an understanding of the re-engineering process throughout the primary and salaried workforce levels.
- Communicate the components of the gain-sharing, restructuring and training teams.
- Educate employees on the importance of safety within a manufacturing environment.
Step 6: Tactics/Implementation
What is it you actually want to DO?
Now it’s time to put it all together. Using your key messages and objectives, what is it you actually want to DO to make your plan work and fulfill your goals. What are you going to do about the issues raised in the data gathering or background sections? Use a grid like the one below to physically outline your tactics. You may want to organize according to date to create a calendar of events.
|Why re-engineering is necessary
|Small group Q&A sessions
|Shift meeting – examples of other re-engineering efforts and results
||Shift supervisor (organization development leader to supply info.)
|Explanation of gain-sharing
||All plant employees
||Distribute gain-sharing brochure
||Plant communication team
|Plant wide email with bullet points of info
||Plant finance leader
|Presentation to union
|Safety in numbers program
||All plant employees
||Program kick off celebration
|Show safety video
|Testimonials from those hurt in the past
||Coordinated by safety leader
Step 7: Evaluation and Assessment
Evaluation and assessment phase is critical in determining the overall success of your communication plan.
Each tactic or implementation item should have a corresponding assessment tool. The evaluation and assessment phase is critical in determining the overall success of your communication plan. Often, communication is considered non-quantifiable and difficult to measure. Your communication plan must be carried through this stage if you are to prove its effectiveness.
There are several ways to evaluate and assess:
- Surveys—surveys are used wherever there is a need to explain the motivations and attitudes driving behavior, to anticipate likely reaction to an announcement or establish a baseline of information in order to measure the effects of a communication plan.
- Focus groups—a focus group is usually made up of 10 to 12 carefully targeted participants who are questioned extensively on their thoughts and feelings about a particular issue, product, service or communication tool.
- Interviews—go out and talk to people. Find out what people think or feel face-to-face.
The final component of this phase is stating the correction action based on the evaluation. If the assessment uncovered constructive criticism, include this is your plan and the steps you will use to correct the situation in the future.
Any thoughts or ideas on what’s worked for you? Share your comments with us!