Imagine you are filled with ideas, but not able to convey them. What good are those ideas then? To be able to communicate is to be able to transform those ideas into actions. Communication of any form at the workplace is key to success personally as well as professionally.
According to Pumble, 86% of employees and executives cite the lack of effective collaboration and communication as the main causes of workplace failures. Therefore, to overcome failures and accelerate growth, it is vital that employers adopt a formal mode of communication at work.
What is Formal Communication?
Formal communication is an official method of conversation that is often preferred in a corporate setting. It is distinct from informal communication in that it relies on set channels and processes of flow. The main purpose of formal communication is to give orders, convey instructions and fulfill the goals of the organization. It is a traditional yet effective mode of communication that has a top-down approach, that is, from senior leaders to the bottom-most level in an organization. Some examples of formal communication are planned meetings, conferences, agreements, emails, and business plans.
In general, an effective communicator exceeds at being a better leader at the workplace because -
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” - James Humes
To bar misunderstandings and for conveying what is intended to, formal communication has consistently proved to be the best tool. Despite this being the fact, in a research, only 45% of organizations relied on formal communication partly because of its inflexibility and partly because it is seen as mundane and redundant. But its effectiveness in terms of saving time and conveying accurate information concisely cannot be disregarded.
Let us look at certain merits it possesses:
It is easily managed and monitored in that it has definitive channels through which it flows which makes it comparatively easier to track. Leadership and managers can perform proper surveillance and understand the course of action that the team or even the organization is following. Communication being controlled is beneficial to the organization since it is easier to keep a record of the happenings. This feature emerges as a result of a superior-subordinate relationship which is key in a hierarchical organization.
Formal communication is essential in maintaining a sense of secrecy. Since there are only designated channels through which it flows, knowledge reaches only its intended audience or user. This is especially useful when communicating confidential information that cannot be shared with everyone. This is helpful in increasing the overall security standards.
What makes Formal communication extremely dependable is the fact that it is verifiable and always comes with proof. For instance, online meetings can be recorded and checked at a later point in time to confirm if what was decided was later followed or not. These hold the employees accountable for the work they do because they are questionable based on their deliverables. Whereas informal communications do not come with proof and are not reliable.
4. Establishes Authority
Unlike casual and easy-going communications, being formal facilitates more efficiency in the work to be delivered because it emerges from a place of authority. Most senior officials and leadership avail formal communications in their day-to-day tasks, to guide their subordinates and even indulge in conversations outside while representing the organization. Being assertive and authoritative directs the listener and reader to deliver the assigned work according to the given timelines.
5. Less or no room for Ambiguity
Written formal communications such as emails, reports, legal notices, etc rely on designated templates that follow the organizational guidelines. When written in a manner that has already been planned and structured, there are high chances of only correct information being passed and fewer chances of skewness. This is extremely important in organizations that have a high responsibility quotient such as the healthcare sector where one single miscommunication can be highly expensive.
6. Survives the test of time
Any form of formal communication is always recorded and thus can be dug up even from the past whenever required. It is sensitive and crucial in that it can convey information related to trends and other statistics that can guide the organization for decision-making in the future.
7. Conveys Respect
Formal communication leaves no room for indecency and thus comes across as reverential when compared to a written piece that is informal and is more erratic. It helps convey concisely exactly what is needed or is to be said. Moreover, it gives the impression that the writer/speaker is a learned person and thus can be relied upon. This is especially convenient in a corporate or a business setting where “Give respect to take respect” is taken quite seriously.
In the words of Aaron Goldman, “Communicate unto the other person that which you would want him to communicate unto you if your positions were reversed.”
8. Less time consuming
It takes less time to draft a piece of formal content that is based on a preset structure, and that leads to an overall increase in efficiency. As a manager, generic formal communication can reduce a lot of manual effort that is otherwise spent drafting and typing personalized messages.
There is another advantage that comes attached to this. When communicating formally, managers and other leaders give a sense of equality to all the employees, thus avoiding any bias that might come along. This is because all formal communication is essentially the same.
9. Increases discipline
Communication is a form of human connection and is the key to personal and career success. Abiding by this is the formal method of communication that facilitates coordination and method between teams from different departments of an organization. Information flows systematically when it is formal and thus distinct departments can be synchronized.
Moreover, when employees know that they are being monitored, they are disciplined and accomplish tasks methodically. Motivational speaker, Brian Tracy tells that, “Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.” Similarly, various disciplines at work can communicate formally and thus work harmoniously.
10. Easy and Quick flow
Since this type of communication only flows through predetermined channels it flows quickly via them. Most employees are aware of- ‘what to send’ and ‘whom to send, and that makes it relatively easier for them to communicate. In the case of informal communication, the channels are fuzzy and there aren’t any boundaries, so there are chances of communication becoming personal and that is not the decorum of the corporate or the business world.
To sum it up, Formal communication is the language of business while informal communication is the language of building personal relations. It is highly recommended by business leaders that organizations rely on formal methods of communication if they want to ameliorate business performance. In a research conducted by MIT, it is apparent that increased dependence on informal communication can harm performance while formal communication offers specific, crucial advantages, like accountability and improved learning.