What is communication noise?
We can define communication noise as a failure in the process of sending information from point A to point B. Point A is the transmitter and point B is the receiver.
That is, when any type of communication undergoes a change in the path, for example, a message on WhatsApp is misinterpreted, this is a type of communication noise.
Noise in a company’s internal communication can cause many problems, including misalignment of expectations between employees and the employer.
Communication noise is a problem that resembles cordless phone prank. Remember how it works? You receive a message and must pass it on to the person next to you. This one, in turn, passed the same message forward until the last person in the group arrived. In the end, it was necessary to check if the original message underwent any changes in the process.
There were few cases where the message remained intact, as most of the time it suffered so many alterations that the final version totally lost its original meaning.
Unfortunately, this also happens within companies, but unlike child’s play, if there is noise in communication, the results are harmed, the business can lose money and take serious risks.
In this guest post offered by SimbioX , you will discover what is communication noise and how to prevent it from happening in your company. Come on!
Understand how noise happens in business communication
The noise in company communication happens in several situations, such as in exchange of emails, messaging applications or even in meetings.
Here’s an example: once, we were having an important meeting to define the new visual identity of a company. There, the main executives and area leaders were gathered. We were able to generate good ideas and create an action plan with the next steps. The problem is that nobody wrote anything down. So, when I asked one of those responsible for the project, I got a response like: “What do I really need to do? If no one took notes, we need to have a new meeting.”
In this case, the communication noise was not having formalized the information that it would be necessary to register the ideas because they would be transmitted to other people throughout the project.
See examples of noise in communication in companies
The way companies communicate internally has changed dramatically in recent years. From those with murals and memos, there was an evolution to internal communication systems, such as intranets.
Naturally, communication noise also evolves over time. Even if you consider the ease of sharing information today, we can say that today, compared to the past, communication noise has greater destructive potential for companies. It can happen by:
- online meetings;
- messaging apps like Teams, Slack and WhatsApp;
- corporate social networks;
- proposals and commercial presentations.
Here’s an example of a message triggered by an American dairy company:
“Workers will not be entitled to overtime for canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, labeling, storing, packaging or distributing: agricultural products, fish and meat; and perishable foods.”
Apparently there’s nothing wrong, do you agree?
It turns out that such a communication resulted in a $5 million lawsuit . Some workers from an American company claimed to have worked overtime in packaging services ー since in the statement it is not clear whether packaging is an isolated activity or dependent on distribution.
How to avoid noise in communication?
Avoiding communication noise requires rethinking and reviewing the communication flows used in your company. That’s because the best way to reduce communication noise is to implement clear processes on how communication should flow throughout the company. For example:
- Do your meetings end with minutes and are they shared with all participants?;
- do you formalize an order given to an employee in writing, or do you only keep it verbally?;
- Does the internal exchange of information between employees take place in environments where you can save and have control or is WhatsApp the main communication application?;
- Do you train your employees on best practices for sending e-mails, developing proposals and training on information confidentiality rules?
Of course, these are just a few examples, but this list could be much longer. On the other hand, do not be fooled into thinking that it is possible to control 100% of the communication flows. Inevitably, a failure can happen, after all, it is not possible and not even prudent to act as a communication inspector watching every movement.
How can technology reduce communication noise?
If, on the one hand, technology increases the harmful effects of noise on communication, on the other hand, it can be an ally to avoid them.
However, more important than the technology itself, is having a well-structured communication process, as you have already seen in this article.
That said, combining communication flows with technology is a good strategy to reduce communication noise.
Now, you must be wondering, but which technology to use?
In general, technology must allow centralizing information so that it is easy to find, share and edit – if necessary. So, if your company still communicates internally by email, it’s time to think about using an intranet or corporate social network.
Likewise, it is important to monitor data and information to locate possible points of failure. For this, there are technologies such as Microsoft’s Data Loss Protection (DPL) . In it, you can create rules to find sensitive words in documents and emails, for example.
In this way, you define which words need to be monitored and receive alerts whenever they appear in any of your company’s communication channels.