There are many facets to running a successful company but without effective, intentional communication skills businesses will struggle to thrive.
Communication consists of three parts:
Communication and businessEach of these is necessary, and they work together in concert. It’s imperative that communication is consistent from the CEO to the lowest levels of your organization. Without consistent, clear communication skills you are at great risk to encounter a multitude of problems in your organization. Inconsistent messaging and communication will also cause perception problems outside. Do you really want negative publicity running around the country? I will say that I am not a believer in the old adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity.
What a fiasco!
Here is an example of terrible communication; the story is a bit long, but I believe it’s important to tell the whole story so you can see all the mistakes that were made.
Once Upon a Time…
Chelsea had just received her bachelors degree. For the two summers prior to her graduation she had an internship with a prominent firm in NYC. They liked her so much they invited her back to intern the second summer. Before she went back to school to complete her senior year she was told by everyone she worked for (including HR) that they wanted to hire her after she graduated, and that she was as good as hired. They told her to reach out early in the year, which she did. The HR person she had dealt with during her internships (Mary) had been promoted and told Chelsea to contact the person who had backfilled her position (Karen). Mary said she’d let Karen know to expect to hear from Chelsea.
Chelsea proceeded to email Karen to let her know that she still wanted to come to work for the company and would like to set up an interview. It took three weeks for Karen to respond to the emails (Chelsea sent two more during this time). After finally hearing back from Karen, Chelsea said that she could be available any Monday or Friday (she was still in school) for an interview. Karen told Chelsea to let her know when she’d be in the city and they’d schedule time to interview. Chelsea made it clear that any Monday or Friday would work. Karen still wouldn’t commit to an appointment to see Chelsea. This was mid March.
In mid April Chelsea emailed Karen again and then followed up with a call three days later. There was no response to either communication. In addition she left a voicemail for Mary (the HR person that hired her for the first internship) to let her know she hadn’t been able to get anywhere with Karen for over a month. Mary got right back to her and told her that Karen was out of the office and would be back at the end of the week. On Sunday night at 8pm Chelsea received an email from Karen asking her if she could come in to interview with her the next day at 3PM. Still very interested in working for this company, she rearranged some items and agreed to the interview.
They met the following afternoon as planned. This was the first time there was any verbal communication between them. Karen proceeded to tell Chelsea that she could probably tell her more about the position and culture than Karen was aware of as she’d only been with the company for a few months. At the conclusion of the interview Karen informed Chelsea that she was to meet with two account managers on one of the accounts she might be working with, which she did. Chelsea was very concerned about the meeting with the two account managers because, not having been informed of this prior, she was unable to prepare for this spur of the moment interview. She did the best she could with no preparation and powered through. As soon as Chelsea got home she emailed thank you notes and mailed hand written notes to all three people she had met.
Three weeks later Chelsea had still not received feedback of any kind from Karen and sent her an email. Another week went by with no communication from Karen. She emailed Karen again and finally heard back five days later. Almost five weeks had passed between the interview and feedback. Karen said there were no positions they were hiring for (contradictory to what she had been told) at this time but to let her know when she’d be back in NY in case something else came up. Chelsea had made it perfectly clear in one of her prior emails, in which the thread was included, that she would be back in NY full time by May 15. Even so she emailed Karen when she got back to town. Again, no response.
Chelsea was concerned by both Karen’s lack and quality of response and assumed that this meant she’d blown the interview and they were no longer interested. Her father advised her to contact Mary (the HR person who had hired her for the two internships) about what happened. Mary responded that Chelsea should have done research so that she would have been more prepared when she was to meet with the account managers of an account. Chelsea emailed her back immediately and explained that Karen didn’t make any mention that another interview was going to take place until the end of their interview. Had she known in advance she would have prepared adequately for the second meeting. Five days later (Sunday night 5/22) Karen sent an email apologizing for not being responsive and asked if Chelsea was available for a call the next morning at 11AM. Karen asked Chelsea if she could come back into the office on 5/24 and meet with a different account team. Needless to say, she was prepared and Karen followed up immediately via email asking for three references.
I spoke to Chelsea on 5/25 and she told me that she had lost almost all interest in the job and was now keen on looking into other options. She felt that everything she had been told about their interest in hiring her was bunk, and told me she’s considering taking the job if they make her the offer but will continue to look for something else.
That was a mouthful
I’m sure many of you are horrified at this fiasco. The entire situation distresses me. It’s just so unnecessary to have something like this happen, yet it happens with regularity. Let me list all the errors:
Karen’s total lack of response from the initial contact until the request for references two months later is unprofessional and disrespectful.
Karen never once picked up the phone to call Chelsea to have even the most basic of conversations. Every communication was by email. I know people are busy and I may be old school, but I firmly believe that we must maintain the art of oral communication. Email is misinterpreted at a much higher rate than oral communication; plus, it is more difficult to convey emotion effectively in email. That isn’t to say that I don’t believe there’s a time and place for email. I use it regularly, but not when oral communication is warranted.
Karen telling Chelsea that she knew less about the company than Chelsea did. Really!!!?? What was she thinking? What was the company thinking? How do you hire an employee and not make sure they have accurate and consistent messaging about the organization?
Karen’s lack of interest, professionalism, cognizance, etc. in scheduling an interview with Chelsea, even though she’d been told any Monday or Friday would work. Yes, Chelsea should have made a more concerted effort to actually get Karen to set a time to meet. She should have given Karen two to three specific dates that worked for her. Maybe this would have gotten Karen to commit to an interview, though I’m not convinced it would have made any difference.
Karen emailing Chelsea on Sunday nights after 8pm to see if she would be available the following day is just plain unprofessional. Now I get that things can happen at the last minute, periodically. This should not be SOP. Additionally, Karen should have had the common sense to pick up the phone, call Chelsea, and tell her that she knew it was last minute and make the request for her to come in the following day. She could have told her that the time had gotten away from her or that she had heard back from the team late or even that she’d dropped the ball. She should have been accountable. Chelsea would have much greater respect and understanding of Karen if she had just made the time to speak to her and establish a relationship.
Not telling Chelsea about the 2nd interview on that first day in the office. Chelsea now knows that she needs to ask anyone scheduling an interview if she will be meeting with anyone else that day or when a follow up meeting would take place should the interview go well. Yes, Karen dropped the ball, but as a candidate Chelsea needed to be responsible for this.
Karen waiting five weeks to respond to Chelsea and telling her there were no positions, rather than just having enough respect for Chelsea to be honest about what had happened. The practice of ignoring, lying, or making up some half truth must stop! How are candidates supposed to learn from their mistakes if recruiters aren’t honest with them?
I was told that this company doesn’t like to pay a lot for these entry level employees. That may be, but this candidate has already lost interest. Remember time is money.
Chelsea’s father told me that this is a common occurrence at this company and they have trouble getting the right people and keeping them. He knows this because the Sr Executive VP is an old friend of his.
A promise to hire someone is NOT an offer. Chelsea knows this now.
This is just one example of how lack of communication (oral, written, and non-verbal) can significantly affect your ability to attract and hire the best people. I hope I’ve conveyed the importance of effective communication in all areas of business and the possible consequences of ineffective communication. Let me know if you have any stories where communication skills had positive or negative effects.