How to Write a Communication Handbook Case Study

Business communication

For the sake of this project, imagine you work in the human relations department of a small online publishing company called “Text for Thought.” The workforce of your company, although relatively small at 40 employees, is very diverse in terms of education, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and culture.

When the company first started and had only a handful of employees, communication was strong. However, as the company expanded, communication began to break down, particularly between departments.

You have been charged with creating an Employee Communication Handbook, which will be shared with all employees, to help improve company communication. In addition to creating the handbook, you will present the contents of your handbook to the CEO of Text for Thought and the three departmental managers. More details regarding the structure of the company and the assignment are outlined in the project instructions below.

The Business Structure of Text for Thought

In setting up your communication handbook, you will need to take into account the structure of your corporation. Below are the key facts you should consider when building the handbook.

Company Size and Focus

  • Text for Thought consists of roughly 40 employees. It is a small but rapidly growing private entity.
    • Text for Thought is an online publishing company that employs, serves, and contracts with a broad range of people. Employees of Text for Thought must communicate with people of varied educations, backgrounds, ethnicities, and nationalities both internally and externally.

Company Structure

  • CEO of Text for ThoughtMr. Kyle van Blaine founded Text for Thought and oversees all senior managerial aspects of the company. He is older and comes from a relatively formal and regimented corporate environment.

The Three Primary Departments

  • Publishing and Editorial (Manager: Ms. Austin Croft): This department is comprised primarily of experienced editors and writers of various ages but with similar educational backgrounds (graduate level). They tend to communicate formally and frequently and expect the same in return. There are 15 employees in the publishing and editorial department.
    • Web Development and IT (Manager: Vincent Patel): This department is comprised of IT professionals, most of whom are younger. Education levels vary within the department, as do backgrounds and nationalities. There are 15 employees in the web development and IT department.
    • Sales (Manager: Mickey Andrews): The sales department is very extraverted and outgoing. While formal with clients, they tend to be very informal with coworkers. In general, this department has employees with the least educational and business experience and the highest turnover. They occasionally feel left out of the company. There are ten people in the sales department.

What to Include in the Communications Handbook

The CEO and three primary managers have discussed what items they would like you to include in the communication handbook. For each category, they are looking for a 1-2 page explanation, ideally with examples, that will be accessible to everyone in the company. Here are the categories.

How to Determine Your Audience

  • This section will consist of an explanation of how to assess your audience and ensure that your message conforms to their expectations.

Basic Guidelines for Formal and Informal Communication

  • There is a significant disparity in opinion at Text for Thought regarding what constitutes informal and formal communication. This section should explain formal and informal communication and present basic guidelines and examples for each.

Guidelines for Written Communication (internal and external)

  • Create tips, or a company policy, for internal and external email.

Tips for Effective Listening and Feedback

  • Explain the listening and feedback processes and give tips for improving each.

Interpreting Nonverbal Communication

  • Nonverbal communication can often say more than words. This section should provide a background on nonverbal communication, what it can say, and how to keep it in check.

Tips for Effective Intercultural Communication

  • This section will not be a policy. Instead, it is a discussion of the importance of intercultural communication and a compilation of tips that employees should keep in mind.

Solution

Communication Handbook

Communication works like a key to all activities of an organization whether internal or external. Effective communication in any organization can be the difference between achieving a goal or missing out on one. Everyone in the organization must be able to clearly communicate their message internally and externally, this not only improves the organizational chances of success but also improves its overall image.

Communication can be a crucial tool to build a good relationship among co-workers; this can result in the improvement of performance and morale of each individual working in the organization.

As our company “Text for Thought” expands and we have more people working with us, a requirement to lay down the structure of communication at internal (especially inter-departmental) and external level has arisen. This Employee Communication Handbook has been set for you to get an idea of what are the plans for future communication in our organization.

This guide will take you around with the communication structure planned for the future communication processes in our organization.

Determining the Audience

Before planning for any communication it is very important to analyze the audience to be targeted and adapt the information or the message in such a way that it is most effective and productive in all sense the sender wants it to be. Determining the audience and analyzing them will help the communication process be more clear, reliable, relatable, and effective on the audience targeted.

Determining the audience before communication begins provides that the message that is to be delivered be effective on the receiver or the audience. Communication cannot begin unless the sender knows who the receiver is. The process of determining the audience begins with research followed by specifying the target, finding out the audience’s need, and last but not the least is to come up with a strategy to address the audience with the results of research to achieve a successful communication inside and outside the organization.

The research helps to know the target audience better, for “Text for Thought” following are the individuals or the groups that must be analyzed to cater to their communication needs.

To determine the audience in our organization, the report divides them under the category internal and external. Let’s consider internal stakeholders in the communication process first. To start with, the CEO of the company, Mr. Kyle van Blaine, it is clear from the resource available that he is the senior-most individual in the organization and likes formal culture in a corporate environment.

Communication with the CEO must hence no be of casual nature and must follow a particular format. Manager of Publishing and Editorial department Ms. Austin Croft and his team constitutes of people with the same educational background the internal communication within the group is formal and they tend to maintain it the same for the external communication with other groups and individuals as well.

Manager of Web Development and IT Mr. Vincent Patel and his team of 15 employees consist of people from different educational levels and backgrounds. The communication structure is not determined by the group which makes it hard to determine the way of communicating with them. Manager of Sales Department Mr. Mickey Andrews and his team consists of people who handle communication with internal and external audiences regularly. They tend to use both formal and informal ways of communication depending on the target audience. The external stakeholder mostly consists of clients, who tend to use formal ways of communication for here interaction with the company.

The results of the research clearly specify that our organization “Text for Thought” consists of different peoples and groups in between which the communication has to take place. The research clearly shows how different people have different attitudes and expectations from the communication process. It also determines the fact that with the expansion of the organization the need for a structured communication process will rise.

The existing communication processes worked well for the small number of people but with the expansion of manpower, there is a need for a structured approach to business communication in the organization, a format that suits all or to which the people can acquaint themselves to.

The next part in determining the audience is to find out their needs, assessment of the audience does not limit itself to knowing the audience only. The assessment also involves determining the needs of the audience. Communicating a message to the audience can only be effective when we know what the audience gives most attention to, how the message should be delivered so that it will be effective on the receiver. For example; Addressing people from the IT department about the changes in the organization will not necessarily be as effective as addressing them with the help of PPT and other means which they are familiar with.

Researching and finding out the need of the audience serves as a preparation activity for the communication process to begin. The main emphasis after research and need analysis is to build a strategy of communication. To this, we need to finalize the mediums of communication that are to be used in our organization ex. Not all communication in our organization needs to be delivered by presentation, a different set of communication requires different modes of delivery ex. If a message is needed to reach people fast and target a wider audience, the medium for this communication cannot be letters or memos. Instead, an Email or use of social media platforms can be more effective to be used in the situation.

Determining the audience must take into account the values, beliefs, and attitudes of stakeholders in the communication process. Here, knowing the attitude of the audience can help in setting up a customized message to build morale and motivate them to participate effectively in the communication process. The values and beliefs of the audience can help in determining the ways in which the person can be revived off his boredom and introduce interest inside him to keep him motivated.

Keeping all the results of the analysis performed above, it will be very easy for our organization to ensure that we communicate in a better way and will ensure that all messages relating to the results of the analysis will perform up to the expectations.

Basic Guidelines for Formal and Informal Communication
In this section of the handbook, everyone in the organization will be informed of what is formal and informal communication and the difference between them.

Formal communication:

Formal communication is defined as the communication that takes place using the official channels inside and outside the organization. This type of communication will take place between managers, employees, and all the stakeholders inside and outside of the company. The communication under formal channels can be of oral or written nature but a complete record of it is maintained for future references.

Inside the organization, the formal channel can be divided further into vertical and horizontal communication. Vertical communication takes place between persons of the same or different departments not holding the same position in the organization ex. A member of the sales team, communicating with the manager of the IT department or manager of any other department at “Text for Thought” is using vertical communication. Under this channel of communication, the flow of ideas or information in the organization is in upwards or downwards direction.

The upward communication takes place when a subordinate tries to communicate with a superior relating to his suggestions, reports, or applications. The upward communication helps subordinates with a sense of responsibility as it helps them to be a part of the decision making in the organization. Downward communication occurs when a senior communicates with his subordinates in terms of orders or circulars etc.
Horizontal communication takes place between employees who share the same level or rank in the organization ex. Manager of IT department communicating with the manager of the publication department or Subordinate of sales department communicating with a subordinate of the publication department.
Here are some advantages of Formal communication:

  1. Formal communication maintains the authority and relation of senior and subordinate in the organization structure.
  2. The flow of information in the organization is smooth as it follows a pre-defined path.
  3. The Formal channel leaves less scope for leakage of the information and maintains secrecy.
    Some disadvantages of Formal communication:
  4. Formal communication may raise the burden of work as all the communication in the organization must go through a fixed channel or path.
  5. The formal communication channel leaves very less or no space for personal touch or warmth that builds relations among team members.

Informal Communication:
Informal communication is the communication process that does not follow any predefined path of communication, also known as grapevine communication. This type of communication exists in the organization so that people can share their feelings and fulfill their social needs ex. People talking about their senior/ juniors or discussing rumors. Informal communication is fast in comparison to the formal channels of communication, this also makes it very difficult for someone to trace out the source of the information.

This results in rumors and confusion among the people in the organization. Sometimes this can be beneficial too, particularly in the situation where the manager wants to communicate a message faster amongst its team members.

Some advantages of Informal communication:

  1. The information or the message in this type of communication flow at high speed.
  2. The communication in this category has a free flow associated with it; the communication can flow in any direction.
  3. Informal communication builds stronger social relationships among members of the organization.
    Some disadvantages of Informal communication:
  4. In informal communication, the responsibility of wrong information cannot be traced.
  5. Most of the information that flows through this channel is unreliable.
  6. With no predefined path, the information in this channel tends to leak and provides low secrecy for the message.
    Though both formal and informal channels of information have their own set of advantages and disadvantages, both are necessary and mutually exist in the organization for the proper flow of information and work. For these people involved must be careful with the selection of medium they chose to send their messages to others in the organization.

Guidelines for Written Communication (internal and external)
Written communication is a form of information exchange that takes place through the use of written words. Written communication has been and it the most common form of communication used in business organizations. The importance of written communication is growing day by day, and we at “Text for Thought” want to ensure that everyone in the organization develops effective writing skills for communicating inside and outside the organization.

The written communication has seen a paradigm shift in the recent past with people moving towards writing and communicating through communication devices like mobiles and computers instead of pen and paper. The written communication is very important inside the organization as well as outside the organization. With our customers and suppliers shifting towards digitalization and preferring on the usage of written communication, it is our aim to maintain the same level of communication as required by them. This will not only serve as a tool to communicate but the way we communicate through written communication will also represent our thinking in front of the people external to our organization.

The key to the success of written communication is to provide information in a way that is accurate and concise in the best possible way. The style of writing must not be overly formal or overly informal, it must be a blend of both with an aim of successful delivery of the message it intends to deliver

Advantages of written communication:

  1. Written communication can be edited before it is delivered.
  2. This type of communication provides a permanent traceable record of the source and the message to be referred to in the future.
  3. The receiver in this communication method has a chance to go through the message several times before responding to it in the way expected by the sender.
  4. Written communication improves client satisfaction, improves employees’ efficiency, and last but not least it improves the overall image of the organization in the industry and among its stakeholders.
    Disadvantages of written communication:
  5. In written communication does not get an instant reaction as in oral communication.
  6. Written communication through effective is time-consuming from both senders and receivers point of view.
  7. People not well acquainted with writing skills lag behind the others and feel left out.
    Since we have gone through the advantages and disadvantages of written communication, laying down the guidelines to be followed in written communication is easier. The written communication inside and outside the organization can be of any form, it can be a letter, text message, and email, etc. Though there are many options available it must be taken care of that guidelines are followed to make the communication effective. The following tips must be followed while communicating through a written method.
    Firstly, the structure of written communication must be simple. Making things complicated will result in misinterpretation and miscommunication. Secondly, avoid using jargon or the language a few people can understand. Try to use common words and sentences in written communication so that the receiver can easily understand what the sender wants to communicate. Another point to be remembered is to be specific in the communication and not to lengthen the message just to show off or present not needed details. A written communication, whether internal or external, must be conversational. Avoid using gendered words. Not using specific words as he/she can help by not offending the receiver’s feelings.
    Using active voice in the written communication can help in gaining the interest of the receiver and might also compel him to respond to the same. The written communication must also acknowledge the relationship between the sender and the receiver. The words selected in the communication must depict the relation between the two.
    Importance must be given to the medium selection; it can be a letter, text, or email. The selection of the medium should be based on who the message is conveyed to and what is being conveyed. At the end, the most important tip for written communication is to Proofread the information written. Removal of spelling and grammatical errors makes communication more effective.
    Company email Policy –
  8. All emails must comply with policies and procedures applicable under the code of ethics followed in our organization.
  9. Business-related Emails must are permitted, personal email communication must be limited.
  10. Email must be saved to serve as a company record.
  11. Emails must not be used to spread offensive messages.
  12. Company Emails must not be forwarded to a third party without consent from the proper authority.
  13. No third-party emailing services are allowed to be used in the organization other than the corporate email services.
  14. Sending casual letters and jokes is highly prohibited in the company.
  15. Privacy of emails is of utmost importance and no material should be carried away in storage devices without permission from the authorities.

Tips for Effective Listening and Feedback
Communication is a two-way process, it is not complete until the sender gets proper response from the receiver of the message, this is when effective listening and feedback come into the play in the communication process.
Good use of listening and feedback policy make the organization effective by making everyone in it feel valued, as they believe that they are being heard and their views really matter.

The following methods can be used to get feedback in an organization- Employee survey, Discussions, Suggestion boxes, Feedback forms and Reply/Response letters. Responding to the feedback shows that the sender of the information is listening and values people’s opinions.

Tips for effective listening that can help in improving the communication process are listed below:

  1. Provide a good place and time for listening, where all attention can be paid to the message.
  2. The communication process must not be rushed; instead, enough time must be allotted.
  3. Interruptions in the feedback and listening process must be avoided.
    Listening plays a very important role in organizational communication, so a person must be very careful in terms of how listening skills are applied. Listening skills are divided into two categories, passive listening, and active listening.
    Passive listening skills play an equally important role in communication as active listening skills. Passive listening skills include the use of body language that shows how interested is the listener in the communication process. Eye contact in the conversion process can convey a negative or positive view about the listener so it must be used with care.
    Body positioning, like leaning towards and away from the person in conversation creates different images of the listener. Nodding and facial expression have a strong impact on the person with whom the conversation takes place. Using encouraging words can also have a very good impact in the listening process as it boosts the morale and confidence of the person speaking. Last but not the least Silence, silence is the most powerful tool in the list above mentioned skillset, it encourages the person in front of the listener to take his time and deliver the feedback with all the requirements fulfilled.
    Active listening skill is the way in which a listener reflects back to the speaker the understanding of the topic being discussed. Active listening ensures the speaker about the common understanding of the topic discussed.
    Feedback makes people understand the conversation in a better way and clears their doubts, feedback should have the following elements to make it effective.
  4. Feedback must consist of data backed by specific facts and observations.
  5. The reason for providing the feedback must also be conveyed.
  6. Suggestions if any must be included in the feedback.

Interpreting Nonverbal Communication
Nonverbal communication is the process by which messages or feelings are shared between individuals without using words, either written or spoken. This communication process mostly uses hand movements, gestures, postures and body language, etc. The nonverbal communication helps in building up of relationships between the individual while verbal communications serve as a method of conveying instructions.

People use nonverbal communication to convey their feelings, emotions, and attitudes to other people around them. If used as a supplement to verbal communication, nonverbal communication can make the overall process more efficient and effective ex. People commonly use nodding to acknowledge that they understand a particular message and use hand movements to guide others for direction.

The nonverbal communication facilitates exchanges of the emotional content of a person to another, developing a bond between the two. The nonverbal communication also regulates the communication process as when the speaker can signal that he is going to finish speaking or keep on continuing with it.

At times the nonverbal communication tends to become a barrier for effective communication, not always the recipient can understand what the sender wants to communicate through his expressions. This may result in misinterpretation and collapse of the communication structure, it is hence advised to use nonverbal communication with care, and on the other hand, an equal level of care must be taken at the receiver’s end.

Nonverbal communication includes communication through various factors, these factors can help in interpreting the nonverbal communication, as explained here- Physical appearance is the factor of nonverbal communication that constitutes of clothing, age, body type, and body ornaments, etc. Kinesis is the term used for body gestures and the use of body language in communication.

The use of eye movement and eye contact in nonverbal communication is categorized under oculesics. The comfort area of participants and their personal space defines the proxemics factors of nonverbal communication. The use of touch in a communication process is termed as haptics. Whereas, voice pitch and voice level come under vocalists.

All the factors mentioned above and more factors can be used to convey messages and information through non-verbal communication, it must be understood that these factors must be used in the best way possible so that receiver gets the information in the way it is intended by the sender.

Tips for Effective Intercultural Communication
Although non-verbal communication is used by people of all cultures it does not always communicate similar meaning to all. The understanding of non-verbal communication must be given high priority at our business as miscommunication can hamper the relations between the individuals and affect productivity.

To analyze the non-verbal communication across the cultures it is necessary to understand the difference between high-context cultures and low-context cultures. The context here means the level of information that is needed to explain an event. High-context cultures use non-verbal communication and depend less on words to convey their feelings related to relations and social understanding. This culture uses its high cultural knowledge of non-verbal communication to convey meaning to a conversation.

On the other hand, low-context cultures rely less on non-verbal communication and depend largely on words. In a low-context culture, the communication process is short and ignores for relationships. Though none of the cultures is better than other but observing and adapting to the cultural difference can be a game-changer for any organization.

High Context Culture:

  1. Communication in the culture is mostly indirect.
  2. People from high-context cultures tend to speak one by one.
  3. Physical space is of not much concern; people tend to get very close in communication.
  4. Accuracy of the message is considered important and is valued.
  5. Ex. of high context cultures – Japan and Arab Nations.
    Low Context Cultures:
  6. Communication is direct and precise.
  7. Words are used constantly to communicate a message.
  8. Physical space is highly valued and is considered under one’s ownership.
  9. Speed is considered important.
  10. Ex. of low context cultures – USA and Germany.
    As we can see from above both cultures have lots of differences between them. Though it is difficult to communicate while handling cultural differences, a few tips can make the communication process easier for the employees these can be summarized as –
  11. Speak slow and clear – Some people in the conversation might not be fluent in a particular language. Speaking slowly and clearly can help them.
  12. Avoid using slangs – Slangs may not translate well in other languages.
  13. be supportive and understanding – Make the people in the conversation feel comfortable by assuring that you understand their feelings well.
  14. Listen and repeat – Use active listening, repeating what you have understood and clear doubts and avoid confusion.
  15. Keep in mind the respect for personal space while communicating.
  16. Respect the culture – Try to get more information about the culture of a person you are trying to communicate with. Show respect to their culture by avoiding inappropriate factors of communication.

Citations
Argenti, P.A. 2003. Corporate communication. Boston: McGraw-Hill Irwin.
Chicco, G. & Chandler, R. 2002. ‘Integrated communications: Reaching in and out’. Media Mix, November:132-133.
Corman, S.R., Banks, S.P., Bantz, C.R. & Mayer, M.E. 1990. Foundations of organizational communication: A reader. New York: Longman.
Du Plooy, G.M. 2001. Communication research: Techniques, methods, and applications. Landsdowne: Juta.
Duncan, T. & Everett, S.E. 1993. ‘Client perceptions of integrated marketing communications’. Journal of Advertising Research, 33(3):30-39.
Higgins, H.M. 1979. Organizational policy and strategic management: Text and cases. Hillside, Illinois: Dryden.
Hynes, G.E. 2005. Managerial communication. Strategies and applications. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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