What is communication? What is effective communication? What is business communication and related challenges confronting a firm? How can effective business communication impact a firm? For the questions above, our group is going to study QC Immigration, a legal firm based in London to find out the answers. But before we dive into the specific communication patterns of QC Immigration, we need to have a glance on the theoretical part of business communication and its implications.
Foundations of Communication
Communication is basically the exchange of meanings between a sender and a receiver. In order for the sender to transmit his/her meaning, he/she should encode it in any sort of language and then transfer the message via a medium.
The media might be either rich or lean. “Richness is a medium’s ability to (1) convey a message through more than one informational cue (visual, verbal, vocal), (2) facilitate feedback, and (3) establish personal focus”, whereas leanness would be the opposite. In that way, media ranges from face-to-face communication and conferences to letters, reports and databases (Bovée and Thill, 2014).
So what would be effective communication in terms of everything described above? —when the receiver gets the message quickly, decodes it easily, and interprets it as it was intended by the sender. Everything that would interfere in the said process is considered as noise. This may include wrong channel chosen, poor language in general, or just the sender’s lack of understanding of his or her own idea. Besides, one of the most fundamental sources of noise may lie in the differences of the sender and the receiver in their personal, professional and cultural background. Eventually, noise interference may draw meaning misinterpretation, distortion or even loss, inducing communication ineffectiveness. Nevertheless, there is a possibility and actually a definite need for noise identification and elimination, or at least noise contraction. For the most part, this is done by the sender employing the audience-centered approach when coming up with a meaning, encoding and transmitting (Bovée and Thill, 2014).
Business communication specifically might be broken into several other terms. Firstly, business communication is either internal or external. Internal communication would include any inter-employee communication – vertical (e.g., from a manager to his/her subordinates) or horizontal (e.g., from manager to manager in other department), formal or informal. External communication is the firm’s communication with the stakeholders other than its employees—owners, government, competitors, customers, suppliers, and so on. The list might never end, but it is anyone who might have a stake in a firm’s doings (Bovée and Thill, 2014).
Challenges Unique to Business Communication
Apart from the fundamental noise interference described earlier there are several other communicational challenges specific to the world of business.
First of all, it is the globalization of the world and business and the increase in the workforce diversity, which leads to higher productivity, but requires a more conscientious approach to communication to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts.
The increasing value of business information is another challenge confronting companies today. “No matter what the specific type of information, the better you are able to understand it, use it, and communicate it to others, the more competitive you and your company will be” (Bovée and Thill, 2014). In addition, the Big Data phenomenon requires the businesses to work with higher velocity, variety and volume of information facing the problems of data veracity at the same time (IBM Big Data & Analytics Hub, n.d.).
The pervasiveness of technology, which vastly enhances efficiency, requires the basic skills and knowledge in modern systems and tools. Staying up-to-date or allocating funds on technology is another challenge a business may face in this field.
The specific organizational structure and leadership style in a firm would provide specific communicational challenges to a firm. Be that a tall or a flat structure, a matrix structure or a virtual organization, all of them have communicational weaknesses both internally and externally.
Besides, all businesses, no matter they are traditional or innovative, cannot avoid teamwork, which can lead to another set of challenges due to the complex nature of group communication (Bovée and Thill, 2014).
Now let’s consider just some of the benefits a business gets when working on its communication effectiveness. According to Bovée and Thill (2014), it provides
- closer ties with important communities in the marketplace;
- opportunities to influence conversations, perceptions, and trends;
- increased productivity and faster problem solving;
- better financial results and higher return for investors;
- earlier warning of potential problems, from rising business costs to critical safety issues;
- stronger decision making based on timely, reliable information;
- clearer and more persuasive marketing messages; and
- greater employee engagement with their work, leading to higher employee satisfaction and lower employee turnover;
Certainly, some companies have already had an effective communication system, while some need to spend some time tailoring its communication patterns. In today’s business world, a strong weakness in business communication can eventually prevent firms from competing in the market. It is therefore necessary to continuously check if there is any noise interference, channels’ outdatedness, or any other problems concerning communication.
Bovée, C. L. and Thill, J.V., 2014. Business Communication Today. Harlow: Pearson.
IBM Big Data & Analytics Hub, n.d. The Four V’s of Big Data. [online] Available at: <http://www.ibmbigdatahub.com/infographic/four-vs-big-data> [Accessed 14 April 2016].