When Effective Communication Counts, Think Visual

By Jeff Oddo

A visual success guide will go a long way toward keeping employees focused.

The adage, “you have to see it to believe it,” is never truer than in the office, where communication can be cloudy and bureaucracy can run rampant. Why is clear communication essential to the health and well-being of your business? Because gaps in communication can lead to employee unhappiness, loss of productivity, and paramount mistakes.

According to digital marketing organization Econsultancy, 96 percent of executives cite ineffective communication as the reason for workplace failures. In order to foster a healthy, collaborative work environment and avoid falling victim to communication issues, consider adding more visual tactics to your communication strategy. The U.S. Department of Labor states that 83 percent of human learning occurs visually, and that visual learning is retained six times more than information communicated by spoken word.

Visual learning is critical, but how can we incorporate it to best benefit your employees? What if your company is experiencing rapid growth and undergoing transitions? What if you have hundreds of staff members and little time to make drastic changes?

Consider creating a visual success guide, which is a graphic that clearly articulates your company’s proven formula for success and allows employees to see how they directly contribute to the overall growth of their organization. Think of a visual success guide as the team’s map to victory. By organizing essential information on your company’s processes, this guide can help every employee understand what it takes to win at his or her job, both individually and as a team.

Some keys to success:

Break it down.
The first step is to simplify your company’s foundational processes and tools in ways that are clear and easy to understand. In order to do this, have a meeting with your extended leadership team and direct managers. Ask yourselves a few questions about your core processes, systems, and tools; what makes your company unique; and how every staff member’s role helps accomplish your bottom line. When we created a visual success guide for City Wide Franchise, our team disentangled countless processes to these few objectives: we work to acquire clients, retain current clients, hire valuable talent, and expand our franchise.We could talk for days about the specifics, but for our purposes, a visual success guide must be simple and concise.

Picture it.
After you identify your company’s success formula, meet with your marketing department and sketch a step-by-step guide together. If the meeting makes you feel as though your company processes are so complicated they can’t be accurately represented with a graphic or picture, you either have the wrong business model or the wrong image.

If you want to draft a visual success guide before handing the project over to the marketing team, plenty of user-friendly programs are out there that do not require a design background. Surprisingly, PowerPoint is a great option for the average professional to create flowcharts, infographics, and other means of visual content, as it comes equipped with plenty of ready-to-use templates. If you don’t find the right template for you, come to the meeting prepared with copies of other styles of infographics you find easy to understand so your team can have an idea of how you are visualizing this information.

Begin an ongoing campaign.
When your visual success guide is complete, it will take some time to fully integrate it into your company’s philosophy. In order to expedite the process, consider distributing digital prints, e-mailing it to staff, and incorporating it into presentations. If you lead a fast-growing company with multiple locations, ensure that all of your stores are taking advantage of this tool.

For employee training uses, remember that the guide may be difficult to contextualize for those unfamiliar with your company. Consider creating an additional annotated visual success guide that contains text explanations of each step and its overall meaning to the company. Keep your explanations brief but informative.

Educate and re-evaluate.
A visual success guide does not only benefit the employees of a fast-growing company—it can also lead to essential improvements within your organization. For example, if your guide covers six foundational processes and you realize that your company only has training for five of them, address the inconsistency and develop a new training program. The guide should be a constant loop of re-evaluation and improvement, where feedback and change is always welcome and encouraged.

A visual success guide is a good first step to implement more dynamic and effective means of communication. Although this project may seem like it could take a while to come to fruition, it’s a worthwhile investment to your company’s growth, health, productivity, and overall team effectiveness.

About the author

Jeff Oddo is president of City Wide Maintenance and the founder and president of City Wide Franchise, based in Lenexa, Kan.