Take the time to close the communication loop
Thursday, June 29, 2017
If you start something, finish it. That seems like one of those primal, "everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten," common-sense rules that every professional should know and follow.
Not so these days. From what I am seeing in my firm, people today are too preoccupied with getting going on the next thing to finish what they started in the first place.
This is especially true when it comes to communication. More and more, I find people are failing to close the loop on a query or request they've initiated. That's just a bad business practice, and one that can be easily corrected.
It should go without saying that communication is a two-way street. Not so with some people, it seems. For them, communication is all take and no give. They do not hesitate to make demands on the people they are communicating with but do not feel obliged to reciprocate.
Let me give you a couple of examples from my own recent experience.
A candidate submits an application for a position that has been advertised. When we attempt to contact the applicant to follow up or let them know we wish to interview them, they do not respond — not even to let us know they are no longer interested or have accepted another position. Or they may eventually provide a curt response, but weeks later.
In the meantime, what are we to think? Is the applicant ill or has been in an accident? Has their contact information changed? Have they been abducted by aliens?
One thing is certain. I would never recommend that candidate to an employer. What if they treated the firm's clients the same way?
By the same token, we will be contacted by an employer to recruit for a position they have open and that they wish to fill promptly. The employer pays us a deposit. We recruit, screen, qualify and preinterview candidates to select those who best meet the employer's requirements. We then pass those recommendations along to the employer.
What does the employer do? They may take a week or more to contact the recommended candidates, and even longer to arrange time to interview them. After they have interviewed the candidates, we hear nothing back from them.
Are they considering one or more of the candidates? Do they plan to make an offer? If they were not satisfied with the candidates, what did these candidates lack that they are seeking? Are there any other desires or preferences they have recognized, now that they have interviewed a first group of candidates?
We don't know. They don’t tell us or respond to our inquiries. We — and the candidates — are stuck in limbo while we wait to hear back from them. Possibly the candidate they are most interested in, hearing nothing further, decides to accept an offer from another firm.
Again, I have to wonder, do they treat their clients and suppliers this way? Moreover, would they want their clients to treat them this way?
In fairness to candidates, many firms never reply to applicants other than those they intend to interview or hire. This has created a situation in which candidates now feel they are not obligated to respond to employers when they no longer are interested in the position.
So we have this vicious cycle of overcommunication and undercommunication — tit for tat. In the process, civility and common courtesy have gotten thrown under the bus. Some colleagues complain that their millennial employees do not know how to behave as professionals, but in my experience seasoned professionals who ought to know better are just as guilty, if not more so.
I understand everyone is inundated with communications of all sorts and can't possibly respond to all of them. But there is a difference between not responding to an unsolicited communication and not following through on one you have initiated.
This situation is not difficult to remedy. Simply add a note to your calendar, to-do list, alerts or whatever system you use to keep track of your tasks and obligations reminding you that you owe a response to so-and-so about such-and-such. Then follow through, as you would with any other task.
In addition, make it a policy within your firm that employees are to respond to queries and such within a proscribed period of time, and charge managers or supervisors with monitoring responses to ensure that employees comply.
Every smart businessperson knows that success is built on relationships. Why damage those relationships by ignoring or neglecting the communications you receive?
On the contrary, by being responsive and communicative you not only strengthen those relationships but you also get things done, which then allows you to get on to the next thing, having actually accomplished something.
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