A small engineering company hired a brand-new engineer from a competitor. He was introduced by management as being “dynamic and creative” and they would see “where he would fit” in the company. The engineer walked around, asked questions, and began to learn about the different projects under consideration and what he might be interested in. During his first month with the company, two of his peers quit. When asked about their reasons for leaving in the exit interview, both felt like that management had hired the new engineer to take their place. In the absence of solid communication from management, two good employees made incorrect assumptions and moved on. It was never management’s intention to replace anyone and the feedback surprised them. Additionally, they were surprised by the fact that the employees didn’t feel comfortable about coming to management and asking about the role of the new engineer. This situation provided a valuable lesson about the importance of open and vibrant communication.At Cimetrix, one of our core values is “Team: Encourage Open and Vibrant Communications.” Open communication is the hallmark of many companies’ core values, but vibrant is an important distinction. When we talk about open communication we usually mean honest, direct feedback—a key component in any business’ success. Vibrant communication means that honest, direct feedback is not only expected, it is also enthusiastically encouraged and provided. We want employees to never be shy about sharing their feelings about how Cimetrix can do better.
With over 500 years of collective experience amongst our employees, there are very few problems that someone has not encountered before. Sometimes that experience allows a problem to be quickly solved. Other times it might just provide advice about what not to do, because that solution did not work. Both types are valuable, and both are encouraged of all Cimetrix employees. When we say all, we really do mean all. A problem in Human Resources may have been encountered by a software engineer at a previous company. A solutions engineer may be dealing with a challenge similar to one faced by marketing not long ago. Only looking inward for answers to problems, challenges or questions is like driving a car with only one of your five senses. Sure, sight is a big help in driving the car, but so is listening for crossing trains, feeling the pattern of the road when the traffic lines aren’t visible and smelling for fumes that might indicate a problem with the car itself.
Open and vibrant communication has a ripple effect, much like throwing a stone in a pool of water. When employees effectively and efficiently solve problems, our company’s reputation is enhanced, and we build better products. Those better products ripple out to enable our customers to produce better solutions for their customers. Those solutions continue to ripple out through the supply chain all the way to the end users, when they purchase a semiconductor-based product such as a smartphone, television or laptop.
However, open and vibrant communication does not just happen, it must be constantly modeled and encouraged on a daily basis by management. There must also be a culture that allows people to speak up without fear of reprisal, retaliation or derision. Nothing will shut down communication faster than someone saying, “That was a stupid idea,” or “How could you know anything about this; you’re not an engineer/accountant/marketer/developer/manager/etc.” If this type of behavior occurs it must be called out, professionally, to reinforce the principle that there are no “bad ideas.”
I encourage you to reflect on your business and ask yourself if open and vibrant communication is a part of your culture, and if it isn’t, what changes do you need to make. While a company with poor communication between and to employees can be successful in the short term, it becomes more difficult to continue to succeed in the long term.
Learn more about Cimetrix, our mission and our culture.