There are a few different methods of communication commonly used in the professional world today. The most ubiquitous being email. Everyone has their own preference for email etiquette, but there is one thing we can all agree on. The faster you get a response, the sooner you can take action. Or conversely, the longer it takes to get a response, the longer you have to wait before you can actually do something.
Certainly I don’t expect to get an immediate response, but it’s a simple fact that if I’m waiting on a response, I’m blocked. To help this, I could include a note saying that I need a quick response. Yet, ultimately it’s up to the responder to get back to me on time.
Another approach could be to send them an IM (instant message) through a chat program or SMS. If I’m in the same location I could go talk to them in person, or as a last resort I could give them a phone call. At some point though, it shouldn’t be my responsibility to force people to reply to me. If they don’t understand how to communicate or why it’s important, there’s something wrong.
Unfortunately, it’s really up to each individual person to be responsible. There’s not much that can be done if they have poor communication habits. One approach common to the software industry is to have daily meetings to discuss issues. This type of solution can mitigate issues from people who don’t like to communicate. Even if you don’t have practices like this in place, and you’re not the manager, you can always suggest it. If nothing else, it can’t hurt to try it. If it doesn’t work out, you can always go back to your old ways.
Another issue that can occur is a lack of direction or understanding of the big picture. This kind of communication has to come from the top. I’ve found some companies will do what I’ve come to know as a “town hall meeting”. This is a meeting where the entire company gathers to discuss larger topics. Like new clients, changes in the management structure, etc. Of course doing these too often is detrimental to productivity, since it requires every single person in the company to attend. But having them on a regular basis helps keep people informed.
Without these kinds of meetings, employees may feel lost. This can lead to rumors and people making assumptions to fill in the gaps. By communicating to employees, even through email announcements, it can resolve many of these issues. I prefer having meetings for these types of announcements though. Especially if people have questions, they can get them answered and have their voice heard. Some people may not care, they’re just happy to get paid. But, the interested employees are the ones who are more committed to that company. Keeping them happy is important, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is turnover.
Plus, if employees are busy worrying about if their colleague got promoted over them, they can’t focus on their job. It can also lead to an environment that encourages the attitude of “employees versus management”, or even worse “me versus everyone”. Everyone should be working together, not against each other.
As an employee there’s only so much you can do, but to make change happen you also need to communicate. Let people know what kind of changes you want to see and give suggestions on how to go about it.