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Cascading communication is a strategy or process leaders use to disseminate information to people at all levels of the organization – here's why it's key to success, and how digital signage can help.
It's not unheard of for employees to make decisions based on wrong or incomplete information, or hearsay. When such mistakes or disconnects occur, an organization pays heftily in time, money, and resources.
For example, if a nationwide retailer with an upcoming discount promotion shares information with its local outlets' employees, and the discount information is unclear, frontline employees could end up offering the incorrect discounts. In turn, this could hurt business profits, and the resulting conflicts in discount information ruin customer trust.
Is cascading communication the solution to such internal communication challenges?
Cascading information can be an effective communication method and practice to ensure everyone is on the same page. It’s especially important for large organizations with complex structures or hierarchies; and for deskless workforces, who may not have ready access to corporate email, Intranet, and digital devices on the job.
But first; let's set the definition straight:
Imagine for a moment the typical hierarchy of a busy manufacturing plant. Typically, such an organization will have multiple departments spanning production, finance, HR, IT, logistics, marketing, etc. Under these departments are the managers, and under them, direct reports. The direct reports can range from a few people within the marketing department to hundreds in the production departments.
How can you ensure that crucial information from leadership reaches all these employees on time, without sacrificing accuracy?
Information cascading can make it happen.
Cascading communication is a strategy or a process leaders in a company use to disseminate information to people at all levels of the organization. First, the leader communicates with senior managers. Next, the senior managers trickle down this information to the direct reports until every relevant person receives the message.
Here's a simple illustration of cascading communication in action:
Head office (leadership) → senior management → middle managers → floor managers → shift lead → employees receive the message.
CEOs or other top-of-the-funnel leaders cannot reach all employees in-person, or at once. This is what necessitates a cascade communication plan. In addition, this method of information dissemination enables managers to take ownership of communication. Managers can't hide behind "it's a decision from the top."
In turn, this ownership spurs more consistency and accuracy in messaging.
Done right, a cascading communication strategy reduces the gap between HQ and the frontline workers, and can help to build a culture of transparency and trust.
Typically, herd behavior and information cascade describe the phenomena by which people make decisions. In herd behavior, people make decisions based on what they observe the majority of people doing. In simpler terms, they copy the decisions others make because "many people making the same choice cannot be wrong."
Conversely, in an information cascade, people make decisions based on what the previous person does.
In a communication setting, herd behavior is dangerous. Why? Because even though the majority choose a certain decision or solution, they can be wrong. So, instead of letting employees hear about major changes and decisions via a herd behavior type of communication (or hearsay), leaders should focus on creating cascading communication.
This way, information comes from a trusted source, is factual, and the people who communicate it can take ownership at each stage.
In his book, Diffusion of Innovations, Everett Rogers describes diffusion as the process by which innovation is communicated over time among the members of a social system through various communication channels.
So, there's the innovation which can be an object or idea, a channel (such as mass media), and a social system.
Unlike the information cascading model, the information diffusion model is not purely hierarchical. Instead, it's a mixture of social constructs, groups of people, and some instances of hierarchy.
People can decide to accept the innovation as individuals or collectively with others. In addition, the decision to adopt an innovation can be a result of authority or the decision of a chosen few.
Because there are no predefined hierarchical structures to help spread innovation, information may take longer before it is fully diffused to everyone.
Cascading communication can only work effectively if you have a solid action plan. Typically, this plan should ensure that information is delivered on time, accurately, and evenly throughout the organization. Below are three key actions to take when creating a plan for cascading information.
A poorly crafted message from the top will trickle down to employees with the same inconsistencies. These inconsistencies may crop up because people have different recollections of a meeting agenda, for example.
To prevent inaccuracies, it’s important for leadership to double and triple check the contents and tone of all messages with all stakeholders. Particular attention should be paid if information is commercially or ‘personally sensitive’.
Assuming there won't be any questions after cascading information to employees about a major decision is faulty thinking. There will always be questions and a need for more clarification. That's why it's imperative to have a feedback loop where employees can air any thoughts, ideas, and concerns.
You can create these feedback loops through employee communication portals or regular surveys, and make it clear that feedback is welcomed.
In large organizations, especially enterprise deskless organizations with hundreds or thousands of distributed employees; communicating about a major decision or change once, or via one channel, is not enough. Supplementing cascading communication with other digital communication platforms is necessary to help reinforce messages and guarantee clarity.
Emails, Slack messages etc. could work, but if most of your staff are deskless or without access to corporate accounts, it might not be a good fit. In 'hybrid' workforces – e.g. in logistics, where employees may be split across the back office and warehouse floor – a reliance on traditional communication mediums may even have the potential to widen the real or perceived gap between ‘blue collar’ and ‘white collar’ workers.
Unlike their desk-bound counterparts, deskless employees do not spend most of their time working on their computers – they are usually on the move. Think of delivery drivers in a logistics company, health care workers in a health facility, or production employees running production lines and packaging products. In addition, 83% of deskless employees don't have a corporate email, making it harder to communicate with them at scale.
Something less intrusive and more accessible will work better. And here's where digital signage comes into the picture; surfacing relevant, repeated and real-time information to employees via the screens or TVs in their work areas.
Digital signage is a communication model where content is displayed on screens, originally leveraged for advertisement. However, digital signage can be a communication avenue for passing crucial information to employees within your organization. The already existing screens in your offices and work locations can be a great way to communicate unobtrusively, quickly, and securely to deskless employees at all levels.
Digital signage works because it capitalizes on the subconscious mind to get vital and often time-sensitive information to employees. In addition, it's not as distracting as emails or text messages which can help keep deskless employees in prime productivity as they work.
Interested in how your employees’ eyes and brains process and remember information? Check out our eBook produced in partnership with University College London: The Neuroscience of Visual Media.
After cascading major company news, digital signage can come in handy to provide clarity or reinforce a message.
33% of HR managers believe that a lack of open and honest communication has a negative impact on employee morale. In other words, if employees fail to receive honest and constant communication, engagement and job satisfaction reduce, leading to lowered productivity.
The reverse is also true. Informed employees are empowered employees. With honest, accurate, and consistent information, employees feel engaged. What's more, adding a feedback loop after information cascading encourages employees to contribute to the organization's growth through ideas and constructive criticism.
Cascade information is a principle where information is passed down to employees through a company's hierarchical structures.
In communication, cascading effect describes the principle by which information flows from the top through all organizational hierarchies until it reaches every relevant employee in a company.
In herding, individuals follow the decisions of the majority in a group. In contrast, in an information cascade, an individual follows the decision of the person who made the decision before them or the person they directly report to.
Cascading information is vital in ensuring everyone in an organization receives information accurately, from a trusted source, and in a timely fashion. Effective cascading is essential for organizational success.
In business, cascading information refers to communicating to employees by passing information through the company's hierarchical structures. For example, communication comes from the top, then passed to senior managers, then departmental leads, and team leads until it gets to all employees.
Digital signage screens will support your information cascading efforts, and help you to communicate with your teams dynamically, cost-effectively and at scale. Contact us today for a free demo.