Channel of Communication: Types & Definition

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  • 0:01 What Are Communication…
  • 0:47 Importance of Communication
  • 1:35 Communication Channel Types
  • 3:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Ashley D. Manker
Expert Contributor
Jerry Allison

Jerry holds a Doctor of Business Administration and a Master’s in Mathematics. He has taught business, math, and accounting for over 25 years.

In this lesson, we'll discuss what communication channels are and why we use them. We'll also cover the different groups of communication channels and some examples of each group.

What Are Communication Channels?

In an organization, information flows forward, backwards and sideways. This flow of information is called communication. Communication channels refer to the way this information flows within the organization.

In this web known as communication, a manager becomes a link. Instructions or decisions flow upwards, downwards or sideways, depending on the position of the manager in the communication web. For example, a report from a lower-level manager will flow upwards to upper-level managers or directors. This upward flow of information can be face-to-face conversations, emails or interdepartmental memos.

Importance of Communication

A breakdown in the communication channel leads to an inefficient flow in information. For example, if employees are unaware of what the organization expects of them, this could cause employees to become suspicious of motives and changes in the company. This could negatively affect productivity in the workplace. If productivity decreases, eventually this will harm the organization as a whole.

Therefore, in order for an organization to run well, a good manager should be able to effectively communicate to employees what is expected of them, make sure they are fully aware of company policies and inform them of any upcoming changes. This should help to optimize employee productivity and ensure that the organization runs smoothly.

Communication Channel Types

There are many different types of communication channels available for managers to use. Some of the possibilities are mobile technology, electronic bulletin boards, fax machines and video conferencing.

As organizations grow, managers cannot rely on face-to-face communication alone to get their message across. A challenge that managers face today is to determine what type of communication channel to use in order to carry out effective communication. The types of communication channels are grouped into three main groups: formal, informal and unofficial.

A formal communication channel transmits organizational information, such as goals or policies and procedures. Messages in a formal communication channel follow a chain of command. This means that information flows from a manager to an employee. Examples of formal communication channels are newsletters, business plans, annual reports and employer manuals.

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Additional Activities

Channel of Communication

Survey Study

Make a list of 10 or more people that you know well. Ask them the following questions:

1. What methods do you use to formally communicate with your boss (i.e., email, phone, face-to-face, etc.)? What about your boss? Why are these used?

2. What methods do you use to formally communicate with your fellow workers? Why are these used?

3. If you are a supervisor, which methods do you use to officially communicate with your subordinates? Why are these used?

4. In your opinion, which communication methods work best for each of the types of people above (boss, coworker, subordinate).

Compile the answers to these questions. Do not ignore what is said that is not directly answering the question; that can be very valuable information as well. Find the similarities in the answers and interesting points that are brought up. Write a report with your findings.

Discussion Question

WeBGood Inc allows only three communication methods for its employees: email, phone call, and face-to-face. For the following events, tell which of the three communication methods you would use and why.

1. Distribute the quarterly sales numbers to everyone.

2. Fire an employee.

3. Answer a question if there may be more questions that follow.

4. Publish the monthly newsletter.

5. Train a person on a machine.

6. Come up with a solution to a complex problem never seen before.

7. Obtain an answer to a question immediately.

Research Project

Use the Internet to read about the different channels of communication. As you are reading, make note of the channel and situations where it is most effective. Additionally, make a note of the channel and situations where it is least effective. Why is a channel more effective in certain circumstances than in others? Why is a channel less effective in certain circumstances than others? Write a paper about your findings.

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