What is Formal Communication?
Formal communication is the exchange of official information or messages between individuals or groups by following pre-defined rules, protocols and standards of communication in an organization. Formal Communication involves official communication channels like memos, emails, business letters, reports, presentations, and meetings.
In addition, it needs strict adherence to a code of conduct that includes specific formats, language conventions, and professional etiquette.
It helps establish a clear hierarchy and team accountability and ensures smooth information flow. On the other hand, informal communication does not follow the defined set of rules and freely flows within the organization.
What is the importance of Formal Communication
Formal Communication is critical to business communication as it provides the framework for efficient information exchange, collaboration and organizational productivity.
It holds significance due to the following 8 important reasons:
Clarity and Accuracy: It reduces the chances of misinterpretation and misunderstanding by ensuring clarity and accuracy in the flow of information and adhering to standardized rules.
Professionalism: It holds the organization’s professional image during client interactions and conveys the credibility and seriousness of the shared information.
Hierarchy and Structure: It reduces confusion by defining proper channels for information flow and increasing trust and accountability among involved stakeholders.
Decision-making: It provides accurate data and information to the organization’s decision-makers, allowing them to make informed decisions.
Legal Documents: It allows the maintenance of a legal record of the communication, promoting transparency within the organization. They also satisfy legal and compliance needs.
Organizational Culture: It acts as a tool to convey the corporate mission, values and goals across all the employees. In addition, setting a culture of professionalism, mutual respect and trust.
Crisis Management: During emergencies, it helps with the quick dissemination of information across the organization and ensures effective decision-making for the well-being of employees.
What are the different types of Formal Communication
Formal Communication can be classified into 5 types based on the flow of information within the organization:
1. Vertical Communication: It is communication among individuals or groups, where the information flows across hierarchical levels within the organization. It is further classified as:
2. Downward Communication: It is the information flow from the top-level executives to the bottom-level employees. It takes the form of instructions, directives, and goals.
3. Upward Communication: It is the information flow from bottom-level employees to top-level executives. It takes the form of feedback, suggestions, and daily updates.
4. Crosswise Communication: It is communication between individuals or departments and various functional areas operating within the organization.
5. Horizontal Communication: It is the information exchange among individuals and groups across the same hierarchical level in the organization, promoting collaboration and coordination.
What are the key characteristics of Formal Communication?
There are 8 key features of formal communication which are mentioned below:
1. Structured Channels: The main criterion of formal communication is its strict adherence to appropriate channels and formats, ensuring its reach to every intended recipient within a structured time frame.
2. Professional Tone: It avoids the use of local slang or inappropriate language or expressions to maintain the seriousness of the conveyed information.
3. Written Documentation: It involves the record-keeping of written documents like memos, reports, and emails, along with verbal records like meeting recordings. This is done for future reference and legal compliance.
4. Authority and Hierarchy: It respects the authority of individuals by following a chain of command across various hierarchical and departmental levels while maintaining the organizational structure.
5. Clarity and Precision: This form of communication stresses specific terms to convey the messages to the recipients in the right tone and voice, reducing misinterpretations.
6. Organizational Context: It mainly conveys information regarding corporate policies, documents, official announcements, and legal matters.
7. Controlled and Regulated: The information flow passes through multiple review channels and aligns with the company’s objectives and standards to assess the message’s importance and validity.
8. Planned and Timely: They are appropriately designed and executed within a limited time frame as they look after meetings and formal documents.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Formal Communication
The merits and demerits of formal communication are listed down below:
1. Formal Communication ensures the flow of information is accurate and precise and the intended message is clear for the recipients.
2. It helps maintain the professional tone of the sender and conveys credibility among external stakeholders.
3. It establishes a hierarchical structure in the organization, preventing confusion and misunderstanding.
4. It supports the claims with a written record to ensure legal compliance.
5. It plays a crucial role in business decision-making by providing accurate data via the right channels.
It makes the flow of information complex by involving multiple stakeholders, and it’s time-consuming as it follows an organizational hierarchy.
1. It is unsuitable for informal gatherings requiring spontaneous responses and quick decision-making.
2. They create a barrier to the free flow of information as employees fear challenging the information gained through formal channels.
3. It sometimes feels distant and lacks informal channels’ personal touch and empathy.
Formal Communication Channels
Formal Communication channels can be classified under various heads. Each type has its significance, and organizations mostly use a combination of two or more types. The 3 main formal communication channels are:
1. Oral Communication
Oral Communication is verbal interaction between individuals and groups. It includes:
Meetings: A formal discussion is held in a structured setting with a pre-defined time, agenda, and participants.
Presentations: It is a formal speech delivered to an audience in an official environment.
Phone Calls: It is communication over the phone and is often recorded for future reference.
Video Conferences: Remote meetings held over Zoom or Microsoft Teams to connect with employees across geographical locations.
2. Written Communication
Written Communication is the process of conveying information using written or printed words. It includes:
Memos: Formal documents for communication within the organization.
Email: Electronic messages exchanged between individuals and groups.
Business Letters: Written official letters between individuals, groups, or organizations.
Reports: Documents with a detailed description of a specific topic, like meetings or grievances.
3. Gestural Communication
Gestural Communication uses non-verbal cues to convey the hidden meaning behind the message. It includes:
Body Language: Gestures, facial expressions, hand movements, and body postures convey the hidden intention of verbal messages.
Visual Aids: Elements like charts, graphs, slides, etc., are used to enhance the credibility of the message.
Sign Language: A formal set of hand gestures and movements to convey information to visually impaired individuals.
Thus, formal communication is structured to convey relevant information to recipients. It follows a professional voice and offers clarity and precision, but it can be time-consuming.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1. What is the most formal form of communication?
Written communication is the most formal form of communication. It usually takes the form of business letters, emails, legal documents, and official records and sticks to strict rules and professional language and format.
Q2. How to improve formal communication?
The following steps will help to improve formal communication:
- Clearly state the objectives and expectations of the communication.
- Use concise, clear and professional language, tone and voice.
- Encourage open communication and acceptance of insights and feedback.
- Regular training sessions for employees on effective techniques.
Q3. How to implement formal communication channels in business?
To implement formal communication channels in business:
- Establish all the precise rules and protocols to be followed.
- Use the appropriate communication channels (oral, written, gestural).
- Adhere to professionalism and language and voice standards.
- Implement it across the organization with clear guidelines.