Communication is an essential part of any business. People can’t work if they can’t communicate with each other. Customers can’t have problems resolved if they can’t get in contact with someone within the company. In many situations, effective communication is part of whether a company survives and thrives or whether it crashes and burns.
Not only does good communication help your business function, but it also saves you an insane amount of money. In a survey of 400 companies over the course of a year, it was estimated that around 37 billion dollars were lost because of errors due to poor communication and employee misunderstanding. That’s a lot of money that didn’t need to be lost.
Finally, good communication is part of boosting employee satisfaction. Humans are pack animals, and they quickly get disheartened and miserable when they don’t feel like they’re being heard or given the opportunity to speak.
Having outlined the critical value of solid communication, the following will now explore some of the things you can do to help foster good communication across your company. Email and the occasional PowerPoint presentation are no longer going to cut it.
Less Is More
While at first, it might seem like a good idea to include as many different communication lines as possible, within your company, it quickly becomes difficult to manage. The more platforms, messaging systems, and contact methods available, the more likely it is that someone is going to miss a message or two.
If you have six different locations to look for communications, you can bet that the thing you check sixth is going to be a bit on the neglected side.
This is because people tend to act on their shorter and easier messages immediately upon reading them. So while someone is answering their emails (and scanning those requested documents and attaching them as PDFs).
They’re not necessarily checking the company’s instant message chat platform or the company’s productivity app, which also has a messaging feature or the company’s spreadsheet, which also tracks productivity where changes requested on their work submitted yesterday won’t be looked at until lunchtime.
Make Sure Customers Can Always Reach You
Communication isn’t just about sharing information within the workplace; it’s also about people outside of your company being able to communicate with those within. If you’re making a product or providing service, you need to make yourself completely available to customers. If this is an email-based communication line, you need to have someone checking the email customers use on the regular; ideally, responses should be sent within the following business day.
You might need to look into something like Saicom call centre service if you want a phone line but don’t want to have staff working 24/7 on the phones. If a social media application is where most of your customers reach out, you need a designated social media manager who will be answering those messages and forwarding the information to the correct person within your company.
Cut Unnecessary Communication
If you over-communicate, staff quickly begin to tune things out, and this means that when something critical is being said, they’re not paying attention seeing as the last eight memos you sent have no substance to them. In particular, unnecessary meetings are the death of communication within a company.
Avoid having meetings that are too large—if someone doesn’t need to be there, there’s probably a better use of their time. Make it clear that if someone realizes they’re not needed at the meeting, they can leave. Make it company culture that leaving a meeting isn’t rude; it’s practical; if you’re really struggling with this, think of it this way: it’s also disrespectful to waste someone’s time.
While you’re at it, ditch all those regular meetings. Only schedule a meeting if it’s actually needed; don’t just get everyone together because, on Wednesday mornings, you have a meeting.
Hierarchies are frequently the cause of a bottleneck when it comes to communication. People need to be able to talk to the people they need to talk to. They shouldn’t have to speak to someone who will speak to someone who will speak to someone—that’s the result of strict hierarchies.
That loses a ton of time and increases the risk that something will be miscommunicated as now three people have interpreted the message and repeated it. People should be taught what everyone else’s role is within the company and given the ability to reach out to the person they need to be talking to directly.
Teach Communication Skills
As part of your employee training, communication skills will help prevent conflicts from arising, help reduce the risk of errors, and help improve employee satisfaction. First and foremost, active listening needs to be emphasized. It doesn’t matter how good of a communicator someone is if no one is listening to what they’re saying.
Part of active listening involves asking questions when things are not understood, reflecting back on what has been understood, and summarizing information. A simple: So, to reiterate, you need this from me by Tuesday and that from me by Thursday? can really improve communication within the office. Likewise, making potential roadblocks clear is critical. Something like: What I need from you is x. A lot of time in workplaces gets wasted while staff waits for the materials they need to continue their work.
While you’re at it, throw in a discussion on conflict resolution. Blaming people and pointing the finger makes it hard to resolve issues, meaning it’s not efficient communication. Instead, teach staff the classic formula: when you do x, I feel/think/understand y.
This way, communication is clear and unharmful. Instead of saying: what happened with the memo? saying something like: if I don’t receive the memo, I can’t complete x, can get the productivity ball rolling, and turn everyone’s focus to the tasks at hand.
The above information should strengthen communication within your business. It’s a great idea to make it clear to staff that you’re always open to suggestions on how you can better the communication within your company and are happy to be given ideas.
This way, those minor communication issues that slow things down but go unnoticed because only one person has to deal with them can be brought up and remedied.