Communication is the glue that holds a business together. When executed effectively, strong communication can increase productivity, mitigate pitfalls and resolve issues in the workplace. When executed inefficiently, it can lead to lost revenue, employee conflict, and a hostile work environment.
Here are 5 ways to improve staff communication in your small business.
1. Become a Great Listener
Communication begins with active listening. Active listening is no easy skill, especially in a work setting where conversations typically have a superior and subordinate.
Regardless of your position in a company, to be an effective communicator you need to learn the art of active listening. Great listeners can concentrate entirely on what is being said, understand the details expressed, respond when appropriate, and remember the information communicated.
To improve your listening skills, try removing all distractions from the conversation. This could mean turning off your phone, shutting your computer, or moving the conversation to a quiet office space. Distractions can make it difficult to concentrate and can decrease your attentiveness.
Another easy way to improve your listening skills is to become a diligent note-taker during meetings and conversations. These small steps can quickly get you on the path to becoming a great listener and thus, improve your overall communication skills.
2. Make Important Documents and Information Easily Accessible
Every company has a unique set of information that is pertinent to how that specific organization operates. This could include:
- Employee protocol and benefits plan
- Operational workflows and processes
- Style guides and branding documents
- Training materials and tutorials
- Marketing collateral and templates
- Organization mission statement and vision plan
- Any other information for employees or the company at large
This information plays a critical role in how the business and employees interact. Thus, it’s important to make sure it’s communicated to all new hires and periodically to employees. The documents should also be easily accessible either through an online Wiki or some other method that lets employees find and access the information anytime.
By making important information readily available to all employees, you’re developing a sustainable communication resource to keep all employees informed.
3. Leverage Technology for Integrated Communication
Decades ago, businesses had very limited communication methods within their company. Due to the advancements in communication technology, you now have many more resources at your disposal.
Changes to mobile technology have affected communication in and out of the workplace. It’s estimated that by the end of 2017, 67% of small businesses will have a mobile application for their business, with roughly 49% having an in-house team to support mobile app development and investment. No longer can small businesses ignore the impact that mobile devices have on their ability to communicate with their employees and even their clients.
Utilizing a service like Text Request can vastly improve your internal communication methods. They make it easy for businesses to communicate with their employees and groups via mobile text messages.
Communication technology isn’t just limited to text messaging. Remote employment, telecommuting, virtual offices, or any other type of work-from-home engagements are made easier due to the advancements in communication technology.
Software like Skype, GoToMeeting, and other video/audio conferencing technology has made it easier for companies to communicate with employees that work outside the office.
Because you can often find contract employees and freelancers at a margin of the cost of internal hires, you can drastically improve your bottom line by understanding how to leverage communication technologies that let you manage employees remotely.
4. Use a Dedicated Internal Communication Platform
In addition to the technologies mentioned above, you may want to find a dedicated workspace to house your day-to-day communication.
There are many web applications that can help companies facilitate employee-to-employee communication and document sharing, like Slack. Slack is the fastest growing business app of all time and averages about 5 million active users every day.
Slack allows employees to message individual employees in real-time. You can also set up channels and group chats for collaborative messaging. Slack integrates with other applications that allow for easy file sharing, document collaborating, note-taking, and other communication processes.
Facebook recently launched their own version of Slack, known as Workplace. The concept is a platform that lets employees within an organization easily communicate and share important documents and information in a collaborative and streamlined manner.
5. Find Easy and Reliable Feedback Resources
Most people think the communication stops after the conversation, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Feedback is the response or reaction that follows, and it’s a critical step in the communication loop for businesses.
To succeed at communicating, your business needs to find a process for collecting and disseminating feedback in a fluid manner. It’s important to remember that feedback shouldn’t be one-way, especially not top-down. Two tools that can help you collect and store feedback are Officevibe and Small Improvements.
Officevibe is a simple tool that creates scheduled surveys for employees. It asks a combination of personal and corporate-specific questions to help management get a pulse for the organization.
Small Improvements is a performance feedback tool that combines employee reviews and goal-oriented objectives into one interface. This software makes it easy for managers to create and track milestones for employees, while also giving the company a resource for measuring individual and organizational growth.
Communication is more than just relaying information; it is a powerful tool that can improve employee morale, mitigate issues in the workplace and increase productivity. Even small businesses need to analyze their communication methods to optimize the channels they use to send and receive messages, reinforce positive communication skills in their employees, and develop a culture that welcomes and encourages feedback and professional growth.
Keep the tips above in mind as you look to improve your internal communication in your small business.
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.