Establishing effective communication is the key to an organization’s success – particularly within a small-business atmosphere, where employees often wear many hats. It can have a cascading effect on all facets of an organization – from employee morale and productivity, to company revenue.
However, despite the vital role that communication plays in every company, many employees rarely communicate or collaborate with their peers – leading to redundant or duplicate work, reduced quality and frustration among team members. In fact, 86% of employees cite a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for work-related failures.
By implementing effective communication practices within the workplace, small-business owners can help build a solid foundation for growth and success.
1. Develop a Communication Strategy
In order to ensure effective communication on a consistent basis, small-business owners should focus on developing a set process – that is, a “big picture” communication strategy – that clearly defines objectives and how the organization will communicate information to its employees.
As part of this communication strategy, small-business owners will need to consider:
- Who needs to know what information?
- When should this information be communicated?
- How will it be disseminated to employees?
Having a defined process in place will help employees know when they can expect different levels of information to be communicated by their organization.
In addition, it’s important to make sure employees understand they are stakeholders in the company’s interactions. Too often, employees don’t feel trusted or valued in the decision-making process – especially when it comes to an organization’s business strategy or future growth plans.
Small-business owners should use this as an opportunity to get employees involved – such as through a group meeting or an online survey – in developing a communication strategy that will be effective for every member of the team, from top to bottom.
2. Employ Multiple Methods of Communication
According to a recent survey by AMA Enterprise, only 9% of employees said they know what is going on at their company “most of the time” – revealing a need for leaders to step up their communication efforts to fill information gaps that exist in many workplaces.
In order to be most effective, information should be clearly and consistently communicated by different levels of leadership across multiple channels, such as email, newsletter, website, social media and staff meetings. Not surprisingly, repetition is key.
However, not all methods of communication are created equal – and choosing the right medium will depend on the information at hand. To determine which channels are most appropriate, small-business owners should consider:
- What communication resources are available?
- Is it a one- or two-way message?
- Who is the target audience?
- How frequently should it be communicated?
As a rule of thumb, in-depth information should generally be written down, while more succinct information can be verbalized. For instance, email is a great option for conveying details that employees can review on their own time. However, it doesn’t work as well for time-sensitive, confidential or interactive information. It can also be easy for employees to overlook or ignore.
On the other hand, verbal communication – such as phone calls or staff meetings – can help eliminate the time challenges that often come with email, but it’s also easier for employees to miscommunicate or forget what was discussed.
For this reason, it’s more effective to follow up any verbal communication with a summary email that outlines what was discussed, what the next steps are and who is responsible for which tasks.
3. Create a Feedback Process
Once a communication strategy has been established, it’s important to create a feedback process that provides employees with a forum to offer feedback and ask questions – such as an online discussion board, routine staff meetings or an anonymous survey.
For instance, small-business owners should consider asking questions such as:
- Does anyone have questions or concerns?
- Are there any areas that need improvement?
- Are the methods of communication being employed effective? If not, why?
Regardless of the structure, employees need to feel that their thoughts and opinions genuinely matter to the company – and that they are being heard. This requires building a culture of transparency and accountability within the workplace. In turn, having an “open-door” policy will help encourage effective, two-way communication and boost employee engagement.
Likewise, small-business owners should also have a defined process for communicating feedback to their employees in order to effectively convey expectations and stay abreast of work status. For instance, in addition to one-on-one meetings or performance reviews, the reporting manager can provide a weekly status report specifying priorities and open projects, along with concise feedback.
4. Hold Regular Meetings
Another way to promote effective communication within a small-business setting is to schedule staff meetings on a regular basis – such as weekly or monthly. This will help to keep employees in the loop and informed about any immediate or upcoming business matters.
Because meetings can easily turn into a waste of time if not productive and organized, small-business owners should make the most out of every meeting by scheduling it in advance (preferably at a set time) and preparing an agenda outlining the main points to be covered.
As with any verbal communication, all meetings should also be followed up with a summary email outlining the main points that were discussed, any next steps and responsible parties.
5. Use Business Collaboration Tools
According to a recent study by the Harvard Business Review, employees now spend nearly 80% of their time on collaborative activities, such as meetings, phone calls and responding to emails – leaving little time for important work assignments.
Using online collaboration tools can transform communication in the workplace by helping employees to reduce unnecessary clutter, keep better track of work-related tasks and share their work in a simple and efficient way.
There are a variety of collaboration tools, ranging from project management and video conferencing platforms like Trello and GoToMeeting, to real-time messaging and filing sharing tools such as Slack and Yammer.
By establishing more effective communication, these tools can help foster collaboration, increase efficiency and boost productivity among employees. In fact, productivity levels rose by 20-25% among workers who use online social tools to collaborate, according to a recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute.
Want to learn more about growing your small business?
Contact Evolution Capital Partners at (216) 593-0402