Communication is at the heart of all your business operations. It provides the foundation for teamwork between your employees, establishes the nature of your client relationships, and can make or break your productivity. Despite this, most businesses treat communication as a secondary priority; they leave employees to their own devices and neglect the potential productivity savings that communication improvements could bring.
“Communication” covers a lot of territory, so it helps to break it down into a handful of key focal areas.
Important Areas of Communication
If you want to improve your business’s internal communications, these are the five most vulnerable areas you’ll need to target:
- Meetings. Meetings waste more time than you probably realize, costing businesses more than $37 billion each year. While it’s true that meetings can be productive, most of them are used in patently unproductive ways. They might include more people than necessary, wasting the time of half the people in the room. They might run for twice as long as they need to. They might be called for and coordinated without any central agenda directing the meeting, or they might be completely unrelated to an outcome that generates revenue. Ultimately, these issues can be cleared up with a commitment to running fewer meetings, shortening the length of the meetings you do have, and making sure there’s a clear agenda for each of those meetings, with actionable goals.
- Video conferencing. Video conferencing is an easy way to make your team feel more connected and ensure your ideas are properly communicated. However, not all video conferencing products are the same, and you may not see a benefit unless you know how to be successful with video conferencing. Everything starts with the right product; otherwise, the quality of your audio and video may be so bad that it negates any benefits you might have seen otherwise. From there, you need to employ best practices for video conferencing, reserving it for appropriate meeting types and minimizing the number of people in each chat.
- Email. Did you know the average employee receives 121 emails a day? This makes it a critical opportunity to gain or lose productivity. Imagine if each email took an extra minute to get through—your employees would lose 2 hours of time every day. Poorly written emails, emails with no subject line, emails that aren’t intuitively organized, emails without action items, and emails sent to far more people than necessary can all be a cause of wasted time for you and your employees. Establishing clear protocols and best practices can help you beat these issues, though it might take time to do so.
- Chats. Instant messages are faster than email but rely on the same written format. If you choose the wrong chat platform, users may have trouble getting the app to work correctly, or may not be able to find contacts quickly and easily. On top of that, group chats can make things chaotic for employees—especially if you have notifications always turned on. Choosing the right chat platform, and establishing “off hours” can help remedy these issues.
- Other mediums. There are other mediums you’ll need to consider in your communication overhaul as well. Social media, for example, is useful for more than just reaching your customers; about 76 percent of businesses use their social media branding to attract and retain employees. Will your business use social media for internal communication? There’s no right or wrong answer, but you need a firm and consistent answer. Similarly, how will your business use phone calls or text messages? Consistent policies are key to managing employee expectations here.
Tips for Implementing Change
Knowing which changes to implement is just the first step. You also need to be able to implement changes effectively—and these tips should be able to help:
- Name a point person. Designate someone to be in charge and oversee the creation and implementation of these new protocols.
- Invest in the right technology. The right tech can make all the difference for most of these communication mediums. Don’t take the decision lightly.
- Establish clear ground rules. Write up “golden rules” for each communication channel for your employees to follow. This will help struggling communicators find easy ways to improve.
- Allow flexibility for individuality. Understand that not everyone is going to communicate with the same formats or styles. Make sure your ground rules afford some flexibility for people to be themselves.
- Use a phased rollout. Don’t upgrade all forms of internal communication all at the same time; this can be overwhelming. Instead, focus on one channel at a time, in a phased rollout.
Changing the communication habits of your entire workforce is a tall order, since most of your employees will have lasting bad habits and individual preferences, but it’s worth it if you want to prevent more miscommunications, increase efficiency, and ultimately, improve the quality of operations. And since communication is directly or indirectly involved in so many aspects of your business, it deserves to be a top priority.