11 Ways to Improve Communication at Your Small Business
Importance of Communication
Effective communication, both internal and external, is essential to the success of any business. It improves business performance in several different ways. First, good communication builds good teams. When team leaders are effective communicators, they inspire workers to reach for a common goal. They ensure everyone is on the same page, and make sure everyone knows their responsibilities and how to perform them. With an open dialogue, employees pitch in when others in the organization need their help, and know when to ask for help in return. In addition, communicating professionally and respectfully can develop a palpable positive atmosphere at work. As the team gets to know one another, they build positive team morale which is good for productivity. Effective communication should encourage feedback. It must be a two-way process where management provides feedback to the employees about their work performance, and the employees also feel comfortable about giving feedback with regards to how well the company’s policies are performing.
Externally, communication is essential to providing the highest level of customer service, which should be the goal of any business. It starts with listening, with identifying the customer’s needs. If you don’t know what they want, how can you give it to them? Whether you sell products or provide services, you need to listen to your customers, determine their needs, and find the right way to fulfill those needs.
Understanding the importance of effective communication, it is in your company’s best interest to constantly look at ways to improve yours.
Here are some suggestions. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list. But it’s a good start.
- Be an active listener
There’s a difference between hearing what your employee is and actively listening. Actively listening requires focus, so try to cut out distractions like your phone or open laptop. Consider taking notes and repeat what you’ve heard. You’ll better understand what your employee is saying if you summarize their thoughts every now and then in the conversation. This can also help your employee feel that they are being heard.
- Don’t put it all in an email
email is a common method of business communication, but not always the best one. In fact, email can sometimes make your employees feel separated from each other. It also makes it tedious for a person to catch up in a conversation because they have to read through a long thread of emails.Sometimes a quick face-to-face chat is the better option.
- Have an “open door” policy
honest dialogue with the “higher ups” can be a delicate situation for many employees. Some feel uncomfortable being totally open with the boss, and as a result, sugarcoat or do not speak up. A policy where your employees are encouraged to bring anything to your attention is an incredibly beneficial way to motivate employees and improve communication.
- Be transparent (honest)
Nothing can breed discontent like keeping vital business information from your employees. Which is particularly hard to do in a small business. Make sure to update your team about issues that impact your business – both positive and negative. Whether the news is pleasant or difficult, it’s important you communicate the information honestly, sincerely, and as soon as you can.The more knowledge you give to your employees, the more likely they are to build on successes and find solutions for problems.
- Check in regularly and often with employees
Checking in with employees is an effective way to make sure communication is strong. Plan in-person or online meetings every few weeks or months. Discuss projects, feedback about leadership, and suggestions for the future. By respecting and listening to your staff, you can drastically improve communication.
- Make meetings count
Meetings can suck the time right out of your day. An unproductive meeting can be a deal breaker if you’re communicating with key customers or clients. So make sure your meeting is organized. Confirm times and locations and set a specific time for it to end. Have a detailed agenda
and stick to it. Finally, take lots of notes or record the meeting so you don’t miss vital information. Respond promptly to any tasks or questions that come up.
- Publish an internal newsletter
As your company grows, it can become difficult for your staff to keep up on everything that’s happening in your organization. An internal newsletter is an excellent way to share company news, big or small. Some companies find weekly newsletters to be most effective, but you can experiment with how often you push them out.
- Schedule status meetings
The more you can check in on teams about their tasks and current projects, the better. You can host daily or weekly status meetings in person or on the web and they don’t have to exceed 10 minutes. An excellent way to keep the doors of communication open.
- Encourage questions
Questions are one of the most fundamental components of effective communication in the workplace. Just as you should be asking questions, so should your employees. Instill that mindset in your organization. Make sure employees are comfortable to reach out with questions to you, managers, or each other.
- Be responsive
As the business owner, your employees will likely have questions for you or reach out to you for help. If an employee emails you or reaches out to you, be responsive. That is, get back to them in a reasonable amount of time. And what is a reasonable amount of time? According to a recent study, 41% of people expect a coworker to respond within an hour. Bosses and business owners can probably get a little extra slack on that time, but not much.
- Use feedback constructively
Make sure you value the feedback from all of your employees. They know what’s going on. They’re keeping your doors open. Create a system for collecting comments. The data you uncover can be invaluable in helping to strengthen and grow your business.