Effective communication is linked to business success, as it reduces absenteeism and staff turnover. So, it’s definitely worthwhile to plan and prioritise team communication.
Research shows that businesses with less than 50 employees are more likely to be poor communicators. Your business doesn't need to be part of this statistic when there are so many available options to develop good communication.
Here are six ways to encourage your team to communicate with you and collaborate with each other:
1. Lead by example
When it comes to team communication, it should be a case of ‘do as I do.’ Your team will take their communication cues from you, so be the first to share and comment on information to spur them on to do the same. Set the stage for your business as a place where communication is valued and your team will follow suit.
Good communication is a two-way street of talking and listening. Make it easy for your team to speak with you. Do you have your own office? If so, think about adopting an open-door policy. This will make you more approachable to your staff.
2. Turn the negatives into positives
Effective communication builds trust between you and your team. The key to building confidence is to be open about non-confidential information. Although it’s tempting to withhold negative information, your team will appreciate that you've shown faith in them to handle bad news the right way. If you've already communicated your business values well, your team will be assured that you'll do what it takes to fix any negative situation.
While it’s admirable to always look on the bright side, discussing negatives are necessary and present opportunities to put things right. Nokia provides an example of what happens when negative events are buried. It failed to communicate that Apple was developing its mobile technology. And the rest, as they say, is history. Although you may think that your small business doesn’t have much in common with the 00s mobile giant, there’s still a lesson to learn.
The moral of the story is that your team are your 'eyes and ears'. They should feel confident to approach you, no matter what the circumstances. This kind of honest conversation could be an opportunity for you to improve your business.
3. Act on employee feedback
Empower your team to communicate with you by taking every opportunity to deal with feedback. This will show your team that their opinion counts. Failing to act on feedback can lead to disillusionment and eventually a dip in morale and productivity. When you're responsive to comments and suggestions, it demonstrates that communication is more than just a tick-box exercise.
You should aim to make it as easy as possible for your team to give honest feedback. Some may not feel comfortable airing their views face-to-face. In that case, use a comments box where they can leave anonymous suggestions.
4. Down with emails
A survey of 2,000 employees has found that the typical British office worker sends 400,816 emails over their working life. It’s easy to see how your communication can get lost in your team’s growing inbox. Research also shows that obsessive email checking can damage productivity. If you’re looking for better team communication, consider these options as alternatives:
- Video conferencing if you have remote workers - e.g. something as simple as Skype or Facebook Live
- Team briefings or morning huddles for quick-fire team updates
- A notice board or intranet site for non-urgent items
If no email sounds too scary, how about encouraging parts of the day where inboxes are closed.
5. Stop, collaborate and listen
As well as ensuring that your team feel comfortable approaching you, it’s also important to make sure that they're always communicating with each other. It’s beneficial to nurture a business environment that encourages constant collaboration, as poor teamwork causes unnecessary delays and negatively affects your business.
Where your team is made up of more than a handful of people, it may be difficult to know what everyone is working on at any given time. Unified collaboration tools are a convenient way to help team communication. These tools allow your team(s) to share ideas, ask questions, and support each other. Another plus is that most of these tools have free price plans. You can also tailor them to suit your business.
Here are a few collaboration tools that encourage team communication:
- HipChat lets your team build chat rooms where they share files, video chat, and, screen-share.
- Slack connects with the apps you already use, so there’s no going back and forth between applications. You can also send individual or group messages, make voice or video calls, and share files.
- Basecamp doubles up as project management software. You can organise internal and external communication and projects using their dashboard. You’ll also find task tracking, a message board, and automatic check-ins.
6. Champion communication
Championing communication isn’t a one-time deal. Keeping your team in the loop and encouraging them to collaborate should be a daily priority. Technology has made it easier for team collaboration. But nothing can replace human contact. So, complement communication tools with face-to-face interaction. As well as holding meetings and briefings, another way to do this is to schedule a weekly or monthly activity out of the office. This type of informal communication helps your team to connect and relate to each other, away from the work environment.
Whether your business has two or 2,000 people, good communication is important for business success. Team collaboration helps to strengthen the sense of community, which leads to higher productivity.
What does the future of workplace communications look like? Download part 1 of our 'New Workforce' series and find out for yourself.