Small business profits are built on efficient operations, and efficiency requires clear team communication. When your operation is small, communication can be simple because there are fewer employees involved, but as your small to medium-sized business (SMB) grows, maintaining effective team communication and smooth business processes becomes more complex. You need strong internal communication to be efficient and sufficiently agile to adjust to changing customer needs and market conditions.
According to an SMB communications study, poor team communication can cost an SMB as much as $26,041 per employee per year. Business leaders agree that effective internal communication is a key success factor for 79 percent of organizations. A study by SIS Research identified some of the biggest barriers to effective business communication around the globe, including inefficient coordination, waiting for information, unwanted communication, customer complaints, and barriers to collaboration.
What are the best ways to communicate? Most organizations tend to send more email and call more meetings in an effort to promote better team communication. However, only 48 percent of employees will open an email regarding internal communications, and 47 percent see meetings as the biggest time-waster at the office.
Increasing the number of email and meetings just increases the level of noise. To promote more effective team communication, SMBs need to be more judicious about how they impart information and the tools they use. Team communication should be integral to operations, seamless, and therefore painless.
Promote Inclusion and Interaction
Effective team communication is built on forging a connection based on trust and collaboration as much as it is about breaking down barriers. Better communication promotes employee engagement and increases productivity. Here are a few strategies that have proven effective in ensuring better communication:
- Open environment – Holding meetings behind closed doors tends to suggest an atmosphere of secrecy and exclusion. By maintaining a literal open-door policy and conducting business out in the open, such as in open conference areas, employees get a sense of participation. It also encourages open discussion. Creating an open atmosphere maintains a better flow of ongoing information so team members aren’t waiting for a weekly status meeting or trying to cram all their issues into one group session.
- Two-way information flow – Effective communication requires team members to be heard as well as speaking up. A study of employee surveys, for example, shows that 29 percent of employees see them as pointless, 27 percent of managers never actually read those surveys, and 52 percent of managers read the surveys but take no action. Provide channels for constructive feedback, both written and verbal, and demonstrate to team members that their opinions matter and are heard.
- Understanding roles and responsibilities – Miscommunication and unclear instructions are common communication problems. Seventy-one percent of employees feel their managers don’t spend enough time explaining plans and objectives. Be clear about roles, responsibilities, goals, and expectations. Also, be sure you encourage employees to seek clarification or further explanation when something is not clear.
- Use time wisely – Don’t waste employees’ time. Before you call a meeting, ask yourself if it’s really necessary. Be sure you have the right parties in the meeting, and you aren’t including employees who don’t need to be there. Also consider structuring time for informal meetings or discussions. A weekly office lunch or regularly scheduled coffee breaks encourage casual interaction that inevitably includes work-related issues and helps strengthen the team.
Technology Promotes Efficient Team Communication
In today’s workplace, effective team communication is built on technology as much as face-to-face interaction. Meetings and one-on-one discussions promote a personal connection beyond a simple exchange of information. You get to “know” the other party more intimately and appreciate their role and contribution to the team. However, in today’s workplace fewer employees are stationary, which means you need to use technology for team communication.
Mobile workers make up more than 50 percent of the SMB workforce, and that includes employees traveling on business, office roamers, remote workers, and employees working from home. There are various ways mobile workers stay in contact with the office—email, voice mail, corporate intranet, video conferencing, and so forth. To stay connected, mobile workers need internet access and mobile computing hardware, which is why smartphones have become such a popular business communications tool.
Smartphones are ideal for mobile workers because they offer all manner of communications. In addition to phone calls, they can support email, text messages, web access, and even video calls and teleconferencing. The smartphone provides a single device that can keep mobile workers in contact with their team.
Smartphones also can be configured to promote seamless collaboration. For example, email is delivered to a mobile handset just as it is delivered to an office workstation. Tools such as your address books and calendar can be readily synchronized using cloud applications. Even the office telephone line can be integrated for seamless phone access.
Spoke was specifically designed to keep mobile workers connected to the office by turning their smartphones into mobile office extensions. By loading Spoke on your Android or iOS smartphone, your office phone extension is forwarded to your smartphone so you never miss a call. And Spoke offers all the features you expect from your office phone, including auto-attendant, voicemail, call forwarding, group calling, hunt groups, and much more. It doesn’t matter if you are around the office, at home, or on the road, your colleagues can reach you by phone wherever you are.
No matter what the nature of your SMB, you need to keep your teams connected and informed by making communication seamless and easy. Adopting the right communications management practices will help you develop a corporate culture built on collaboration and inclusion. Adopting the right technology to make communication effortless will make sure your team can readily communicate, which will make your operation more profitable and competitive.