Communication in Your Business
Developing good communication within a business may sometimes be a low priority simply because most executives spend so much time communicating externally with customers, prospects, suppliers and other market participants. However, internal communication can be every bit as important as external communication. Whether you have a large team of employees or just a team of one or two, it is important that you have an awareness of the benefits of good internal communication.
There are several elements to good communication. The first element relates to the message content. The second element relates to the mode of communication. A third element is whether the messages are in one direction or two directions. Communication between all employees at all levels should be respectful. Good communication starts with good listening. Don’t be in a rush to get your point of view across. Listen carefully to what others have to say before volunteering your own opinion.
Use empathy while listening to colleagues and don’t simply be formulating your next response while they are speaking. Be sure that your private communication squares with your public communication. It is all too easy for people to spot someone exhibiting double standards. Concentrate on getting people to “do as you do” and not “do as you say”. Trust is strongly related to different levels of communication. When high trust is combined with high cooperation this usually leads to a win/win result for all.
One of the key decisions that you need to make is how much information you are going to share with your employees. Do you give employees highlights of how the business is doing; do you tell them everything that is going on; or do you tell them just what you think they need to know? The answer will really depend on the business culture. In an open business culture, employees are told pretty much everything of importance that is going on. In a closed business culture, employees are told the bare minimum. These are two ends of a continuum and most businesses will probably fall somewhere in between the two extremes.
The mode of communication can often be as important as the message. In the internet age, it is common for communication within companies to be by way of email. This may be fine for routine communication but important communication downwards should be done directly by the CEO or by line managers, particularly if the business is large and dispersed. Direct communication shows respect for the individual and encourages team building and direct feedback.
You should try to ensure that you have open and two-way communication in your business. It is best if your employees rate communication just as highly as you do. In my view, you should share key operational and financial information openly so that your employees feel that they are an important stakeholder in your business and that they have an important part to play in the success of the business.
Staff meetings should be held at least monthly so that management can share performance and other relevant information with employees and this can also provide a very useful forum for employees to contribute their ideas, which often prove to be extremely valuable to the business. This can be augmented by quarterly performance management interviews which give employees a voice with their line managers in a formal and constructive environment.
It is even better if you can run short daily huddles with all employees of about 10 or 15 minutes, wherein everyone gets to hear what is happening in the business; what is urgent or important; and employees and managers can get a clear understanding of the focus issues and the part they have to play in resolving these issues. If your business is large and it has lots of employees, it may be better to have a series of these daily huddles, wherein the executive team meets first and then the executives hold a huddle with their own teams to push the information down and to collect information and ideas that can move back up through the organization.
The best companies reward open communication and mutual support. This creates a team environment where everyone pulls together and this can be evident to customers who value seamless customer service from your business. It is not enough to value your employees; they should value each other as well.
As with all businesses, there is an informal grapevine in place in your business. If your culture is open, it will be viewed as a positive feedback mechanism that allows staff to interact privately on matters of importance to them. In this scenario, it will rarely be used as a tool for misinformation or negative messaging.
In an open culture, employees are encouraged to give honest and constructive feedback to management. In a closed culture, the communication is generally just from the top down. Be cognizant that one way communication from management can be problematic because it actively encourages communication through the grapevine which can distort the original message and create a negative backlash that may be invisible to management.