Although communication is far more complex than it was just a decade ago, it remains a fundamental component of small business success. When executed effectively, communication can increase productivity, resolve issues with clients and vendors, and encourage professional development. It is the key to creating a culture that is inspiring, challenging, and rewarding for your team.
Effective communication is about far more than simply relaying information. As a small business owner, it’s important to assess and, if necessary, improve your communication skills as well as those of your leadership team. At the same time, you need to optimize the channels you use to convey and collect information. By keeping your staff informed and connected, and establishing a workplace environment that invites and appreciates feedback, you can boost morale as well as your bottom line.
Whether you are running a brick-and-mortar manufacturing business or a virtual professional services firm, here are five ways you can improve internal communication in your small business.
1 – Avoid Over-Complication
Start by keeping workplace communication simple, clear, and to the point. It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming your team knows everything about your business. This is especially common if you or members of your leadership team invest time in acquiring knowledge about your products or services or learning from experts in your industry. While this may be beneficial in terms of improving how you run your business, it may not be appropriate to share everything you learn with every employee. Be conscious of whether or not you’re giving staff more information than they need to do their jobs and bogging down their productivity in the process.
Whether you are conveying new information about products or procedures or setting expectations for completing a particular project, make sure you convey your message as clearly as possible. Speak the language your staff can understand and avoid being vague or confusing. This often leads to misinterpretation or misunderstandings and can result in costly mistakes. Be specific when setting expectations, implementing new policies, or assigning tasks. Including details about exactly what you expect and when will go a long way towards setting your team up for success and ensuring business runs smoothly.
2 – Practice Active Listening
The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, states that 80% of results will come from 20% of the action. Successful leaders know that what they hear is often more important than what they say, and that effective communication requires 80% listening and 20% talking.
Regardless of your position in a company, encourage open and honest communication by modeling active listening:
- Make sure communication is a two-way street, especially when the conversation is between a superior and subordinate.
- Allow ample opportunity for people to ask questions, provide feedback, and express their concerns.
- Avoid distractions and focus your attention on what is being said.
- Ask follow-up questions when appropriate and be mindful of what your employees are telling you. Their input and insights can prove to be invaluable.
Over time, this practice builds rapport, understanding, and trust between you and your employees.
3 – Leverage Mobile Technology
Technology has revolutionized communication in and out of the workplace. Business owners can choose from an array of technologies that go far beyond desktop computers and email to support their internal communication strategies.
For instance, the dramatic increase in the use of mobile technology has made it easy for business owners and employees to stay connected via laptops and smartphones. It has also turned text messaging into an accepted form of workplace communication – according to one study, 70% of workers would like their employers to communicate via text message.
Texting can more efficient than email and more reliable than phone calls in communicating critical information in real time, from a last-minute change in meeting venue to customer order updates or cancellations. If your business employs field staff or your managers spend the bulk of their time on the go, incorporating an SMS service that enables mobile devices to exchange short text messages may be is something to consider.
4 – Keep Remote Workers Connected
If your small business employs remote staff, chances are communication is at the top of your list of challenges. It is critical that you take advantage of digital communication tools to keep your team informed and help them develop rapport.
Voice or video conferencing via platforms like Skype, Go to Meetings, or Zoom will bring weekly department meetings to life. Cloud-based team collaboration platforms like Slack and Asana make it easy for in-house and remote employees to manage projects together and connect in real time. This is especially important if team members work non-traditional hours or are located in different time zones, as is the case here at Summit Financial Resources.
Remote employees can also interact with team members through professional social media websites and hangout apps, sharing information, insights, and keeping the company’s cultural conversation going. Don’t forget to encourage virtual staff to pick up the phone instead of always reaching for the keyboard. All the technology in the world cannot replace the power of human interaction to help employees feel involved and supported.
5 – Make Yourself Available
Regardless of how many high-tech tools you use, perhaps the most important communication strategy is making yourself available to your employees. Having an “open door” policy doesn’t mean your door is literally always open. What matters is that your people know they can come to you with issues or suggestions. Something as simple as holding office hours once a week offers employees a set time to check in and share challenges or successes – remotely or face-to-face.
Connected bosses keep their employees well informed. They are committed to consistently providing updates on company news, policies, and procedures as well as incorporating regular feedback into workplace operations. In addition to formal evaluations, consider giving positive feedback during meetings or while you walk around the office. Meet informally with staff for a few minutes each week to discuss their projects and progress. Letting your employees know how they’re doing on a regular basis will help keep them motivated and committed to contributing to your company’s success all year long.
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Summit Financial Resources specializes in working capital financing for small to medium-sized businesses that need increased cash flow. We provide working capital financing through invoice factoring, asset-based lending, inventory lending, and equipment financing.