The quality and consistency of communication within your internal team is likely change your business better or worse. With clearer, more flexible forms of interaction, your team members will collaborate more effectively and improve overall productivity. With misalignment in timing, spelling, and clarity, your entire operation could crash.
So what steps can you take to improve internal team communication?
Diagnose potential problems
The first thing you should do is take a moment to diagnose potential problems.
Have you noticed anything wrong in your organization that could be caused by poor communication? Are there any measurable metrics that are reduced due to a particular type of communication problem? If so, here’s your chance to apply specific fixes to any issues you’re having.
For example, if you notice a increase the number of customers fleeingit could be a signal that your customer service agents are unclear about their responsibilities or that they are not handling customer support communications appropriately.
Reviewing scripts, SOPs, team meeting protocols, and other internal customer service communications can help with troubleshooting.
Establish strong leaders
Whether it is consciously, unconsciously, or a combination of the two, people tend to imitate the style and approach of their leaders.
Accordingly, it pays to establish strong leadership throughout your organization to set a standard for effective communication. If your leaders communicate regularly, and they communicate in clear, concise ways, they set a powerful example that all the rest of your employees can follow.
There are two approaches that can help you here.
- First, you can prioritize effective communicators when considering promotions and when hiring new leadership candidates. If someone consistently delivers a clear and focused message, they have a higher chance of landing a leadership position than a less effective partner.
- Second, you can train and educate your existing leaders more. Communication courses and seminars, along with deliberate practice, can turn almost anyone into an effective communicator.
Create multiple communication channels (and use them appropriately)
Take advantage of a variety of communication channels. Different communication channels provide different strengths and weaknesses, and can be used in different contexts to communicate better.
If all of these tools are available to your employees and they know how to make full use of each, your internal communications will be much stronger.
With the help of digital signage software, you can display almost any type of image or text you want – and you can cycle through the different messages on your digital signage. Throughout the office, your display can provide consistent reminders, advice on current status, guidance, updates, and more. It’s an easy way to get everyone in the workplace on the same page.
Email is one of the most popular forms of communication in the workplace because it is permanent, instant, and in writing. However, it is not the best platform for an ongoing dialogue, nor is it the ideal platform for expressing complex ideas.
Chat platforms make it easy to ask quick questions and enjoy reciprocal dialogue, but they can also be distracting. No one wants to be dragged into conversations all day, but this is an effective communication tool when you use it to its fullest.
Call / Video Conference
Video calls and conferences are great for coordinating different people and holding complex conversations. However, they tend to be time consuming and can quickly go astray if you have too many people involved. They should be used sparingly and purposefully.
Even social media has a place in your internal communication strategy. When used correctly, it can facilitate stronger relationships among your employees and provide an easy, informal way to reach someone.
Create consistent workflows for project and task management
How are people communicated about high-level projects and low-level tasks?
For example, is there a template you can use to describe a project? Who is responsible for communicating the details of a project? When an employee completes a task, what information should they provide about task completion?
If you don’t have a clear workflow and protocol for managing projects and tasks, it quickly turns to chaos, as each individual brings their own style and approach to the team.
Strive for a consistent process that everyone can follow.
Join and train your new employees
Introduction and training is an important opportunity to teach employees the fundamentals of effective internal communication.
Set expectations for when and how they must communicate, and consider providing additional education and training to any new employees who appear to be struggling.
Use team building events
Team building events are a great opportunity to improve your interpersonal communication skills.
During these events, employees are often tasked with facing some sort of competitive or collaborative challenge that requires them to communicate with each other in order to succeed. It’s great communication practice that can reveal important weaknesses. Perhaps most importantly, it gives your employees a chance to bond with each other and get to know each other better.
Use more forms of visual communication
Mastering the written language is always beneficial, but most people prefer direct form of communication.
Visual forms of communication are faster, easier to understand, and largely more intuitive. It’s much smoother to see data represented visually in a chart than having someone explain you a bunch of numbers.
You can improve internal communication in your workplace by using more visual forms of communication. Photos, illustrations, diagrams, and even simple things like facial expressions and body language can help communicate your point.
Looking for Coaching and Teaching Opportunities
Not all of your employees will be strong communicators by default. That’s completely fine.
Anyone can become a better communicator if they get the right training and practice. When you notice a team member falling behind or having difficulty with a particular aspect of communication, pull them aside and treat this as a coaching or teaching opportunity. Specifically, what is this person doing wrong? What steps can they take to make it better?
Identify personal strengths and weaknesses
It is important to realize that good communication is not an objective universal standard. Different people communicate in different ways, and that’s perfectly acceptable.
Someone who is well versed in the written word may have difficulty engaging in an active conversation, while a fluent, eloquent speaker may not have the skills to type a coherent email.
Part of your job as a communication leader is to recognize this individual’s strengths and weaknesses and cater to them. Put people in positions that allow them to use their unique communication skills as effectively as possible – and try to help those people learn how to make up for their weaknesses.
Don’t overwhelm your employees
It is important to avoid overwork or overload your staff.
There are many strategies and tools in this guide that you can use to help your employees become better communicators. However, if you bombard them with new communication requirements and overload them during training, it probably won’t work out.
Better internal communication is something that evolves over time, so it’s a good idea to take small steps and a more forgiving, iterative approach.
At all levels, consider gathering feedback from your employees and team leaders.
In what areas are they satisfied with internal communications? What types of internal communications are frequent targets of complaints? This way, you can get a better sense of the “circuit” of your organization’s internal communications – and you can become more of a target in your communication improvement strategy.
With these strategies and patience, you should be able to see steady improvements in the clarity and effectiveness of communications within your internal team. Once you have a solid foundation, better internal communication will be able to sustain itself in the long run. The fundamentals of good communication will become your company culture. This makes staying consistent and adding new team members much easier.
That doesn’t mean you can stop paying attention to internal communications – but you can take a moment to celebrate the win.
Featured image credit: Felicity Tai; Bark. Thank you!