There are no shortages of ways to communicate these days. Whether it is by email, text, phone, a blog, online comments, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, land line, or – get this – face-to-face, the sheer number of ways to get your message heard is almost overwhelming.
Despite all these options, communication is still an issue in many small businesses. There are many reasons for this, of course: Some people are better at communication than others, and some offices make it a priority while others do not.
And for many small businesses, the emerging mobile workplace has made communication an even bigger challenge than ever before. Indeed, studies show that on average, office workers work at least 25 percent of the time outside of the office now.
So getting a handle on how to communicate well in today’s office environment is critical to the success of any business. Good communication makes a business more effective, increases morale and productivity, and creates a sense of teamwork, camaraderie and shared purpose.
So how do you get there? The secret is to marry some old-school methods with some high-tech solutions. Here are seven ways to improve the communication within your office:
1. Hold regular staff meetings: While people may not like them, all-office meetings are still the best way to get everyone on the same page. Management can set goals, review products and procedures, set priorities, and discuss issues. Employees can raise concerns, ask questions, and get immediate feedback. Many businesses start every day with a short staff meeting to make sure everyone is clear and headed in the same direction.
2. Have quarterly one-on-one, face-to-face meetings: Having regular check-ins with employees is a tried-and-true communication tool for a reason – it works. By giving each member of your team personal feedback, and by really hearing and responding to their questions, concerns, goals and priorities, you ensure that everyone will feel heard, because they are heard.
3. Have a suggestion box: A suggestion box is another old school idea that works – if you take some of the suggestions. Such feedback is so valuable that some companies give rewards for the best suggestions that management implements. Again, this is an easy way to get people to feel like their opinion matters.
4. Send out weekly company emails: A weekly bulletin can announce important events and changes, communicate weekly sales goals, and generally ensure that everyone is aware of what is happening in the company.
5. Permit, and encourage, instant messaging and texting: Given that this is how so many of us communicate these days anyway, it is important to use it to the advantage of your business. Instant messages are a fine way to facilitate collaboration, especially when email chains can get so laborious and time-consuming.
Instant messaging gives your employees the opportunity to communicate with one another and get their questions answered without disturbing others in the office. It is an instantaneous, convenient and informal method of communication that will help build relationships among your employees.
6. Create your own private social network: Social networks are great because they allow us to communicate with people virtually. The problem is that they are not private, and much of what is said inside a business is private. That’s why creating your own personal social network makes so much sense. A tool like Yammer aggregates inboxes, instant messaging, announcements, and much more.
7. Use an online collaboration platform: Especially with so many people working remotely, a smart way to stay in touch is to gather everyone online in one place. Tools like Basecamp and Podio are terrific project management applications for just this purpose.
The best offices use a combination of the tools listed here. Although online options are important, face-to-face communication cannot be beat. By combining the two, you will create a better work environment for your employees.
How do you encourage communication in your business? Share your story below.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. ©Steven D. Strauss