Communication is key in any relationship, and that includes professional ones. However, it can be especially challenging for those in small business environments. Unlike major corporations, there’s a good chance your team is small and intimate. Closer relationships will form and, just like a family, misunderstandings can lead to big blowouts if not managed well. It’s the responsibility of the business, leaders, owners, and managers to ensure effective communication in the workplace.
How can you measure your workplace communication capabilities? What are some concrete tools you can implement now, and how do you go about it? Prioritizing communication in a small business environment can improve every facet of business, from productivity to employee retention.
All communication involves five major components: the individual initiating communication, message context, delivery, the recipient(s), and the content itself. In each of these components, there’s room for miscommunication to occur. It can range from depending on a faulty system (such as an outdated group email tool that doesn’t function consistently) to content written so quickly that there are errors or not enough attention paid to addressing language barriers.
Internal communication in the workplace should be detailed in the standard operating procedure (SOP) and regularly re-visited. Every small business is unique. Maybe your employees, contractors, volunteers, and/or freelancers have varied backgrounds and different languages or cultural ties. While that can greatly enrich a small business, it comes with plenty of opportunities for miscommunication.
Having a written procedure for internal communication can help prevent miscommunication before it arises. In some cases, the SOP for communication will also overlap with other laws and regulations such as sexual harassment policies (i.e. what’s appropriate and inappropriate).
Lack of communication or poor communication in the workplace can lead to a myriad of problems, including:
Increasingly, nonverbal communication has become the primary (and sometimes sole) form of communication in the digital era. You may have employees who work virtually or travel frequently. Emails, texts, cloud-shared documents, and conference calls can be the meat of a company’s communication but it comes with a risk. When you lose one aspect of communication (i.e. verbal cues, facial expressions, tone) misunderstandings can skyrocket.
When creating communication SOPs, be careful to include both nonverbal and verbal best practices. This can include strategies for ensuring comprehension such as following up with phrases like, “What I understand from this email is…” and the basics in politeness such as friendly sign-offs on emails.
Measuring your workplace communication can include anonymous surveys for employees, data analysis of projects that depend on digital communication, or hiring a third-party vendor specializing in small business communication to give you a new perspective or ideas to implement change.