Communication is how we share ideas, information, requests, instructions and progress. It stands to reason, then, that it’s going to permeate every aspect of your business. With this in mind, you should give it due consideration when planning and acting.
Communication is everywhere
The next time you do anything at work, think about the following:
- Did someone ask you to do it?
- Did you receive any information to help you?
- Is someone waiting for the details of your progress?
- How does your workplace proceed after you’re done?
Even if you’re a one-person show, the answers to these questions will normally involve some kind of communication. A business is based on identifying needs, planning how to meet those needs, setting up a model to provide for them, and deciding whether or not your model is sustainable. You cannot achieve any of this without sending and receiving relevant information with others.
Since it’s everywhere, why not get it right?
If you accept from right now that you’re communicating constantly, you’re in a better starting position already.
It’s never too late to communicate better. As with most soft skills, good communication is vital yet easy to learn, but it does take sustained effort. Furthermore, it is not easy to immediately quantify the results or the gains. Hence, it is all too easy to dismiss the need to uplift how you communicate in lieu of more short-term achievables.
Once you have identified that you need to improve, the key is to note it down and mark it as something that you should not push aside. This is the first step to commitment, and a vital one. From here, barring a crisis, there is no reason why you should not be able to follow through on that commitment.
Know your types…and how to improve them
The different ways we can communicate are easy enough to list. We can talk to one another, we use email and text messages, and we often have one or more collaboration tools. Some groups may well use social media for work purposes, while others still require hard copies of documentation. In many cases, clients as well as internal needs determine the type of communication preferred, so be sure to factor these in as well.
The written word
Writing (or typing, as the case may be) is a core way of passing information along. Whether you need to prepare a document, issue instructions or pass along the results, writing it down or typing it up means that recipients can refer to it as often as needed. In addition, anything that is in writing leaves a digital or physical paper trail. This means that tracking the efficiency, efficacy and success is easier.
Improving your writing can be challenging, since few people will take the time to “mark” you on it. Take the time to attend a business writing course – there are several to choose from via online platforms. Alternatively, you can ask for reviews on your written work from colleagues. Finally, companies can easily train in-house for this as well. Short courses such as email etiquette, business documentation and effective note-taking are simple to create. They readily boost the effects of written communication, and can also be used as employee development tools.
When it comes to shorter written communications, such as text messages, improvements usually involve making changes to standards. For example, a company could have limitations about when one can contact via message. Or, you can make subscription to certain channels optional for staff or clients. The trick is to ask for feedback, and act accordingly to improve.
Hearing you out
Meetings, phone calls, personal talks and other audio or face-to-face encounters bring tone, volume and facial expression into the mix. Team dynamics and personal emotions can also play a role, depending on the circumstances.
While it’s often difficult to pinpoint where problems may lie in verbal encounters, it is worth taking the time to enlist assistance if you feel that changes need to be made. Coaching sessions, meeting management training and rank-free discussions are examples of promoting positive change. If the business includes a lot of telephone conversations, some basic foundations for call control and mannerisms can provide benefits.
Having a conversation versus sending an email is also a good way to keep interactions personal. It helps bring about better relations, and can also improve direct communication. Finally, it is also far more expressive, which fosters better interaction between individuals in the long run.
While it is possible to convey much of what we want verbally or in writing, we often overlook the visual aspect unless we work in a related field. Hence, when thinking about conveying a message, consider if you can add visual appeal to it.This is particularly important if your work innately involves sales, marketing or advertising of any sort. However, don’t forget that a big part of company culture is displaying how prominent it is. Think of the positive reactions to a bulletin board full of amusing images, or an office branded to show energy and success. A work area should contain visual enhancements that are pleasing to the eye.
When communication is aimed at external entities, making it visually appealing is an excellent way of sending a message. Recipients of pleasant-looking communications will appreciate the effort put in. This can only improve a working relationship.
Inside and out
Communication intended for within a company is usually a little different to that headed to the rest of the world.
For starters, external communication needs to be more professional. A good way to achieve success with this is asking someone to proofread your material until you are proficient. In addition, the language and grammar used for outside recipients should be a little more targeted, to ensure maximum comprehension.
In contrast, internal communication can be a little more relaxed. Take note, though, that you should always consider having defined processes in place for internal communication that is repetitive. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, this creates a standard for staff to stick to. Secondly, it allows for the inclusion of those processes into key performance areas. Having performance reviews act as a natural motivation for better communication is a natural bonus.
Communication is in motion
Always remember that communication requirements are fluid. A company should change and adapt the way it communicates, both internally and externally. It’s useful to build consideration for this into an annual review process. Furthermore, make sure you source opinions from people you communicate with outside your organisation. This is useful both in terms of improving communication, as well as building better supplier and client relationships. Alternatively, 3rd-party consultants such as industrial psychologists or similar professionals can readily assist in determining how your communications measure up to standards. They can also suggest appropriate remedial actions where required.
As we mentioned earlier, the most effective approach is to keep continuity. Strive to take steps towards better communication at regular intervals. In a setting where digital work is becoming more and more prevalent, maintaining proper communication skills is a real boon.
The author is involved in communication processes and improvement.