How to Improve Internal Communications: 3 Tips for SMBs
Chances are, you’re trying to figure out how to improve internal communications at your company. Healthy internal communications can breed a positive and collaborative culture, efficient processes, and greater productivity. Poor communication can hobble your employees, lead to poor customer experiences, and hit you with increased operational costs.
To put it in numbers, if you’re an average business, you’re losing 40 percent of your work week to communication problems. It’s not quite half the work week, but it’s enough to hurt. This winds up costing you roughly $26,041 per year per employee in lost productivity.
And these problems aren’t unique to small and medium businesses. Enterprises face the same challenge and similar costs. The difference is, they’ve usually got more budget available to absorb these costs. But if you’re operating on a tight budget, then you’re going to want to stop the bleeding caused by internal communication failures.
Top Internal Communications Problems
Here’s a quick rundown of common communications challenges for SMBs. These aren’t the only ways you’re losing productivity hours, but they’re usually the most significant.
- Delays caused by waiting for information. It’s true of most tasks at work: they’re a team effort. To successfully complete your task, you’ve got to interface with other employees, teams, and departments. Some are bound to be more responsive and helpful than others. But all that waiting for someone else to provide you with what you need? That leads to an average loss of 3.5 productive hours per week.
- Disruptions to productivity generated by unwanted communications. Access to more communications tools makes it easy to reach out to fellow employees. Too easy. Many well-meaning co-workers will inundate you with low-priority calls, voicemails, and intrusive emails that consumes 3.7 hours of your work week.
- Botched collaborative efforts. It takes real work to bring teams together to work on a project. Unfortunately, coordinating communications between co-workers can become a project on its own. Workers report spending an average of 3.3 hours on it, which can severely impair your staff’s ability to complete time-sensitive tasks.
How to Improve Internal Communications
Improving communication in the workplace requires a multi-faceted approach that includes reassessing management style, communications technology, and knowledge-sharing practices. Here are our suggestions:
#1. Eliminate top-down, one-way communication.
Revamping managerial styles is one of the most-recommended ways to open up your company’s communication channels. To start with, it helps to institute a concrete process that solicits feedback and input from your employees. Many companies accomplish this through surveys, periodic interviews, or an “open door” policy.
It’s also equally important that employees know their suggestions are either addressed or implemented. This is a real problem—52 percent of companies don’t act on employee feedback. And 27 percent don’t bother looking at the results of employee surveys!
Transparency is also crucial. In another survey, 71 percent of employees complained that business leaders didn’t spend enough time explaining company plans and goals.
#2. Invest in the right tools and learn how to use them.
The problem isn’t that the right tools are hard to find. The challenge is to find the right communications applications and getting everyone in your company onboard. That’s the first rule with any communications tool. Whatever platform you wind up choosing, make sure everyone is using it.
You also need to find the communications tools that work for you and your staff—whether that’s business chat, video conferencing, or email. Check our ebook on the different options and the basic etiquette you need to know to feel confident using them.
And wherever you can, upgrade to Cloud technology. Communications platforms powered by the Cloud are highly mobile, which is one of the main reasons the technology has become standard across most industries. Cloud technology can also operate on personal devices (if your office has a BYOD, or bring your own device, policy), and integrate with other third-party applications.
#3. Establish knowledge and file-sharing conventions.
No matter your line of work, your employees are your best resource. Their combined knowledge and experience can head off many potential problems. The trick is making all those resources available to everyone. That’s why you’re encouraged to create some kind of knowledge base or file repository, like an FAQ for your employees. This can be an internal website, a company intranet, or a wiki.
Efficient Internal Communications Take You to the Next Level
No matter how well or bad off your company is, knowing how to improve your internal communications will only help you progress. The basic steps above should get you started. For more information on how to improve your company, download the whitepaper below.