When every sale or lead counts, effective communication plans can ensure employees know what is expected of them, keep them engaged and increase their productivity.
Any small business owner will tell you that communication is key. However, as simple as the concept sounds, ensuring good communication is far from easy. Everyone expresses their thoughts and absorbs information differently.
Dan Paulson, President of InVision Business Development, says that it can be difficult to ensure solid communication throughout a large team because communication styles vary from visual (see it and learn it) to audio (talk it through) to kinetic (hands-on learning).
"It’s the question of: How do we take the vision from an idea to a living, breathing thing?" he says.
Paulson says it’s important to hit on all the modalities of learning with your employees and take the time to notice which modes are the most effective.
But regardless of how you present information, consider these tips to ensure you’re getting your message across.
With the down economy, any work environment that hasn’t had tension stemming from potential layoffs and wage cuts is a rare one.
"Nothing fosters bad morale and poor work ethics than a workplace fraught with rumors and distrust," says Kelly Dinoff, principal marketing consultant with Sonance Communications. "Be open with your employees about the state of your business. If things are tough, they’ll likely sense it, and you’re better off being up front with them rather than letting rumors fester."
The key is to make sure you’re letting your employees know how hard you’re working to turn the situation around.
Set clear goals and meet regularly to discuss them
A team communicates best when it has clear goals to work towards. Dinoff says that constant communication requires regular meetings where you can discuss expectations with your team members.
"Conducting regular one-on-one and group meetings to provide individual feedback and reinforce the importance of these policies will keep everyone on the same page and ensure that there is no question in anyone’s mind of what your expectations are," she says.
People communicate better with a boss with whom they feel comfortable. Although you should always be assertive, Joe Lamacchia, owner of Joe Lamacchia Landscaping and author of Blue Collar and Proud of It!, says that your employees should feel at ease with you.
"I think when you come in the morning, you [have to] say ‘Hello,’" he says. "Don’t walk in with a briefcase and look miserable."
Make your employees feel that they can talk to you with any ideas or problems they might have. Lamacchia says he buys his crew lunch and eats with them every once in a while in order to foster camaraderie. However, he also says that at the end of the day, you are the boss, and your employees need to know that.
"You [have to] find the fine line," he says. "You’re their friend, but you have to tell them that you wear another hat."
In every step you take when communicating to your employees, empowering them should always be an objective. When you’re being honest about your company’s status, don’t just mention how you’re working to turn things around, but let them know what they can do to contribute to the company’s success.
"This builds a sense of importance, of empowerment, knowing that they have the power to help improve the situation," adds Dinoff.
Paulson thinks that one of the most beneficial things you can do when stating your goals for the company is not to tell your employees what their goals should be, but ask them what they want them to be.
"It will help involve the staff in a conversation to understand how each person impacts the outcome and you may come up with a better solution to resolve the issue than if you just corrected it yourself," he says.
Probably the most important thing you can do to empower your employees is to simply help create a friendly, upbeat atmosphere, says Lamacchia. Encourage idea-sharing at all times and emphasize that you want to hear everything the employees feel they are able to contribute.
"You’d be amazed what people can do to create and overcome once they have a little confidence and I always try to instill that in my [employees]," he says.