Communication is one of the most essential business skills out there – but not all companies are great at communicating with employees. And that can breed distrust and effectively kill morale. One of the great things about running a small business is the ability to share news easily and efficiently. And with a smaller manager-to-employee relationship, it is easier to give employees individual time and attention. Take advantage of these elements. Here are some tips to improve internal communication at your small business.
- Hire with purpose. When hiring, look for candidates with good communication skills. This may be easier said than done. To evaluate a candidate’s communication skills, ask behavioral interview questions such as, “Tell me about a time you had a misunderstanding with a co-worker and how you resolved it.” By looking at past behavior, you can get a glimpse into how a prospective employee may act similarly in the future.
- Offer training. Not everyone is skilled at communication, and even those who are could use a brush up on their communication skills from time to time. Have an outside consultant come in and do a one-day workshop with your employees or find a local training program to send them to. Investing in training will not only turn them into better communicators, it will make them more loyal employees once they see that you are invested in their success.
- Check in once a day. According to recent Gallup research, employees who have the highest engagement levels at their company typically have some form of daily communication with their managers. Try to check in with your employees once a day, whether it’s face-to-face, over the phone or via email.
- Adopt an open-door policy. Having an open-door policy at your company encourage honest, open communication by letting employees come to you at any time with any challenges, concerns or ideas. Not only does this spur productive communication, it also enables you to keep a pulse on any potential problems and address them before they escalate.
- Schedule team-building activities. Team-building activities can improve the way individuals work with one another and communicate to solve problems. Not only are they great opportunities to learn, team-building exercises can be fun, acting as a much-needed break from the everyday grind. As a result, you’ll see higher morale and increased productivity, in addition to better communication overall.
- Send out regular email communication. Once a month, send out a newsletter (this could fall under the responsibility of one of your employees) to update employees on any company news and plans for what’s to come. This is also a great opportunity to share company wins and recognize individual employees for exceptional work. It’s also a great time to remind employees that they can always come to you or their managers with any questions or concerns.
- Be responsive. When employees do come to you with questions or concerns, make sure you respond to them as soon as possible (at least within 24 hours). If you take to long to respond – or don’t respond at all – it sends the message that you don’t truly care about them as employees and will start to look elsewhere for an employer who does.
- Hold ‘town forum’ meetings. Once a quarter, get the company together in a relaxed, open ‘town forum’ setting to update employees on the state of the company, discuss future plans, address challenges and celebrate company wins. During these meetings, encourage employees to ask questions, and take the time to address those questions thoughtfully and with candor.
- Err on the side of over communication. Leaders tend to overestimate how much they communicate with employees. (And even when they don’t, it is far better to over-communicate than under-communicate.) More often than not, however, employees feel as if they are not getting enough information. Feeling as if they are being kept in the dark can lead to distrust, which can take a toll on morale and affect productivity.
Take communication to the next level. Check out How to Be Candid at Work Without Being Disrespectful.