As the workplace becomes hybrid where employees work both from home and office, communication has become a key factor to make it all work. Dictionary.com defines communication as “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.” It further defines effective as “adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result”. Putting it together, one can define effective communication as “imparting information through various means that is adequate to accomplish a purpose or produce the intended result”.
Effects of poor communication
Poor communication can seriously impact the team’s performance and employee morale. When team members don’t understand the team’s goals and their specific roles, it becomes very difficult for everyone to work together to deliver results. This can lead to misunderstandings, conflict, missed opportunities, poor morale and high turnover.
Studies have shown that ineffective workplace communication can cost companies an average of $420,000 per year.
Poor communication problems are compounded in a hybrid workplace. Some of the common problems in a hybrid workplace include:
- Inter-team communication is diminished
- Us vs Them mentality
- Relationships between coworkers become very formal
- There is a leadership bias towards those who are in the office rather than those WFH
According to a study done by The Economist Intelligence Unit, the responses received from executives, managers, and junior staff members alike highlighted several key areas where communication breakdowns in the workplace have major consequences for business as a whole:
- 52% of employees said that poor communication leads to higher stress levels.
- 44% of employees reported poor communication causes failure in completing their projects.
- 31% of employees said poor communication causes them to miss their performance goals.
- 20% of employees in poorly communicative work environments said that they experience obstacles in innovation.
- 18% of employees report that poor communication leads to an increase in lost new sales opportunities.
- Rally the team around tech to leverage the digital communication platform you are using like using screen sharing to discuss information that needs to be visually presented
- Create opportunities for chit-chat/casual team building
- Overhaul the meeting format by following best practices to make meetings fair to all, strictly adhere to meeting start and end times, and halt meetings when someone experiences technical difficulty
- Encourage communication between teams by holding company wide meetings or ones with more than one team
Key to make all this work is leadership. Without the right leadership skills team collaboration cannot succeed.
A Gallup research demonstrates the impact of leadership communication on employees at work:
- 7% of U.S. workers strongly agree that communication is accurate, timely and open where they work.
- 26% of employees strongly agree that their manager’s feedback helps them do better work.
- 22% strongly agree that their leaders have a clear direction for the organization.
- Four out of five start looking for a new job when they get negative feedback from a manager.
To alleviate this all leaders must have the following soft skills.
1. Ability to build trust
Leaders will have to work extra hard to ensure remote workers don’t feel left out of important conversations or decision-making, which can erode trust. Leaders must know all their team members personally and make sure their contributions are appreciated on a regular basis.
Feelings of exclusion are magnified in a work environment when team members are not physically together. Leaders have to make a sustained effort to create an inclusive environment. Leaders must be self-aware to make sure they treat all team members equally irrespective of their physical location. Diversity should be celebrated and leaders must encourage participation and development at every level of the organization.
In an office environment making small talk and being physically accessible creates opportunities for open communications between team members and leaders. This is harder to do when team members are dispersed. Calendaring virtual watercooler breaks, proactively checking in on team members one-on-one are some ways in which open communications can be fostered in a hybrid environment.
Creating a successful and flexible work culture
Work culture plays a critical role in the success of a hybrid workplace.
In a recent Deloitte survey of 1,000 white-collar workers, 94% of respondents said they would benefit from one thing: workplace flexibility, in the form of remote work and flexible hours. They cited the top advantages of such flexibility as “less stress/improved mental health” (43%) and “better integration of work and personal life” (38%).
This hybrid work culture needs to fostered by management keeping in mind the following considerations:
- Priority should be placed on outcomes rather than the work process. The work process may need to be flexible as employees may work from home and office on different days of the week.
- Stress individual accountability as it is not possible to constantly supervise people working from remote locations.
- Be selective when hiring to ensure right type of employees are being hired who can work independently most of the time.
- Employees should be advised that they should set up a designated work area at home to minimize distractions.
- Employees should be provided with communication and collaboration tools to make the work experience seamless, irrespective of the location
Impact of technology on team communications in small business
Some of the advantages that technology has brought to small businesses and their communication processes include:
- Real-time communication to speed work processes through chats instead of slow emails
- Connecting with people working remotely which is especially important in today’s hybrid work environment
- Increasing collaboration opportunities by providing tools to easily share information
- Reducing office costs by establishing virtual offices
- High communication security as today’s communication tools are based on secure, cloud-based technology
- Improved customer relations though quick and accurate responses to customer queries
- Wider customer base by being able to service customers all over the world
- Maximized employee engagement
Choosing the right technology for team communication
We have come a long way from using Windows programs on personal computers to using apps on the cloud (desktop and mobile). Cloud based apps makes it easy to access and share information from anywhere at any time. Likewise internal communications have steadily migrated from slow emails to instant chats.
Messages now come from chats, emails, calls, shared documents and even social media. Each messaging medium has its own app. While certainly messaging has become richer, it has also become overwhelming. All these separate apps create information silos that are painful to bridge mentally.
It is important to select the right technology for team communication so these information silos are eliminated and time wasted in searching and the consequent stress removed.
10 best internal communication tools and 9 best practices for small businesses
It is clear that effective communication drives productivity, employee engagement and a faster profitable growth for the company. It is also important that the right technology be adopted for communications that does not create information silos.
- Free and uninterrupted internal communication
- Avoid communication silos
- Use a unified communication tool
- Facilitate remote working
- Don’t lose sight of the big picture
- Use social tools in workflow
- Avoid email overload
- Provide seamless access to cloud documents
- Reduce unnecessary meetings
As it is clear by now effective team communications play a big role in the success of any enterprise and especially so for small businesses. In the current era of hybrid work culture, right leadership, best-in-class integrated internal communication tools and proven best practices are a must-have for small businesses to survive and thrive. This trend is accelerating and all small businesses must hop on board asap.