How to Solve the Biggest Problems of Internal Communication
By Rae Steinbach Posted October 10, 2017
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Poor communication is often at the heart of business failures. From a lack of resources to effectively cover a promotion to product recalls when something has gone wrong, better communication and a more effective feedback loop can avert companies from disasters that damage their reputations and their bottom lines.
Communication Matters: The Basics
Internal communication fails aren’t exclusive to small businesses and startup organizations. Huge enterprises can get it wrong sometimes.
Consider Equifax’s security breach, which affected millions of Americans and left social security and driver’s license numbers vulnerable to theft. Rather than accepting responsibility for the vulnerability publicly and coming forth immediately with the information, they attempted to cover up the breach by enlisting identification protection service company, ID Watchdog.
When it was revealed that the CEOs dumped their shares in Equifax just days after the breach was discovered (and prior to the acquisition of ID Watchdog), Equifax drew widespread criticism and legal attention. If only they had communicated effectively internally to present a coherent and cohesive response externally, they could’ve shown they were taking responsibility for their product and customers. Doing so would have reduced the damage to their company, share prices and the newly acquired business.
IT companies cite poor communication as the number one reason projects fail. Communication is key to businesses running well and creating products and services that are loved by customers who become loyal to the brands that make them.
Mostly we take communication for granted and don’t wonder if our methods of communicating with colleagues and customers are effective – at least until something goes wrong. This is bad for business and can easily be avoided if you know where to start and how to give communication within your company the momentum needed to keep it flowing smoothly.
Below are some of the most prevalent internal communication problems, along with advice on how to solve them.
People are Not Aligned With Your Mission or Vision
You need a clear mission and vision for your company. You also need to communicate it loudly and clearly so your employees feel motivated to come into work each day and have something to achieve collectively.
So, what does your company stand for? Who are you and why do you do what you do? Get multiple leaders in your organization to answer these questions fully, then distill those answers into an easy-to-understand and relatable 2 – 3 sentences.
Once you have a clear mission statement, publicize it on the walls of your office, in your email footers, and repeat it in internal resources. It should be easy to find and understand so that your employees can embed it within themselves, and your entire organization can unite around common goals.
People are Unclear on Goals, Who They Need to Work With, and the Resources Available to Them
When people begin working at your company are they thrown directly into the deep end and left to learn to swim? Or are their responsibilities and role explained and made clear with an induction program.
Unless it is the latter, you’re wasting employee ability and setting your business up for a communication failure. New hires should have a crash course on company culture, core operations, protocols, and best practice. If you leave it up to them, you are conveying that you don’t really care about their progress in their new role and are not a resource for them to turn to.
People Don’t Know How or When to Communicate With Others
Regular team meetings and planned collaboration with milestones for specific projects will empower staff to know when, how, and who they need to be communicating with in the business.
Don’t forget open door policies either; employees should know that feedback and communication within your business is a two-way street. They should feel encouraged to share ideas, concerns, and thoughts about projects, company policies, and ways of working. The collective minds of your workforce are far more powerful than the cleverest leader. Let them know that they are safe to share their thoughts and your company will benefit.
There are No Shared Resources
Don’t waste time continually reinventing the wheel in each of your departments. Not only should you make internal documents and resources available through a shared communication and project management software, but also you should also encourage employees to create internal FAQ libraries.
Providing access to common databases and working platforms will avoid the same data being keyed multiple times. It will also prevent errors that can become costly to your business and further enable fluid communication between departments. Your teams are able to self-teach important skills and ideas; you just need to provide the resources for this and the encouragement to do so.
There’s No Time for Fun
All work and no play makes business a drag. Do something fun together to allow colleagues to build genuine relationships and communication will naturally follow, without the artificial constraints of the working world.
Getting to know each other and having fun doing it through a variety of games or fun exercises on a day out with colleagues can also teach new communication skills. Negotiation and active listening skills, especially, can be improved upon with the added benefit of positive energy being transported back to the office with a happier, less stressed, and more cohesive team.
When you need a break from your screen, get up and take a walk around the office and start a conversation with your team. Get them talking with each other, too. Good communication is your key to longevity and success in business.