Best Practices to Improve Company Communication and Team Building
At its core, excellent company communication is when a team member sends a clear message that is then fully received by their counterparts. What’s even more important is that ideas, information and sentiments reach their intended audience in the proper context and through the right channels. Simplified, effective company communication requires the reduction (or ideally, total absence) of miscommunication.
A great example of bad communication is the disastrous Radio Shack email sent back in 2006. An out-of-touch executive thought it was a good idea to fire 400 employees via a curt, mass-addressed, detail-withholding email. You can imagine the chaos that ensued as employees demanded answers—leaving company leadership scrambling to address the very public outrage.
Why is Good Company Communication Important?
The truth of the matter is that no company can afford bad communication. Reticency, miscommunication and misinformation are problems that become more expensive to address the longer they are left unattended. Good communication can mean the difference between a productive, efficient company and one that wastes time and resources continually repeating itself.
The cost of ignoring opportunities to improve communications is substantial. According to Grossman Group CEO and communications guru David Grossman, bad communication can cost companies time, money and credibility. In his book “The Cost of Poor Communications,” he said that companies with 100,000 employees lose an annual average of $62.4 million because of poor communication practices. Meanwhile, team-building and communications author Debra Hamilton said that smaller companies with 100 workers lose an average of $420,000 a year for the same reasons.
Instead of shoveling out cash to fix communication problems, companies can improve internal conversations within the organization by implementing habit-forming practices. When performed regularly, these practices can improve productivity and reduce or prevent miscommunication. More importantly, good corporate communication practices ensure that every member of the organization remains on the same page. This can greatly increase team morale while preventing unnecessary expenditures related to damage control or crisis management.
While this may seem like an obvious starting point, many companies take communication systems for granted. Leaders should take steps to ensure established ground rules concerning employee interaction. Does the company follow a strict communication chain of command? Or does it encourage an open-door policy, where everybody can walk through a CEO’s door (or inbox) and engage in productive banter?
Each system has its advantages and disadvantages, so it’s best to weigh which is more applicable to your company’s unique needs and environment. The most important thing is to start; new companies should especially prioritize putting a system in place as soon as possible. Why? Organizations will always have something to talk about. Having a proper venue to discuss these internal issues is necessary to maintain timely, accurate and clear information.
When establishing a system, the company should establish a communications strategy. It’s exactly what it sounds like: how does the organization plan to communicate? This entails everything from outlining access levels to specific types of information. It also establishes the delivery timeframe and medium of information. Establishing communication standards sets expectations for the entire organization concerning matters such as projects, revenue performance and expansion plans.
Leverage Multiple Communication Channels to Find What Works Best
Modern companies aren’t bound by location anymore. The widespread availability of broadband internet and the relative affordability of smart devices contributed to an office without walls or borders at all. While a majority of firms still maintain a sizable headcount in their company headquarters, many of their workers can be found working from across the world.
Not to mention, the pandemic proved that long-term remote work is completely viable—and can actually increase productivity. Studies show that employees with the option to work from home presented a 5% increase in productivity, despite the lack of direct, in-person supervision. Other studies showed that remote workers are happier, largely stemming from improved work-life balance and eliminating the dreaded commute.
Collaboration Is Possible Despite Distances
Granted, despite its overwhelming benefits, distance does come at a price. A major drawback of remote collaboration is employee availability due to differing time zones. This is why companies should carefully evaluate and choose which channels and applications work best for them when establishing communication standards. In addition, establishing a communication protocol removes the ambiguity of when and how often remote workers should check in with headquarters to align current project developments.
Company Communication In The Age of Flexibility
Flexibility is the name of the game in today’s modern workplace. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic highlighted the need for companies to make communication channels available 24/7. Throughout 2020 and 2021, there were many instances where employers had to notify workers of a reported outbreak in the area or announce a sudden shutdown of operations. With news changing and developments occurring on an hourly basis, it became critical for companies to implement an accessible and instant communication system.
In addition, companies are also looking into offering additional flexibility to their employees through alternate working arrangements, such as remote or hybrid work. Unfortunately, these options aren’t available for all workers, especially those working in front-facing service and back-end warehouse jobs.
For these jobs, however, many employers have eased up on rigid scheduling assignments and now offer flexible shifts and working days. These shift workers and administration officers can thank modern cloud-based communication systems for this flexibility. With reliable communication systems, workers can now call in their preferred work schedules ahead of time. At the same time, better communication allows HR enough room to fill in the gaps before a shift begins.
Trim Down on Unnecessary Meetings
If lack of communication is a major problem, the overabundance of conversation is also a cause for concern. Too many meetings highlight too many issues. In addition, too many interactions also leave little time for workers to actually work.
Popular movies often parody the stereotypical unnecessary meeting with protagonists grumbling that it was something they could have resolved over email. What can we say? Art imitates life! This is why it’s important that employers carefully reconsider the urgency of taking other people’s time and energy before calling for a meeting. Specifically, company leaders should ask themselves some qualifying questions before pulling the trigger:
- Is this meeting worth their time as much as it is worth mine?
- Is a real-time conversation necessary to get the project moving forward?
- Will an alternative means of gathering input produce the same output?
If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, you likely don’t need to call for a meeting at all. Once you master the art of making meetings a necessary last resort rather than a go-to, co-workers, subordinates and other collaborators will thank you for valuing their time.
Note that there are alternatives to grueling meetings. Regular status updates sent to all team members can often resolve small matters and reduce the need for a bigger alignment meeting. One-on-one conversations with key players can often produce more insights than mass meetings. In many cases, sharing presentations that track the audience’s reactions can better capture viewer insights.
Micromanaging? That’s a Thing of The Past
Few business terms come across as more negative than ‘micromanagement.’ To be fair, that management style does have a few advantages. Highly experienced seniors can usually share and instill their effective work habits and methods by drilling practices into their subordinates. Additionally, micromanagers often provide the needed support to co-workers who are too timid to ask for help. Unfortunately for fans of micromanagement, the tolls heavily outweigh the benefits. As a result, micromanagement is largely seen as a relic from a bygone era of office work.
Why do most experts want micromanagement to end? Because the system punishes more than it rewards. For every person who benefited from their boss shadowing them during office hours, there are countless others whose productivity declined, lost their passion or even quit entirely.
More Cons Than Pros
Micromanagement is often seen by employees as the manifestation of a lack of trust. Usually, these are managers who don’t want to risk their team members losing a sale, not hitting a target or not accomplishing a task. As a result, these managers insist that subordinates apply their exact experience and tactics to achieve the desired result. A constant dose of daily micromanagement usually produces three types of workers:
- Workers who experience burnout when the trust they expect to gain from undergoing micromanagement never arrives.
- Employes who won’t decide on anything unless they ask for permission first. These workers also won’t risk taking the initiative on anything out of fear of disapproval.
- Workers who resent excessive management overtures. They will eventually push back and rebel against authority or quit without hesitation.
Considering all of this, it does seem fitting that micromanagement faded during the renaissance of remote work and flexibility. Micromanaging an employee is easy if you’re physically together, whether that be at the office or in the field. In remote work situations, however, micromanaging is nearly impossible. Unless both manager and employee have a dedicated micromanagement tool outside of their workstations, keeping tabs throughout an eight-hour shift is simply unrealistic.
Respect Employee Off Hours
Part of a great company communication system is knowing when not to contact employees. Before the pandemic, many worker groups pushed for the imposition of absolute boundaries for managers communicating with subordinates after office hours. For example, in 2021 the French government passed a law that effectively banned companies from contacting employees outside of their assigned work hours. Portugal, Germany, Spain and other countries also have ‘disconnect laws’ supporting workers’ rights to proper personal time.
As shown by the French law on working hours, there is definitely a growing worldwide interest in setting boundaries at work. Many advocates are now pushing for industries to respect the line between work and personal life. The pandemic’s preference for remote work arrangements complicated things a bit when workers had to literally work from home, further blurring the lines of work and play. However, the argument for increased work-life balance remains a valid argument to respect off-hours and weekends.
Disconnecting From Work
Company communication-wise, a manager who keeps trying to call employees beyond their work hours often displays a lack of boundaries. It also suggests the lack of established communication systems or even an acceptable work schedule. Subjecting employees to after-hours questions or work requests ultimately undermines any efforts to establish a proper communications system.
Supporting workers’ rights to disconnect from work during their rest days goes far beyond earning your employees’ gratitude. Respecting their off-hours can give employers a quid-pro-quo that’s often conveniently ignored in discussions over workers’ rights. Respect goes both ways. If workers expect management to respect their off-hours, management would rightly expect workers to give it their all during their time on the clock.
Consider Doing “Stay Interviews”
Exit interviews are the norm for companies that want better insights into what causes employees to pack their bags. However, the very nature of exit interviews means that, by the time the session concludes, it’s too late to turn things around for that employee. While changes and improvements can be implemented based on outgoing employees’ feedback, they won’t amount to anything for the departing employee.
Knowing this, there is little incentive for departing employees to really go in-depth in their participation during exit interviews. Many also fear that their reasons for leaving may be taken negatively by the company and further complicate efforts to collect their last paycheck or secure future references. By saying nothing and leaving quietly without stirring the pot guarantees a painless, cordial exit.
Instead of looking for insights from workers on why they want to leave, why not ask existing employees their insights on what makes them stay? Instead of an exit interview, conduct a stay interview.
The Great Resignation of 2021
The wave of worker resignations in 2021 prompted many companies to revisit the factors that make people stay or leave their jobs. With new hires going at a premium rate and entire industries competing to hire talent, many HR managers are focusing on employee retention to stem the tide of resignations.
The benefits of stay interviews are far greater than exit interviews. It allows employers to correct an issue before losing a valuable worker. Doing so also places value on feedback and makes the employees feel appreciated and heard. Considering that many employees quit or formed unions because they felt unheard, many will find stay interviews refreshing. This constructive feedback loop can also help attract outside talent that’s waiting on the sidelines for offers from progressive companies.
Leverage Corporate Newsletter Releases
A company newsletter is a great internal communications tool that helps keep all employees informed. However, this is assuming that workers actually open the email and read through the contents. According to HR platform Backstitch, the open rate for a typical company communication newsletter is around 65%. And opening an email link doesn’t even guarantee the viewer reviewed the contents.
Newsletters should remain an integral part of company communication. They offer the quickest way to disseminate information to the widest possible audience. Apart from delivering the news, newsletters can serve as the de facto board for frequently-asked questions (FAQs) and act as a neutral forum for current company issues. They can also promote upcoming company events and programs, feature client success stories and highlight exemplary employees.
How to Make Employees Notice The Corporate Newsletter
The challenge for many companies today is to make their corporate newsletters highly accessible and engaging. While layouts can attract attention, the quality of the content will ultimately lead to repeat interest. Instead of making email newsletters pop out, newsletter designs should allow casual viewers to scan the contents immediately. This helps them locate the news they want by clicking on the related link. Content should have something that many employees can relate to, cheer for or at least find joy in.
In addition, consider the channel for the employee. Does everybody in the organization (or at least the majority) use a PC or a device that receives email or alerts? If yes, an email-based newsletter remains the best option. However, organizations with the bulk of employees stationed on the manufacturing floor or warehouse will appreciate hard copies they can read during their breaks. If you publish it where they can access it, they will utilize it.
Make your Team Feel “Connected”
At this point, many companies have now begun to accept remote work as part of the company culture. It begs the question: does your company communication strategy include providing your remote workers with the support and recognition needed to stay engaged with the job? Even as remote work bridged the physical gap between workers, HR managers must ensure that nobody loses out on the benefits of working in the office. Not to mention, not all work-from-home workers have family or roommates to engage with at home. There have been too many cases where workers developed mental health issues from their continued isolation during the pandemic. It’s your job to support your employees in their jobs; your company’s communication programs should have mechanisms to minimize the negative effects of remote work.
Reconnecting Remote Workers Through Inclusive Company Communication
Companies now recognize the need to provide support for remote teams to keep everybody engaged and connected with the office. Recognizing the existence of remote teams is a great first step in acknowledging the fact that workers are doing their jobs from their homes. This means that when drawing up programs, schedules and activities, the company should tailor them to meet remote employees on their terms, rather than only considering those of in-person employees. Additionally, team leaders, executives or HR officers may want to check in on remote workers periodically under a wellness program banner. This can help reconnect remote workers to the company’s social network instead of limiting interaction only to work-related conversations.
The company should consider upgrading its tools to make its systems more remote work-friendly. Email, while dependable, can use some assistance from instant messaging apps, chats and video conference software for real-time communications. It also pays to upgrade file sharing systems to accommodate large file sizes, as many mail systems have a very small size limit for files attached to messages. These things help level the playing field between remote and in-person workers, which is a hallmark of inclusive company culture.
Provide Constant Retraining
Training should remain a continuous process. Limiting your employees’ training to onboarding and compliance sessions severely limits their chances to do more or further excel at their jobs. Companies that offer employees continuous learning opportunities are often the first ones to benefit from newly-acquired skills and knowledge.
Companies that choose to stay idle—whether that be due to budget limitations or an unwillingness to adapt—will often see their best people walk out of the door. TalentLMS reported that 62% of workers who recently resigned said they would have been more inclined to stay at their jobs if they had more training and learning opportunities. Another 41% said that the lack of career progression was the main reason they quit their last job.
It’s Always Better To Promote From The Inside
Apart from addressing the ongoing brain drain, companies will find it far more effective to offer continuous learning programs for their workers. Technologies, systems, processes and approaches are evolving to become cheaper, faster or more efficient. The skills that your employees currently possess can very well become obsolete overnight if you don’t provide them with continuous training, learning opportunities and upskill programs.
Not to mention, promoting from within is a great motivator for the entire organization, as it's viewed as a merit-based approach to filling management positions. On the financial side of things, it’s always cheaper to train existing employees to fill other positions than to rely on a revolving-door hiring policy.
Implement an Open-Door Policy
Another example of excellent systemic company communication is having an open-door policy within the organization. This means that even the lowest-level employees have a voice that they know they can use. The open-door policy is exactly what it claims to be—an open door. Low-level employees get unobstructed access to a manager’s office, with permission to speak their unfiltered minds about the company’s policies or decisions.
But why does management allow this? Conflicts are inevitable, especially for growing companies. Letting differences of opinion or arguments get out of hand is often the unwanted result of passionate minds clashing. An open-door policy recognizes the freedom of expression while promoting a culture of mutual respect and cooperation between management and workers. It’s a great way for executives to get feedback from workers. In return, employees are free to speak their minds without worrying about the implications of doing so. Basically, the open-door policy eliminates invisible barriers hindering effective communication. As it becomes comfortable common practice, this can boost company morale and encourage a healthy exchange of ideas.
Be Clear About Individual Tasks
Great company communication means sending a clear message to the entire team. This ensures that objectives and expectations do not get mixed up during transmission. Individual tasks need to be spelled out to avoid confusion about roles and responsibilities. When everybody knows what to do, everything tends to get done within the appointed time and budget.
We all know what happens when individual roles are loosely defined and responsibilities remain vague. Conflicted workers will most likely play it safe and not do anything, which ultimately halts progress. This leaves supervisors and managers having to pause remaining operations to sort out the mess. Regardless, productivity is dead in the water. The project is hindered as blame needlessly gets passed around. Even worse, when untoward incidents happen, it’s likely that no one will step forward to accept accountability as the company insists that it was a case of miscommunication.
Usually, documentation is necessary to establish role ownership and accountability. Each team member is given a list of specific duties and responsibilities, which should be put into writing. The manager or supervisor then takes the time to go over these duties with team members and make sure they understand, accept and own accountability. This way, it becomes clear to everybody what the job is all about and what deliverables are expected from each specific team member.
Incorporate Fun From Time to Time
We’re all humans and most of us prefer to work to live instead of the other way around. Sometimes, it’s great to share moments of letting your collective hair down to have some well-deserved fun. Activities can be as simple as playing charades in the conference room during break times or as full-service as a company-wide sports festival that lasts for days.
In a business sense, having fun at work helps workers take a break from the pressures of deadlines and deliverables. It helps that happier people are more productive and satisfied with their jobs. Engaging in friendly banter or playing games with co-workers encourages collaboration and assistance. They also enhance trust and acceptance among members.
Fun Times Need Timing Too
Like every organized activity, timing plays a key role in organizing fun activities. Holding a sports festival on a date close to a project deadline almost ensures limited participation. Those joining the activity are likely more concerned with their next-day deliverables. It’s best to save major activities for celebrating milestones—like company anniversaries, big-ticket project completion or revenue announcements.
Make Feedback a Two-way Process
When giving subordinates critical feedback on their performance, a leader should be ready to receive constructive criticism as well. Managers who implement good company communication practices understand a two-way conversation yields better results than one-sided talks.
The same goes for constructive criticism. One-way feedback mechanisms are less acceptable as they denote the entire evaluation process from the manager’s perspective. Instead, leaders should also ask employees to make self-assessments of how they view their job performance. In addition, managers can ask their subordinates what they think should be done to improve the process.
Managers who show a willingness to accept input and adjust accordingly can earn more trust and respect from their team members. Contrastingly, managers who come in to evaluate the team based solely on their single perspective won’t receive any sympathy from them in times of need.
Do Not Take Diversity For Granted
Good communication sometimes means that the medium is the message. Take diversity for example. No amount of good PR or website content announcing a company’s support in matters involving diversity will be more accurate than its actual policy. In matters involving race, religion, gender, education and so on, what a company actually does paints a clearer picture than what it says it does. In times of social tension, workers will look to their team members for cues. They might choose to rally around this issue if a company chooses to express ignorance or refusal to take a stand. On the other hand, having the courage to embrace diversity means making all employees feel safe and comfortable in the workplace.
At this point in modern business history, diversity is no longer a matter of debate. Companies that are unwilling to embrace diversity or recognize that today’s world lacks tolerance for those who lack tolerance are facing the loss of not just their reputation, but also of their clients and revenue. Conversely, companies who choose to get with the times will find that embracing diversity proves to be a far more profitable choice.
Innovate Your Team Building Activities
If you’re one of those companies that implement team-building activities from the get-go, then hats off to you! You already recognize that shaping your individuals into a tightly-knit, well-oiled team means that they can do more for the company. However, depending on the same old team-building activities from decades ago might rub off on your employees as unimaginative or repetitive. Why not consider alternative ideas for your next corporate retreat?
First off, great team bonding sessions don’t have to involve complex obstacle courses set in far-off places. Breaking your company into smaller teams instead of pitting departments against each other can lead to better individual activities compared to an all-in-one extravaganza. This also allows actual teams within your organization to conduct their own custom bonding sessions. One team could opt to try to solve an Escape Room together while another would prefer to spend a day fishing on the lake. Communal events like organizing an environmental cleanup or performing community service can appeal to some of the teams dominated by younger workers. The point is to enhance the team aspect without necessarily resorting to competitive means.
Whatever team activities you decide to prioritize, make sure to involve the teams themselves. Holding the same activities every year might prove wearisome for veterans in your teams. Plus, there’s no suspense in that. Think outside the box!
Promote a Sense of Belonging
Employees are more productive, more confident and more at ease if the company actively promotes a sense of inclusion and belonging. If every worker believes that the workplace offers a haven for them, they should experience no distractions while delivering the work expected from them. A foremost example of this is providing accessibility options for disabled workers. It’s not just a matter of building access, but also a matter of offering career advancement and upskill opportunities for qualified individuals.
Diversity, which we covered previously, is one of the three components driving the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives found in progressive offices. It’s all about recognizing individuality and welcoming everybody just the same. Make sure that your organization’s policies and values promote a sense of belonging to all of its members. It doesn’t have to focus solely on diversity. Inclusion can mean recognizing special interest groups, hobby clubs and like-minded individuals. It could also mean lending support to common causes that don’t espouse hate, bigotry or exclusiveness.
The best way for companies to demonstrate inclusion is through the benefits and incentives it offers their workers. For example, honoring team members during celebrations of their unique backgrounds and contributions (Black History Month, Pride Month, etc) can send a stronger message of support than any old press release could.
Celebrate as a Team
Another indicator of successful communication in an organization lies in the way it celebrates victories. Recognition remains a very big deal among a majority of workers and a lack of it is often enough reason for some to look for a new job.
Celebrations are not only a great way to recognize the hard work and effort of teams, but they also serve as a refreshing break before workers embark on a new challenge. Having teams immediately cling to a new objective after completing the previous one can seem highly impersonal and unappreciative. Employees might get the impression that the company only cares about getting the work done and not the people doing the work.
In reality, giving recognition to performance is an easy matter to standardize. Teams have projects that have set objectives and timelines that leaders can track. Achieving these goals and delivering projects on time and within budget are more than enough reasons to express appreciation to hard-working team members. In addition, company milestones—like quarterly and annual performance, stock events (IPO, etc) and anniversaries—are also great occasions to celebrate with the rest of the company. It doesn’t have to be a huge party as team dinners, a small party in the break room or awarding prizes can be great motivators. Whether it’s small wins or big victories, everybody loves being recognized for their contributions.
Recognize and Reward Good Work
Apart from team accomplishments, companies can also benefit from recognizing individual achievements as well. However, most companies institutionalize recognition by setting intervals on when and where employees can receive awards. Think employee of the month and employee of the year awards.
However when management realizes a particular employee is working hard while echoing company values at the same time, isn’t that the best time and reason to give recognition to the worker? Instead of waiting for the end of a fiscal period to reward exemplary job performance, companies should evolve to recognize good performance as soon as they identify it. This is a faster way for employees to realize that the company’s search for excellence is a year-round occurrence.
Use Company Communication Solutions That Promote Flexible, Collaborative Work
The shrinking global workplace and the growing popularity of remote work mean a reduced dependency on face-to-face communication. However, collaborative work remains a given. Thankfully, many channels are available that can address the geographical gap between co-workers. Apart from the venerable email, there’s always the option to engage in conversation over the phone. In addition, chat applications and video conferencing software allow for real-time conversations to continue without a hitch.
The popularity of remote collaboration tools also means that working together is no longer a problem between workers scattered across countries or time zones. Files and documents can be easily zipped around the world in seconds via cloud storage and SaaS subscriptions. E-signature apps remove the need to physically transport documents for approvals and signatures.
Finally, cloud-based presentation software that allows teams to collaborate is a welcome addition to the modern employee’s set of tools. These interactive software lets team members work together in perfecting their projects before sending them off to clients or superiors.
Before You Go...
Are you looking for presentation software that promotes collaboration while supporting company communication strategies? Ingage is cloud-based presentation software that creates dynamic, interactive presentations that encapsulate the whole story. Team members from different locations can collaborate on a single document and come up with well-thought-out, well-designed and well-informed presentations that can convince even the most discerning clients. Powerful analytics features also mean that Ingage can identify which sections held the client’s interest and which ones could benefit from another look.
Let Ingage help your team increase their collaboration efforts. Contact us today so we can arrange a powerful demonstration for you.