Small Business Tips

How to Communicate Effectively in Business

Nigel Graber
Microphone with Abstract blurred photo of conference hall or meeting room with attendee background|internal discussion among coworkers

One of the many crucial business skills needed to thrive in an office environment, or any workplace that involves interacting with people, is good communication. We'll look at the most-effective forms of internal business communication. But first things first.

Why is effective communication important in business?

It might sound obvious, but effective communication is vital in business. According to research by Willis Towers Watson, organisations with excellent communication policies are 350 percent more likely to do better than their competitors. Here are some reasons why good communication rocks.

1. Communication builds strong teams

When leaders communicate well, they inspire their people to strive for a shared goal. Because communication is clear, employees know their responsibilities precisely and how to carry them out. When the dialogue is open, people are more willing to help others, and they're more ready to ask for help if needed.

2. Communication prevents misunderstandings

Rumours, half-truths and lies. They can bring down your company. But when you have an open and up-front discussion, everyone is in agreement, and you get a more harmonious atmosphere. And differences of opinion are less liable to become issues when they're discussed openly, without recrimination.

3. Communication is the lifeblood of customer service

Giving your customers what they want relies on knowing what that something is. So listen to their needs and answer their questions in a way they can understand. And when they use a medium that demands an immediate response, such as Twitter, make sure they get one.

4. Communication skills can boost your career

Develop finely honed communications skills, and you'll do your organisation some good, and yourself, too. If you can communicate succinctly, both in speech and writing, you'll have a clear, unique selling proposition, or USP, over your peers. You'll get a leg up at work, be rewarded for your achievements, and have an advantage when it comes to job-hunting.So, what are the skills, tips and tricks we should be looking at to improve communication in the workplace?

internal discussion among coworkers

What are some effective communication business tips?

Let's look internally first.It's a changing world. Technology is ever-more prevalent and business is becoming more global. Organisations are developing new ways of communicating. Research indicates that one-to-one discussions and interactive media are the best ways to stay connected with teams.Here are some ideas to improve business communications.

1. Use visualisation

People can talk about what needs to be done until they're blue in the face, but experience shows that it's far more effective for them to show you what they want. Visual learning is a very effective method of business communication.To create information that sticks, consider infographics, a simple and attractive way of presenting information visually. You can create infographics quickly with tools such as Visually and Infogram.

2. Get feedback

Feedback in the workplace needn't be negative. Constructive feedback can develop trust and cooperation. Being open to feedback gives your company an image of enlightenment and progressiveness.Surveys can give you feedback on everything from office culture to recruitment. You should consider some survey tools such as SurveyMonkey and People Insight. Keep the responses anonymous, and you'll get much more honest feedback.

3. Pay attention

There's a difference between listening and paying attention. The latter is a lost art. Next time you're having a conversation at work, don't just listen – make mental notes as you go along.And don't take emails at face value. There's usually a more profound meaning written between the lines. Read the email carefully and then act on the information.

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4. Create positive values

There's a lot of discussions these days about company values. What are they? They're a key part of a healthy corporate culture. Foster a positive and supportive work environment and communication among employees will automatically improve.

You should lay out company values and aim for an open, sharing culture. One company that's done this is Cable and Wireless. The telecom giant encourages the use of internal forums on the company's intranet.

The message boards, the firm says, have "helped to foster collaboration between teams and managers. If a post gets 20 votes, it gets forwarded to the senior management team for review, which means employees at all levels of the organisation can contribute to our success."You could also consider introducing a ‘culture deck'. These are visuals created by organisations that spell out:

  • The company mission
  • The type of recruits hired
  • Detailed company values
  • Tools and styles of business communication
  • Company challenges
  • Management styles
  • What's expected of employees

5. Keep people informed

Secrecy is not the way to create great business communications. You need to be prompt with company news and announcements, or people will listen to watercooler rumour and interpret it as fact.

That doesn't mean emailing everyone constantly. Otherwise, your staff have emails coming out of their ears.Use media such as the intranet and internal TV channels. People absorb information visually better than the written word. So post news and updates regularly with infographics, charts and images. You should share news about such matters as:

  • The company website
  • New recruits
  • Upcoming events
  • Sector news feeds
  • New product and service information
  • Sales figures
  • Vacancies
  • New promotional campaigns
  • Rewards

6. Illustrate using roadmaps

A great way to keep everyone up to date on projects is with a product roadmap. It's a handy visual tool that lets staff know what's required of them before anything new gets launched.A roadmap includes:

  • The vision
  • Detailed features
  • Metrics and key performance indicators, or KPIs
  • Milestones and timeframes

With a roadmap, each team member gets a clear view of their role and where it fits within the end goal. You might consider a useful tool for making roadmaps available from award-winning software company Aha.

7. Stop micro-managing

Hovering over your employees like a helicopter doesn't inspire self-confidence, nor has it been shown to improve productivity.

Instead of this intense micro-managing, consider self-reporting. Deep down, everyone would like to manage themselves. So allow your employees to check in at the end of each day or even the week with a report on progress.

They can do this through emails or short, regular meetings. With self-reporting, employees get to feel responsible for their output without the cloying feeling of being controlled.A tool that allows for easy status reporting will have a positive effect on business communications. Consider a software tool such as iDoneThis, which is used by more than 160,000 people to do daily check-ins and provide meaningful progress reports.

8. Get HOT

Try getting HOT. By which we mean adopting communications that are Honest, Open and Two-way.This method ties in with the business culture and encourages an open environment in which people can speak out without fear of recrimination.The basics are:

  • Always tell the truth – lies will only make things worse when the truth eventually comes out
  • Keep an open management style to promote openness among team members
  • Encourage two-way communication by being receptive to others' views