Proper communication is the bridge between perplexity and understanding. While a good communicator builds understanding, a poor communicator sows confusion in the recipient.
Data and expertise have no real meaning without a person or intricate system in place to build and share knowledge in the most efficient way. Just as people need good communication skills to navigate life, organizations require business communication technologies and techniques to ensure success.
Because every business process requires work between two or more individuals, businesses have a responsibility to make sure that best communication practices are standardized. Read ahead for a comprehensive overview of business communication and how it benefits the workplace.
Quotes on the Value of Communication:
"The art of communication is the language of leadership" - James Humes
"The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said" - Peter Drucker
"Communication and trust are the two key important aspects of a relationship" - Anonymous
What is Business Communication?
Business communication is how information is shared between stakeholders within and outside an organization. By using proper communication, employees and managers can collaborate to meet key objectives. The purpose of business communication is to streamline processes, optimize organizational best practices, and minimize error.
Every single task and activity within an organization depends on communication in one way or another. Because most tasks require team members to work together, an organization must instill and support good communication practices.
A business environment that supports proper communication is more efficient, saves money, and has a higher quality of the outcome. Conversely, a business that fosters poor communication methods results in core systems falling apart. There also tends to be a decrease in employee morale and an increase in customer relationship problems.
The Importance of Communication in Business
Whether information is shared by customers or employees, best practices must be put in place to ensure the best results. This is particularly applicable when an employee must share bad news with a customer or manager.
How unfortunate circumstances are presented can determine how a situation is handled. Even positive news must be conveyed properly or the recipient won't know how to use the information given to him/her.
Some of the most important reasons for effective communication include-
The need to present choices and new ideas to various stakeholders
The ability to optimize written communication to convey important information
Provides the evidence and confirmation needed to optimize decision-making
Assists in generating contracts or agreements that best serve the interest of both parties
Ensures the ordering process is accurate, streamlined, and fulfilled promptly
Useful in promoting effective sales and marketing strategies
Optimizes meetings and ensures everyone understands the information conveyed in those meetings
Ensures new employees are adequately trained and informed on the requirements of their roles
Without effective business communication practices, it is nearly impossible for an organization to reach key targets. For example, a company cannot reach annual sales goals if the sales strategies aren't effectively communicating the benefits of a product/service to the customer.
A marketing campaign won't attract new customers if the message is an advertisement that isn't clear and concise. In summary, communication is essential to every internal business unit and every external stakeholder that is involved with the organization.
The Benefits of Business Communication
While constructive business communication is important to ensure a company's success, it also offers several advantages that can help to provide a competitive edge. These include-
1. Optimizes Employee Engagement
When the leadership team uses powerful communication techniques to help employees know what they need to do and how experts have assessed that employee engagement increases dramatically.
If there are communication teams within an organization, they should constantly work with leaders to develop effective communication tactics for this reason. Engaged employees tend to perform better and maintain employment for a longer time frame.
2. Minimizes Emails
Modern software tools can hold large quantities of data in one location, which allows everyone to access the information they need when they want it. This helps to minimize back and forth communication through emails, which can flood inboxes and cause confusion.
Other software applications allow workers to communicate through a chat system, which stores the conversation in case it needs to be accessed at a later time. This streamlines communication and prevents duplicate data that leads to inaccurate and poor decision-making.
3. Increases Worker Productivity
Because most organizations collect large quantities of data, it can often be difficult for employees to find the answers they need. A knowledge management system or office automation system can help optimize worker productivity by ensuring everyone has access to relevant data. Workers can then share knowledge and focus on problem-solving, which leads to an increase in productivity.
4. Improves Cross-Communication Between Business Units
Without a centralized database or dashboard system that connects departments, it can be challenging for employees from different business units to communicate effectively.
An optimized set of software tools can integrate databases from several departments and provide customized views of the same information. This allows everyone to collaborate to complete tasks and streamline workflows.
5. Enhances Communication with Remote or Off-Site Workers
Most software systems allow remote worker access from any location. Time clock software provides a way for workers to clock in and out without ever being in the office. Because remote work is increasing due to COVID-19, an organization must utilize these tools to ensure everyone can communicate properly.
6. Minimizes Worker Turnover
Because hiring every employee is expensive and tedious, maintaining low turnover rates is essential to save time, money, and resources.
While it's critical to inform employees by utilizing effective communication software tools, it's also imperative to not have information overload. Businesses should upload and share only the most relevant and applicable data to prevent disengagement, frustration, and a high turnover rate.
Types of Business Communication
Business units employ different technologies, tools, and methods to optimize communication internally, and between other units.
Furthermore, the requirements for information sharing can shift depending on who the conveyer and recipient are.
While it might not be out of the ordinary to walk over to a coworker's desk to convey a message, it's not as typical to approach a manager in this way. To better understand the intricacies of employee-management communication, it's essential to know the 4 types and how they work-
1. Internal Upward Communication
This refers to information that is shared by a subordinate to a member of the management team, or another worker with higher seniority.
Leaders need to ensure information easily flows upwards so they have a comprehensive understanding of operations. Communication methods may include forms, reports, or feedback given by the subordinate to the manager.
2. Internal Downward Communication
This is information that flows from a manager or enterprise leader to a subordinate. Typically, internal downward communication involves emails, phone calls, and/or verbal commands.
It is critical for enterprise leaders to be thorough when conveying information to a subordinate. This will prevent confusion and mistakes before they occur, while ensuring best practices are in best to help everyone complete tasks.
3. Internal Lateral Communication
This type of communication occurs between regular employees in the organization. Mechanisms for information sharing include emails, database inputs/uploads, phone calls, software messaging systems, or in-person discussions.
Because this type of communication occurs most frequently, effective technologies and tools must be utilized to share information. Good internal lateral communication techniques and tools result in higher employee productivity, greater self-confidence amongst workers, and a lower turnover rate.
4. External Communication
External communication is any type of correspondence between an internal worker/manager and an external customer or vendor. Though this type of communication happens less frequently than all of the others, it is still highly important.
Customers don't always have all of the inside information needed to fully understand a problem or situation. Sales and customer service representatives should be properly trained to communicate with customers without overloading them with unnecessary information. Poor external communication techniques can result in a loss of customers and revenue.
Examples of Effective Business Communication
Poorly performing companies should first research their communication methods to pinpoint inefficiencies and bottlenecks before rushing to create a new product/service.
Simultaneously, established and effective companies can also benefit by further optimizing and upgrading communication technologies.
Though these organizations may be successful, implementing the proper systems to streamline collaboration can lead to further growth opportunities. How have successful companies optimized their collaboration systems? Here are the top examples-
1. Utilized an Intuitive User Guide
This is often referred to as a technical communication document that is used to teach a user how to operate a system.
Make certain to include only relevant and applicable information, providing clear instructions for those with the least technical capabilities. Having a user-friendly manual allows employees to reference and find the information they need, when they need it.
2. Acted on Customer Feedback
The organization should employ a specific worker to aggregate and read through any feedback to pinpoint problem areas.
If several similar complaints have been made, the company must find ways to resolve the problem. Furthermore, communicating those results to customers and thanking them for their input can greatly improve client relationships and optimize the brand.
3. Utilized an Agenda for Meetings
Most employees can't remember everything they hear in a meeting. Using an agenda with brief summaries for each point can help to convey the purpose and main elements of the meeting. An agenda can also prepare employees to bring all relevant materials and knowledge before hearing from management.
4. Knew How to Apologize
Every business has made a mistake at one point or another, but admitting it is more difficult. Covering up a problem, lying, or manipulating information can destroy customer trust and ruin a reputation.
If a manager expects a subordinate to write an apology note for a large mistake, the customer will probably be more upset. Corporate apology letters can be a useful tool to convey a problem, mistake, or area of concern. It helps to build back trust and ensure customers know that the owner takes the situation seriously.
5. Maintained Authenticity
Though it's important to be professional when corresponding with customers and employees, it's also helpful to be authentic. Using light humor or a creative analogy can help to convey a point and diffuse a tense situation.
Many corporations struggle to brand themselves as relatable to consumers. Utilizing small-business tactics by minimizing overly-professional communication can build trust and strengthen existing relationships.
How to Improve Business Communication
If employees are not communicating properly with clients or each other, an organization will suffer. Both managers and workers must foster and utilize proper communication technologies/techniques to streamline workflows, ensure productivity, and optimize customer relationships. Here are the top tips to improve business communication in the workplace-
1. Utilize a Quality Email System
A quality email system can ensure the right messages are sent to the right people while minimizing irrelevant information.
The organization should use a spam filter so workers aren't overwhelmed by junk mail. This will also ensure that important messages from management are received.
It's also essential to train employees to use the best subject lines possible to alert the recipient as to the importance of the message.
2. Encourage Face to Face Interaction
Communicating face to face allows employees to interconnect more efficiently, as correspondence through email or phone can often be misconstrued.
Often, writing an email and following up in person for important matters can be the best method to convey a point. However, don't use face to face interactions to convey long or complicated information, as the details can be easily forgotten in the process.
3. Utilize Instant Messenger
Email chains can include duplicate information, back, and forths, or outdated information. Using an instant messaging system allows workers to interact immediately without waiting around for a response.
Users can usually upload documents or pictures to share communication data. Organizations can also create a customer service messaging system that allows clients to interact with a representative online and receive basic answers to questions.
4. Schedule Meetings Regularly
Scheduling regular meetings can help to keep team members informed about new policies, procedures, or processes that help them better perform their jobs. It also creates a safe space for members to ask important questions or give feedback that can help the organization eliminate problem areas.
5. Have an Open-Door Policy
When workers feel as though management is unapproachable, morale and productivity decrease. Management should be friendly, professional, and available to address concerns and answer questions.
Though it's important to set communication standards and implement boundaries between management and workers, it's also imperative to maintain an open-door policy that encourages open dialogue.
In conclusion, here are the key takeaways to remember about business communication-
Business communication is how information is shared between stakeholders within and outside an organization.
Business communication optimizes employee engagement, minimizes emails, increases worker productivity, improves cross-communication between business units, enhances communication with off-site workers, and minimizes worker turnover.
The four types of business communication include inward upward verbal communication, inward downward communication, internal lateral communication, and external communication.
Examples of effective employee communication include an intuitive user guide, acting on customer feedback, an agenda for in-person meetings, apologizing, and being an authentic person
Best practices to improve business communication include using an optimized email system, encouraging face to face interaction, utilizing an instant messaging system, scheduling regular meetings, and having an open-door policy.