How to build a strong connection through every level of your business
Every business has a hierarchy of some form. There are the decision makers and the action takers — and tradition says that the two should have a tinted shield between them.
However, in recent years, samples of this shield have been torn down for testing and rays of transparency have started to peer through. The results have been clear: a stronger connection for people in all roles and responsibilities results in a far more successful business.
In fact, the recent Holmes Report found that companies with effective communication strategies have more engaged employees, a far lower turnover rate and 47% higher returns to shareholders. To delve even further into the monetary value, of the 400 corporations surveyed, it was found that $37 billion was lost due to employee misunderstanding or a fault in communication.
These facts and figures offer a compelling argument to address your communication strategies, but the reality for many business leaders is that it’s a huge challenge to face.
When you spend years developing a culture, regardless of how it affects the productivity of your company, it’s very difficult to break. The majority of these businesses have very few guidelines that would suffice as a ‘communications strategy’ — the usual way of talking to each other would have simply fallen into place over time.
It’s also very common that these ingrained structures of communication evolve around that tinted shield, to “protect the hierarchy”. What decision makers often fail to realise, however, is that this “protection” is also an isolation tool — creating a rift between the decisions that are made and the way that they are executed.
From where I stand, there are three key steps that you can take to save your business from joining the list of those who lost $37 billion because of simple weaknesses in communications.
Create a space for company-wide conversations
Give your employees a platform to speak out to everyone across the board. Slack has become increasingly popular amongst a whole range of businesses for providing that space, but some companies have developed their own internal messaging service, too.
Regardless of which service you choose to use, the criteria should be simple: everyone needs to be able to access everyone, and there needs to be various opportunities for people to share ideas, information and questions.
By empowering your employees to use their voice and giving them a space to share their knowledge, you’re protecting the future of your business.
It develops a far stronger culture of accountability across the board. Leaders become more accountable for ensuring their team are informed — making it harder for “lack of communication” to be a key factor in a person’s decision to leave. In turn, employees become more accountable for their work.
If you’re still not convinced, the National Federation of Independent Business published a report on the reality of instant messaging services at work back in 2010. They established five major benefits that are still important to note today:
You can archive group and individual chat logs to be easily referenced at a later point
You can enable seamless collaboration with team members from off-site locations
You can productively manage multiple conversations at once
It offers a stellar opportunity to break down language barriers when text works better than voice
You can eliminate those long-distance calling fees
Make communication a habit
The biggest reason why culture-shifting strategies struggle to get implemented into a workforce is because of the ‘better the devil you know’ concept.
Why ‘slack’ my colleague when I could just walk over to their desk? It worked perfectly fine beforehand.
Maybe, but it’s also entirely likely that those “it’ll just take a minute” questions throw major curveballs into your colleague’s working day because they’ve been distracted from a project that requires their absolute attention.
It’s also easy enough to think: “I don’t really need to send this monthly newsletter out to the team, they all know what’s happening” and “only a few, minor things have happened since our last weekly conference call, so there’s no real need to have one”.
However, there are two things to consider here:
1. Chinese whispers is not just a child’s game: it’s an example of how easy it is for people to get the wrong end of the stick on a very small issue.
2. Not everyone does know — or, listen to — everything.
By holding regular face-to-face meetings with both your entire team and the individuals within it, as well as using your instant messaging service to give them an insight into the reality of the business, you’re enabling people to feel more connected to the company — and, in most cases, more loyal.
Challenge, listen and adapt
There’s nothing wrong with following in the footsteps of companies who’ve ‘got it right’ when it comes to building a stronger connection with your team. However, their strategy will never be entirely right for your business.
Communication is about people — and people culture is different in every business.
In the same way that you would with developing your products and services, you need to be challenging, listening and adapting your communication structure to fit your audience.
Whilst it’s important to speak with your employees to see how they’re feeling at work from an intrinsic sense, it’s also important to challenge your strategy from an evidence-based viewpoint. There are a range of variables that you can consider, but the majority of businesses place more emphasis on the following:
● Customer loyalty and retention (to indicate your customer service team’s efficiency)
● Costs of employee turnover
● Employee engagement and morale, or lack thereof
● Number of missed opportunities due to a misunderstanding
● Lost revenue because of miscommunication
● Product or service quality and development
Don’t get carried away in having the best new technology, focus on establishing a strategy that ensures transparency and support to people on every level — as well as increasing the productivity across the board.
By lifting the tinted shield and blurring the hierarchical divide, you enable the decision makers and action takers to work closer together and grow your business even faster.Mark Cushway is the CEO of the Inspired Group of companies and is passionate about employee welfare, engagement and motivation. Connect with Mark on Twitter and LinkedIn. This blog post is also available as a podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud.