It takes a village to build a great company. But when people don’t communicate with one another, even businesses with enormous potential struggle to get off the ground.
Issues of communication often disguise themselves as other problems. Low morale and dips in sales could be symptoms of more systemic challenges in your communication processes and culture. When people don’t have the right workflows, tools, and social structure, they struggle to get the information they need or neglect to pass along knowledge that could help others.
Not all communication problems are visible.
If your company experiences any of these problems, you may need to address the way your team handles communication.
1. Missed Deadlines
No one enjoys going to a postmortem meeting for an incomplete project. One employee who always turns in late work may have issues with time management, but when entire departments struggle, blame communication.
Eliminate issues with deadlines by using project management software and email best practices to ensure everyone knows the status of every project. When people can see who does what and when, team members can hold one another accountable and pick up the pace for the good of the group.
Do team members frequently blame one another for missed deadlines, bad results, or cultural issues, such as disrespect? If so, they likely don’t know how to communicate effectively with one another within the company’s environment.
Sit down with individual team members, and ask them to talk through the specific times they felt others let them down. Usually, they’ll tell you about instances they wish co-workers had informed them of changes or needs before tasks became time-sensitive emergencies. Encourage employees to use communication platforms like Slack to hash out issues individually before they get frustrated and assign blame.
3. Siloed Production
How often do team members come to you or other managers looking for information they should have received from colleagues? Frustration with communication standards can lead to an over-reliance on management. That wastes the time of both the managers, who have to solve the issues, and the employees who would rather get the work done without outside intervention.
Better work management practices can help team members stay informed. Project management software company Teamwork suggests designating project management stakeholders so you can get everyone you need involved in a project. That helps keep projects from getting siloed and ensures buy-in early on.
4. Difficulty Providing Feedback
When team members can’t provide specific feedback about what they would change, they probably don’t have the information they need to do their work in the first place. Frequent issues with bland or unhelpful feedback could suggest that your teams don’t communicate effectively between major meetings.
Work with managers and employees to create schedules for weekly one-on-ones to prevent issues from falling through the cracks. Help team members follow workflows that provide steady feeds of information to others working on the same projects. For example, instead of siloing information in separate documents, team members could collaborate in G Suite to leave comments and create a trail of information for all to see.
5. Unclear Responsibility
In environments without clear lines of responsibility, no one takes full credit or blame because no one’s quite sure what anyone else does. When you attempt to track problems to the source, you end up running in circles as team members point vaguely toward one another. Projects fail between the lines, and no one knows why.
Every project or initiative should include a point person. Teach employees to designate an individual to be responsible for every deliverable. That way, instead of trying to figure out whether the graphic designer or the copywriter should have talked to the sales team sooner, everyone knows exactly who is responsible for following up.
6. Low Morale
Offices with good communication enjoy great cultures. Even when things go wrong, people who know how to communicate tackle problems together. On teams lacking good communication systems, low morale becomes common as missed deadlines and tense exchanges pile up without the catharsis of open talks.
People take things personally when they assign personal or emotional motives to actions that may have simple, inoffensive explanations. By setting up better communication channels, giving employees the tools they need, and encouraging team members to assume the best of one another, you can keep morale high.
Communication issues create ripple effects of negativity, but you can take simple steps to improve communication among team members. Establish expectations on how to use collaborative tools, and invite employees to reach out to you and to one another. After a few weeks of deliberate improvement, you will be amazed by the results.