There’s a metaphor used frequently as inspiration for business leaders that commands “be like a swan – remain calm and collected on the surface, but paddle like hell underneath.” In other words, don’t let people see the chaos ensuing behind the scenes.
At Clearfocus Training, we sing to a different tune. It’s our view that what goes on in the background directly affects how the public view you in the foreground, and subsequently, damages your bottom line. When businesses paddle like hell, it’s often because they’re sinking under the weight of poor systems, poor processes and poor communication.
If this sounds like your workplace, it’s almost certainly having knock-on effects in other areas of your business. Bad communication is the catalyst for:
- High staff turnover
- Reduced productivity and output
- Poor customer service
- Unhappy members of staff
- Lower turnover and reduced growth
The (slightly) good news is that you are not in the minority. Poor communication affects millions of workplaces across the UK. In a widespread survey conducted by the Economist, 44% said that communication barriers lead to a delay or failure to complete projects. 31% said it created a culture of low morale and 18% said they’d lost sales – some worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Creating a culture of communication
Providing people have the resources and the confidence to communicate effectively doesn’t happen overnight. However, there are a number of ways to get the ball rolling in the right direction and gradually build up an environment that fosters collaboration, team spirit and strong working bonds.
Develop robust communication processes
Generational gaps are one of the biggest headaches in workforce communication. In the same Economist study, only 12% of baby boomers said they used instant messaging and social media at work, compared with 31% of millennials. If half of your organisation are using software such as Slack, and the other half don’t have a clue how to use it, then this will be a barrier to communication. Put processes in place that align with your overall business model, ensuring information is funnelled between the right people quickly and efficiently.
Communication starts from the top down
A strong manager’s ethic will radiate outwards to each individual member of staff. It will be evident in the quality of people’s work, their interactions and their dedication to their role. A good manager will encourage greater collaboration and provide a floor where people can discuss issues as well as ideas. They will exhibit open and approachable leadership traits.
If this isn’t the case, then it might be time for some managerial training.
Provide regular icebreaker activities
This is a great way to get everyone comfortable chatting on a less formal basis. The activities don’t need to be long-winded. They can be carried out before morning meetings or during a company lunch (also a great way to build relationships). Great icebreaker games include:
- Two truths one lie – get everyone to tell three stories. Others in the room must guess which two are factual and which story is a lie
- Jokes – ask everyone to tell their favourite joke. Phones are allowed.
- Personality quizzes – get everyone to do a quick online personality test and discuss the results
- Speed dating – mix up the teams and provide a quick speed networking session so that employees are talking to people they usually wouldn’t have the opportunity to do so
- Electric fence – tie string between two tables or chairs and ask each employee to make it over the ‘electric fence’ without touching it. A bit of silliness always brings people together
Provide a forum for feedback
Employees like to feel valued – like their ideas and feelings are heard. If this isn’t happening, then it breeds resentment and, in turn, low productivity. Feedback sessions can take place in the form of regular online surveys and meetings, or you might prefer to do an anonymous suggestion box.
Really listen to your staff
More often than not, a lack of communication happens because their feedback is falling on deaf ears or changes aren’t happening with your employees best interests in mind. Listening and implementing staff suggestions is an investment, because in the long run your employees will feel valued.
About Clearfocus Training
Clearfocus Training is a mental health and communications training provider. Their qualified trainers work closely with organisations across the UK to determine barriers to growth and performance and make necessary changes.
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Contact us today to find out how we can help you start the process towards positive change in your workplace.