Effective communication in business even within a small company, is no mean feat.
But what is the best way to communicate?
Looking back, how did we manage before the invention of computer networking, email and the internet? In the time I’ve been working there have been huge leaps in the way we communicate in business terms. Communication was certainly dealt with differently, generally based on whether it was to be communicated internally or externally.
In the past, important company-wide internal communication would have been delivered by phone or in face to face using a cascade system. i.e. Director to Assistant Director to Supervisors to Team Leaders to their team. In fact I can clearly remember this happening in more than one company that I worked for.
Less urgent but important internal communications, were posted to employees or even sent round in a folder containing a hand typed internal memo. A cover page with each staff member’s name on ensured we all saw it and each of us had sign to say they had ‘read and understood’ the message the folder contained.
Even though Email was created in 1982, followed by the Internet in 1983 opening up the choices further most staff would still only be using computers for data entry. With the options of Live streaming, video conferencing and emails to deliver these types of messages we have created a greater choice.
However, messages like ‘I just need to take the server down for 5 minutes’ can be shouted across the office but what about those working remotely, or from home? Too many to call individually? What about an email? No, that relies on everyone checking their emails far more regularly than most us do.
As a result, many companies have made use of a multi stranded approach - emails followed up with instant messaging via work mobiles and apps such as Skype for Business, Slack, Google Hangouts and Zoom. Having worked within a large company I found that Skype For Business (and now Teams) has worked well, allowing chat, screen sharing, voice and video.
Business communication between companies can lead to its own raft of hurdles.
Historically the only way to communicate with clients was generally done by post, in person or the phone . In fact the first company I worked for had a ‘runner’ who would hand deliver vital post within the town centre businesses where a same day delivery was of importance.
Once computers were more affordable then the introduction of external email via the internet meant that communication was faster still.
The event of mobile phones on which you could read, compose and send email and then the ability to do conference calling extended the choices further.
Under the current restrictions and having to work from home whereever possible, the luxury of travelling to client site or convenient middle ground for a face to face meeting seems like a dream! Ignoring that aspect however, these are often the best way to deliver important news, when you are in the same physical location, when a new project kicks off and especially when multiple companies are involved. These help to put a face to a name and build better working relationships.
The options for conference calls (with or without video) using apps such as Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams app and the ability to join as a guest allows enables external use of these communication tools even if not part of a company’s standard toolset. I’ve found that this to be a great advantage for both companies, enabling better communication and relationship building when logistics of a face to face meeting in person can’t be achieved or is just impractical. As a regular remote worker for the last several years, I have found this to be a great time saver. The disadvantage here, I feel is people can often talk over each other due to some latency issues.
A good old fashioned phone call is great for one on one, emergency and short meetings. However you can’t pick up on body language i.e. what is not being said.
Messaging via App is great for internal and external communications if you then have a common application as you can then easily see when people are online (if they are being honest!) and get a quick response.
Email is of course great too, you can take you time to compose what you want to say, allowing you time to re-read and add attachments which the recipients can then read at their own pace.
What are the benefits of good communication?
It certainly isn’t about speed, as an email can land in your in box in seconds that may have taken hours to write and still completely be misunderstood.
One thing is definite, never underestimate the importance of communication when it comes to building trust and employee morale.
Any communication needs to be well timed, clearly worded with the audience in mind, have the minimum of jargon or be audience appropriate at least, have visual aids if necessary and ultimately easily understood.
A well structured meeting or communication presented in any medium can increase productivity and morale, resulting in increased customer (and staff) satisfaction.
The choices are varied. The introverts of us will choose the least stressful method wherever possible. The extroverts will likely choose the opposite medium and ultimately we will all have to be guided by company policy. The most important thing about communication is that we do it!
Quality Assurance Manager
Kim is the Quality Assurance Manager for the software development side of Optima Systems. Her focus is to liaise between our clients and our software developers to ensure that we deliver good quality products, on time and within budget. More about Kim.
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