In any business structure, communication is key to getting things done. This holds true for large and complex operations with multiple departments, many shareholders, and numerous consumers.
It’s just as relevant to individuals who function as the sole operator of their venture. Even they need to know how to communicate effectively with their current and prospective clients if they want to thrive.
The fundamentals of business—delivering a product or a service to meet a need—could not exist without communication methods. The digital age has made these methods more diverse.
In some cases, the results have been revolutionary; making it possible to conduct almost all aspects of business anytime, anywhere. But with so few limitations and so many evolving communication channels, new problems have cropped up throughout the workplace.
For all the productivity made possible with email, instant messaging, video conferencing, social media, etc., communication issues have become a major drain on even the most productive business organizations.
Are these problems simply a result of humans getting together and trying to make something happen—and are only amplified by technology—or is the complexity and diversity of today’s professional communication tools to blame?
Common Business Communication Issues
With technology, physical barriers to communication are being eliminated one by one. Communication methods, whether text, voice, or face-to-face, can be accommodated through all types of hardware and software capabilities. But, this also means that it can be easy to get bogged down by too much communication, coming from too many sources, at all times.
The potential for overload and redundancy can quickly nullify any productivity gains. Even though it’s become more intuitive, technology can make it easy to forget that how we communicate, even in a professional setting, is personal. We all have different ways of giving and receiving information and sometimes modern communication tools can fail to account for this.
Email may be perfect for one type of communicator and an absolute burden for another. Video chatting may feel completely natural and effortless for some, but for others, it feels excessively time-consuming or stressful. It’s not always the human factor that creates a communication disconnect; sometimes pairing the wrong tool and process is the issue.
For example, corporate communication apps and direct messaging programs can be very restrictive. That’s not always a bad thing as this can foster clarity, efficiency, and focus, which is excellent for staying on track and gathering only the most essential information. But, they can be a detriment for hashing out more complicated and nuanced situations.
When communications tools limit the way information can be expressed or received, and alternatives are not available, simple misinterpretations, misunderstandings, or gaps in information can rapidly spiral into complicated situations.
Obviously, professional communication problems don’t end with these examples, but there are some communication improvement strategies that are widely applicable and beneficial for all types of organizations.
Organization Strategies For Better Communication
Proactive and adaptive communication strategies are fundamental to all businesses. And while shortcomings are common, they are fixable. The most impactful way to do this is to accurately identify the root cause of communication problems and the extent of their reach. That means examining which processes, tools, and behaviors are causing the most disruption.
Simply creating a discussion between relevant parties is a good starting point. For example, suppose there is a reoccurring team communication problem that affects multiple departments. In that case, it will be important to actively hear and consult with all affected team leads and members. This is the best route to an accurate understanding of the situation.
Leaving someone out might mean mistaking a faulty communication tool for an interpersonal problem, or missing an opportunity to simply readjust reply expectations or reiterate instant messaging policies. If the communication issues stem from employee behaviors, conflicts, individual disagreements, or misunderstanding of certain policies, then it may be necessary to introduce or reinforce guidelines.
Even small teams that enjoy a more casual approach to workplace communication should have an established policy on what’s applicable and appropriate. If the communication issues are caused or worsened by a specific tool, such as a glitchy app or cumbersome program, then it may be necessary to reevaluate. Not all professional communications tools are created equal and they should be scaled and tailored to specific needs.
This also applies to non-proprietary methods, like email and voice communication. When all team members understand the right tool for the task, this will help in avoiding future conflict and confusion. Taking the time to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to best practices is essential.
This means everyone knows the how, who, and where of giving and getting information—whether that means knowing what constitutes confidentiality, how to schedule a meeting, or who to contact when a situation gets complicated.