Improving Communication in the “New Normal”

by | Jul 17, 2020

If you’ve ever worked in the corporate world, then you know that most of us aren’t great communicators. Even at work.

One manager comes to mind as I write this. He was a brilliant guy who could do almost anything. And maybe that was part of the problem. You see, this man had a difficult time communicating his thoughts into tasks for his team. When he couldn’t quite explain a project or idea, he often completed the project on his own.

But one person cannot fulfill the roles of an entire department. And, as you can guess, he couldn’t sustain the extra workload for long. Ultimately, the lack of communication led to distrust among his team, missed deadlines, and a lot of frustration.

Poor communication is frequently a problem for businesses. But it’s a problem that HAS to be solved. As we establish a “new normal”, where more employees are working from home and technology is replacing a lot of the one-on-one connection, it’s more important than ever to communicate effectively. Both within our companies and with prospects, customers, partners, and vendors.

An article published on FIPP.com said this:

“This is a challenging time to be alive. Health concerns, global fear, financial impact… The world as we know it has turned upside-down, and in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, many companies are cutting marketing and communication budgets to save costs. But we’ve got a different take on it that may help you: if long-term survival is your goal, now may be the best time to keep communicating.”

Amongst all the studies being done right now, there seems to be a common thread…people want more and better communication. Consumers want to know how companies are keeping them safe and still fulfilling their needs. Employees want reassurance that their jobs are intact. And they need to know how the company plans to move forward.

Even after fear of the coronavirus dies down, we’ll have already established new patterns for how business is run.

According to Gartner, 74% of companies plan to permanently shift to more remote work post COVID-19.

If you’re one of them, then it’s time to get any and all communication issues worked out. Because poor communication leads to low engagement, unhappy employees, and additional (often costly) concerns.

Or, if your long-term plan is to return to “business as usual”, there are still some important communication lessons we all need to learn.

The Importance of Internal Communication

I’m not normally a stats guy, but I recognize the need to know what the data says. So here are some important communication statistics for you:

  • According to Gallup, 74% of employees feel that they’re missing out on company information and news.
  • Inc.com shared that employee productivity increases by 20-25% in organizations where employees are connected.
  • Research done by Towers Watson revealed…”Organizations with effective change and communication programs are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers.”

Bottom line…when employees feel like they know what’s going on in a business, they become more engaged. They’re more productive. And they perform better at their jobs.

When they don’t feel “in the know”, production suffers. Frustration increases. And the skills and talents your employees possess cannot be used effectively in helping you grow.

The Importance of Customer/Prospect Communication

You know what kills sales faster than anything else?

Distrust. A prospect’s or customer’s belief that they don’t matter to your business. Or that you’re no longer interested in making their lives better, easier, more enjoyable, etc. And when communication breaks down, that’s the message your contacts are inadvertently getting from you.

If you want to stay in business, you’ve got to communicate frequently and clearly.

The article published by FIPP.Com mentioned:

“Additionally, Everlytic’s [a digital messaging platform] email stats show that the overall open rate in March was really high (roughly 55.3 million unique opens) – like, close to Black Friday 2019 stats (56.5 million unique opens). So, people are reading. As overwhelming and destructive as this crisis is, it won’t last forever. And when the dust settles, it will have made a difference to your clients…that you kept engaging with them. This kind of brand loyalty can help your business get back up and running faster when all this is over.”
So why is communication one of the first things to go when the budget gets tight? If your prospects and customers want to hear from you, and simply communicating is what sets you apart from other businesses, why wouldn’t it be your priority?

How to Communicate More Effectively

Communication isn’t one of those things you can say, “Hey, let’s be better at this,” and suddenly you are. It’s a continual process of improving little by little. But if you keep the following ideas in mind, you’ll see a marked difference in how well you, your team, and your community interact.

Be Consistent

Lack of communication is almost never intentional. It’s the by-product of not planning ahead. Your employees and your community need to hear from you regularly.

For your community – send a minimum of one email a week. Post on social media daily. Text occasionally. And when something like a pandemic happens, be there for your community every single day.

For your employees – send a weekly email. Or, if you’re a smaller company, schedule a 15 minute stand-up. Talk about employee concerns. Reiterate the Vision of your company. (We’ve got a great blog post on that topic.) Be transparent about the growth and struggles of your company. And make sure your goals are clearly and regularly articulated to your employees.

Be Relevant

For your employees – a lot of office communication is unnecessary. According to Sanebox, the average inbox contains only 38% important, relevant emails. This means 62% of the emails in the average inbox are not important.

Teach your employees (and possibly yourself) to be more discerning about when and how they communicate with each other. If you succeed in cutting down on irrelevant content, then the information you most want to share will have more impact.

For your community – respect their time by only offering content they requested. Segment your contacts whenever possible. And check in once in a while to find out what content your community would like to receive from you.

Furthermore, transparency with your community is nearly as important as transparency with your employees. Share timely and relevant updates. Especially when customer concerns are on the rise.

Listen

For your employees – open the lines of communication. Right now, your employees are scared. They want to know they have job security. They want to know that your company can and will weather this storm. They can’t be productive if they’re concerned they’ll be unemployed tomorrow.

Listen and validate employee concerns.

Give your employees more methods for sharing their thoughts and opinions. Does your culture encourage debate? Are employees comfortable sharing their ideas with management? Do you hold quarterly reviews and give your employees equal amount of talk time?

The more methods for a real exchange of ideas you can offer, the more your employees will trust you.

For your community – as you check in regularly, ask for feedback. Find out what issues your contacts are struggling with most. And then incorporate those strugglings in creating offerings your community can actually benefit from.

Be Redundant

Speaking is not always synonymous with communicating. Sending emails is a method of communication, but it doesn’t guarantee a connection was made. Just because words were exchanged doesn’t guarantee meaning was properly communicated.

And this one is true of your communication with employees, prospects and customers, vendors, and anyone else you interact with.

If necessary, over-communicate. Get your employees to over-communicate. Don’t leave any margin of error. Every person on your team should know what’s expected, who’s doing what, and what they and your community can expect from you.

Once you realize it’s importance, repetition is easy.

For example, after a phone call or a Zoom meeting, I like to send out an email that looks like this:

Hi [NAME],

Thanks for jumping on the call with me today. I felt like our conversation went well and we’re on the same page as far as [GOAL YOU BOTH WANT TO ACCOMPLISH].

By way of quick recap, this is my understanding of what we’re going to do moving forward…

My Tasks:

[TASK 1 IDENTIFIED DURING THE CALL]
[TASK 2 IDENTIFIED DURING THE CALL]
[TASK 3 IDENTIFIED DURING THE CALL]
[TASK 4 IDENTIFIED DURING THE CALL]
ETC.

Your Tasks:

[TASK 1 IDENTIFIED DURING THE CALL]
[TASK 2 IDENTIFIED DURING THE CALL]
[TASK 3 IDENTIFIED DURING THE CALL]
[TASK 4 IDENTIFIED DURING THE CALL]
ETC.

Let me know if that accurately reflects what we discussed. And let’s keep this line of communication open as we move forward with our goals.

Too many people jump off Zoom meetings or phone calls feeling like they’re on the same page. But a day or two down the road, objectives are lost and verbal commitments are forgotten. Leading to unproductive “but I thought you said you were going to x, y, z” conversation.

With a little repetition, communication frustration can be kept to a minimum.

Be Rhythmic

The best businesses create planning and execution rhythms so their teams can take targeted, coordinated action as one unified team to achieve their goals. In essence they build communication opportunities right into the leadership rhythm of the business to ensure that they always make time and space for the communication needed to plan and execute well.

Trust me. Once you establish a planning and execution rhythm with the right communication happening annually, quarterly, monthly, weekly and even daily, you will see great improvement in the engagement and performance of the team. A great communication rhythm is part of the secret sauce of any successful business.

Again, communication skills are not necessarily innate. Most of us have to be consciously trying to do better. But you have to take the lead. The better you communicate the more it will be reciprocated and the better your results will be.

If you want more proven, practical systems and processes for how to build effective communication into the way you run your business day in and day out, you should learn about the Elite Business Growth Method. We would love to help you make great communication a way of life in your business.

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