Your bottom-line depends upon smoothly flowing communication within your company. In an efficient organization, seamless flow of accurate data in and between departments is vital for creating a pleasant customer experience. With inefficiency, the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, the customer will suffer.
If one of your company’s goals is to increase customer satisfaction through better internal efficiency, take these steps to improve your company’s internal communication:
Develop a strategic plan. To get your ducks flying in formation, your employees all headed in the same, correct direction, they must know which way that is! A strategic plan clearly sets the direction for your company.
Set goals. Company-wide goals are the foundation for strategy and create homogenous work effort. Think of them as the building blocks that allow you to achieve your strategic objectives.
Make sure everyone knows and understands the company-wide goals. In the ideal environment, employees help set the goals making actual communication of those goals unnecessary. For many companies, however, it’s often a small group of top management setting goals which then need to be clearly articulated to the entire workforce. Understanding and then buy-in are critical to achievement of goals. If employees don’t feel the goals are realistic and achievable, they won’t bother with them.
Translate company-wide goals to departmental or team goals. Once everyone knows the company’s final destination, the harder part is to tackle how you get from where you are to where you want to be! This comes down to each department or individual setting goals that will contribute to company-wide success. Remember that success is incremental — set small achievable goals that everyone can feel good about.
Progress meetings. Once departmental goals are in place, regular progress meetings should occur. These meetings should be attended by the entire department and include an update on the status of the goal effort, any newly identified impediments to the goal, and revision of the methods or even the goals as necessary.
Interdepartmental results. The departmental results should then be shared with other departments. If any department is breezing through their goals, they need to share their methods and expertise with others. In contrast, if a department is struggling, they may need outside assistance.
Interdepartmental results can most easily be shared at regularly scheduled meetings. If your company spans several states, a conference call will work sufficiently. Remember that communication is a two-way process. This is a time for an exchange of ideas, not just a one-way street.
Publicly reward achievers. Goal successes should be communicated throughout the organization. Typical ways to get the word out are:
± company-wide meetings
± a company newsletter
± broadcast email
± social functions
By publicly acknowledging success, you create a culture of positive self-expectation at your company.
Everyone needs to know. Company management often makes the mistake of informing only a “select” few about company news. This is a serious mistake and only fuels negativity and ill-will. The more open you can be with all information, the more efficient your organization will be. Forget everything you learned about disseminating information on a “needs-to-know” basis. The more all employees know about your entire company and its operations, the more efficient (and profitable) you will be.
Timing is everything. When you have important company news, bad or good, when people receive the news is critical. Ideally in an efficient organization, everyone learns the important news at exactly the same time. The more inefficient the organization, the greater the time lag between the first to know and the last to know. When internal communication is severely lacking, the person most needing the news is often the last to know.
Informal communication fosters better formal communication. If your company needs better internal flow of communication and teamwork, you may find that playing together outside of work will facilitate more open communication. Many of our employees have been raised not to interact with or question authority. A bowling league, softball game or other social activity can help break down communication barriers caused by position or title.
Create an “open-door” atmosphere. Employees should be encouraged to have open interaction to facilitate company goals. Direct communication is always preferable to the traditional “chain of command” style where an underling never speaks to the person at the top.
Identify communication bottlenecks. Often our actual work processes create communication breakdowns. It is vital to identify where problems are occurring, and change those work processes to avoid communication bottlenecks or worse yet, communication errors. This is where flow charting work processes and paper flow can be an enormous help.
So in summary, if you want happy customers and a fat bottom-line profit, improve your internal communication. Begin with a definitive company strategy clearly articulated to every employee. Translate that strategy into goals which are either achieved or modified. Create an environment where goal information can flow smoothly between departments, where employees can talk to one another constructively regardless of department or authority boundaries, and where work systems are constantly being improved.