In an office full of competent employees, one of the top thieves of productivity is miscommunication. The failure to send an email or memo, misplacing a file, waiting for hours to contact a superior or teammate because they’re in a meeting — poor communication plagues offices around the world.
These lost hours, of course, add up. A survey done of some of the world’s largest companies (100k employees and up) found that, on average, $62.4 million were lost each year due to poor communication. Now, before you go crying crocodile tears for the billionaire business owners who may have lost that extra retreat to Cabo, remember — the same problem is affecting businesses of all size, all over the place.
Sure, the small accounting firm on the corner may not lose money of that magnitude — they may not see that much money come through the business over the course of a year, let alone lose it — but chronic lack of communication is effecting businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Luckily, there are ways to make your office communication more effective. If you’re looking for some tips or products that will make communication in your office faster, smarter, and more effective — and you should be — take a look at the following:
1) Instant messaging
Instant messaging isn’t just effective for Millennials who have never actually spoken to anybody face-to-face; it can actually be a boon for productivity in just about any office. With instant messaging apps that have
Check out apps like Skype or Brosix, which allow for long-distance communication, file transfer, and more. These services are more than just glorified text messaging — they compartmentalize all important office communication and provide an easy source for interactions.
2) Meet one-on-one with your team
You’d be surprised how much you’ll learn about your team’s ops when you take some time to meet one-on-one with your team’s members. It may seem like a hassle at first, but the value of a one-on-one meeting with your employees opens a lot of doors for improved productivity.
A meeting like this will give you a clearer picture of what an average day is like for your employees, and will show you the largest culprits of time-theft in their days. Most employees aren’t purposefully wasting time, but they may have something they can improve at that will save the company money.
3) Meet as a team
As is the case with your one-on-one meetings, team meetings shouldn’t be excessive, or you run the risk of becoming unproductive due to over-communication. However, when you have team meetings, take a minute to ask your team or department what they think could improve office productivity. (Hopefully, they don’t say “less meetings.”)
This communication allows you to source information, finding common threads among employees that will tell you how your office can improve. In fact, these meetings will often show how you can improve as a manager.
4) Include other departments
When you meet with your team, it’s a good idea to have a rep from another department be a part of that meeting. If you know that your work is influenced by another department, bring their manager in, and conference with them and your team as to how communication with their department can be improved. They can take this feedback to their team, and vis-versa.
5) Too much is better than too little
While inordinate over-communication can hurt an office, it’s better to err on over-communicating rather than under-communicating. Don’t run the risk of having something important be missed just because you didn’t want to seem like a nag.
Your individual communication skills are vital here, as you’ll have to figure out ways to communicate with your team without discouraging them, but know that, in an environment where everybody has a lot on their plate, sometimes it’s helpful to say something more than once.
6) Know when to talk and when to write
In the ideal office, a perfect balance must be struck between verbal and written communication. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that all policies and procedures be put in writing, but to also be personally accessible to employees when they have questions.
Don’t count on people to remember a new policy unless they can see it and reference it, and don’t allow your advice to be misunderstood as a result of a hurried email. It’s often quicker to have these conversations face-to-face, anyway.
7) Implement suggestions and improvements
The best way to kill communication is to ignore it. If you receive feedback that you think is valuable, be proactive in implementing it. If your team comes to you, individually or as a group, with ways to improve communication, the most valuable thing you can do is to start finding ways to improve that communication.
There’s no reason for poor communication to kill an office’s productivity, and it is your responsibility to make sure that as little time, and money, is being lost as possible. No office is perfect, but your office can be better than the rest.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.