As a business owner, you dedicate much of your time to communicating with your clients. While this is crucial for your business, equally important is communicating with your employees. Internal communication touches every aspect of your business from announcing the onboarding of a new client, to introducing a new product to your business line. No matter the size, industry, or type of company you own, I recommend having an internal communications process embedded in everything you do.
An internal communications process allows for the exchange of information between all members of your organization, which will save you time and money. In fact, companies with effective internal communications processes experience 47% higher total returns than those that are not effective at communicating.
I’ve outlined below 3 key elements to help you establish an effective internal communications process.
- Have the Right Mechanisms in Place to Keep Employees Informed
Your internal communication mechanisms must be strategic, in order to be targeted and the most beneficial. Consider your company’s current mechanisms, from the methods of communication it uses, to the way your company engages with and seeks feedback from your staff, to the way it measures if the mechanism is successful and identifies any issues for future change.
Choosing what mechanisms to use depends on your size and budget. If your company has multiple locations, you may decide to invest in passive, large-scale communication options to disseminate information. Creating an intranet (a private network only available to a company’s staff) is one great option. If your business is smaller, consider using more conventional communication channels such as an internal newsletter, e-blast, Director’s blog, or notice board. I have even seen some companies benefit from using social networking sites as their primary means of internal communication. More directed options could include Breakfast Briefs for front-line staff, a monthly Director Communications Day, scheduled Director Q&A drop-ins, or Lunch & Learns.
No matter what mechanism(s) you choose, the bottom line is that employees have access to a platform where they can receive important company information so they stay abreast of the information they need to do their job.
- Creating a Two-Way Loop
Having great communication mechanisms in place is vital, but ensuring that they consistently generate engagement between management and employees is a key step. It is imperative that business owners and managers actively respond to feedback received and ensure a loop is created, as opposed to a top-down form of communication. By acting on the honest feedback reported by employees encourages more of the same – staff telling it “like it is”.
- Measuring the Mechanisms
To ensure that the communication mechanisms you choose are working effectively, incorporating measurement indicators, such as scheduled weekly face-to-face meetings with actionable items reported for follow-up, anonymous employee surveys offered at quarterly or annual company all-staff meetings, or through specific activity surveys through the intranet, could help identify gaps, what is or isn’t working, and what methods of communication work best for your employees.
Regardless of which avenues you choose, the main goal is to ensure employees have several effective paths available to them where they can communicate with senior management and feel heard.
Communicating with your employees is essential for the productivity of your business. Does your company have an internal communications process in place?
As a business owner, you know how important it is to keep things fresh and innovative in your workplace, but when making changes, you’ll need to consider how your plans might impact your employees.
If you are in the process of job redesign where employees are assigned new roles that play into their strengths and contribute to a more successful business, these changes can be stressful to your employees. If someone has been hired for a particular job and then he or she is suddenly expected to perform a different role in the organization, tension and stress can result.
A recent report found that 46% of 1,018 Canadian employees recently surveyed had taken time off work or noticed other employees taking sick leave following workplace changes, a common symptom of a stressed-out workplace.
I’ve outlined below a few tips on how you can shift roles in your organization without contributing to employee stress:
- Share your vision.
Why are you doing this? What is this change going to accomplish for your organization? Sharing this vision with employees will allow them to understand exactly why this is happening, and help them find their part in it.
- Keep the lines of communication open in regards to role change.
Ask employees how they feel they can contribute to a new role and encourage conversation. By doing this, you can evaluate each employee’s strengths and weaknesses, while giving them an opportunity to work in a new role they would truly enjoy.
Make sure employees stay up to date as things begin to shift. For example, when you have made some final role decisions, send out an email to all staff informing them of the new structure. Keeping everyone in the know will ensure a smooth transition process.
- When your employees begin their new role, make sure they feel supported.
Assuming a new role can be challenging, especially if the employee doesn’t have a lot of previous experience in the position. Positive reinforcement can go a long way, as employees are less likely to experience stress when they report a positive and supportive workplace culture.
In today’s workplace, you need to keep things fresh, but maintain a balance against a backdrop of inclusiveness and communication. Learning how to handle change effectively is what will keep your team on the right path to growing your business.
How have you successfully restructured your business?
One of the biggest challenges I have seen many small business owners struggle with is that of delegation. Most owners started their businesses on their own being the person who does everything and so letting go or delegating can be difficult from many angles. Let’s face it, if you continue to do everything, then why do you have staff and how can you ever hope to grow your business?
Delegation means letting go of the day-to-day tasks associated with that responsibility, but by no means does it mean completely letting go of that responsibility. In other words, if you have hired a sales person to take on the responsibility of sales for your company, although you may not be making the sales calls, you do need to ensure that your sales person has the right sales processes, sales metrics and that they are in fact the right person for the role.
Without the right processes, metrics and people in place, it’s likely the onus will fall back on you to get things done. Sounds familiar? Letting go isn’t easy, but having a proper delegation structure in place will allow you to focus your energy and resources on building a successful business. Here are my recommendations for effective delegation:
1) Have the right processes
Ensure you have the right processes in place to ensure that the task or responsibility will be done correctly and in accordance with your standards. For example, if you are delegating writing you will need to ensure what type of writing, how much time the writing should take, what structure the writing must have, what approvals are required, what source materials, and how the writing must be started. The process needs to be written down, explained to the person who you are delegating it to, and followed up with by you to ensure the process is being followed.
2) Measure your success
The only way you can truly know if the process is working right is to measure its effectiveness and subsequent success. To measure the success of the objective, you may want to consider KPIs as they are an effective way of measuring key business objectives, as are analytics. There are numerous measurement tools available, so finding the one appropriate for your business is important. Whatever metric you choose should be spelled out and communicated to the person taking on the delegated task or project. They need to understand that they are being measured in their responsibilities.
3) Have the right people
In a previous blog, I discussed the importance of building a solid team. Ensuring you have the right people working for you means that you can delegate appropriate tasks with the confidence they will be completed accurately and efficiently. Trust and communication are two qualities that can make or break a business. In my many years as a business advisor, I’ve witnessed numerous business owners cycle through employees simply because they had the wrong person in the role who was not fully capable of handling the responsibilities despite having the right processes and metrics in place. Invest wisely in securing the right team. With the right team in place, you’ll experience no hesitation in delegating important tasks and responsibilities.
Delegating is what most business owners crave – you want someone or something to take the huge responsibility of doing it all yourself off your shoulders. Have no fear, by ensuring you have the right processes, metrics and people in place will mean you can lessen your load, and free up the much-needed time to do what you have always wanted to do: focus on building your business.
For many small business owners, the idea of group health benefits is not even on their radar. Many would rationalize this as a “large company” benefit and too expensive for a small business. However, with the ever-present issues of employee recruitment and retention, employee benefits, from a small business perspective, is not a human resources issue, but rather a business decision worth considering.
As a business owner, it’s ultimately your decision if you want to offer group health benefits or other benefits to your employees, but I’ve outlined a few key questions you might want to consider when reviewing benefits for your employees.
- Is this part of an employee recruitment/retention strategy? Employee group benefits have become a standard part of an employee contract for most mid- to large-sized businesses as they can make potential and current employees feel they are valued and taken care. It can therefore play a key role in the decision-making process when candidates are deciding to work with or stay with you versus your competition. By offering groups benefits, are you evening the playing field in this regard?
- What is the demographic makeup of your employees? Take a look at the make-up of your employees: if they are mostly single, or millennials, they might be less likely to need or want health benefits. However, if they are older, with spouses and dependents, they may want, or even need a group benefits package. You may also want to consider the type of industry you are in; an office environment with full-time staff might have very different expectations than a construction company with seasonal, part-time, or contract staff.
- Can you afford this benefit? Group benefits can be costly to a small business, amounting to thousands of dollars per employee per year. How do you rationalize this benefit against potential pay increases, bonuses, etc.? Look at your bottom line, and specifically your recruitment costs and what you perceive as the “benefit” to offering this benefit to your employees.
- How can you define a benefit? In a smaller company with only a handful of employees, you may want to consider offering a benefit, but not a group health benefit plan. I have heard of several business owners who offer employees an annual lump sum cheque to cover medical or dental benefits or have their employees submit receipts for medical or dental expenses that are then paid for by the owner.
- What do they want? Decide on a couple of scenarios that you can afford and logistically implement and then speak to your team and get their opinions on group benefits packages vs. other benefits options. You may find that some employees want a benefits plan, or your employees would prefer to have a small cheque made out to them to cover medical expenses, or they may come up with an entirely different type of benefit.
The point of this exercise is to decide as business owners how you can show your current employees and future employees that your company is one that values employees by offering them what is valuable to them in terms of a benefit.
As a small business owner, have you ever considered offering benefits to your employees and if so, what type of benefits? What has the response been like?
As discussed in my last blog, a business is only as strong as its team, I shared with you why having a strong team is so vital to your business’s success. Once we as business owners understand the value of a strong team, the natural next step is how to create that team and how to measure its success.
There are several key elements to building and measuring a strong team—from defining roles, ensuring communication, to celebrating successes and measuring progress. I’ve outlined four key elements that you’ll need to consider in building a successful team.
- Define and Value Roles
In addition to a job description, ensure your staff have their responsibilities clearly outlined. Clearly defining what it is the team member is responsible for, as well as how it plays a part in the overall company, will help in understanding the value their position plays in the overall growth of your company.
- Openly Communicate
Open, or two-way, communication is a key aspect in running a successful business. Your employees rely on you to communicate your expectations to them and to provide any information or training that may be required.
From a feedback and measurement perspective, communication is key. Create not only an onboarding document which outlines your expectations, but also develop a feedback mechanism for them to communicate their progress or any difficulties they may be experiencing. You can establish weekly or daily meetings with them and ask them to create a report, which gives you an overall perspective on how they are progressing and managing tasks.
- Celebrate Success/Embrace Failure
If an employee or team accomplishes something in the workplace, celebrate it! No, you don’t have to throw a big party with cake, streamers and balloons, but even the simplest recognition like a personalized email acknowledging their accomplishment can go a long way.
However, if mistakes happen, use them as a learning opportunity not just for that individual, but also for the entire team. As a business owner, it’s essential not to place blame or point fingers when something goes wrong. The goal of your team is to work towards the future of the business, so learning from mistakes should make for a valuable lesson moving forward.
A team is non-existent without collaboration. Collaboration can be achieved in many ways – through effective communication, sharing of knowledge, and peer support. Ensure you have built in opportunities for collaboration, which might be regular team meetings, in-house lunch and learns, one-on-one meetings, etc.
Roles often collide and allow employees to work synonymously together. If we think back to the restaurant analogy, a cook would not be able to plate food without clean dishes, nor could a server serve the food if the tables are not cleared.
Lastly, team building and measurement is an ongoing process in which you play a vital part. Allow yourself the time to invite your team to share in your goals and help you achieve them. Just as no man is an island unto himself, no company can be built without a strong team.
What do you and your team hope to accomplish for the remainder of the year?
With over 30 years of experience, I’m often asked by business owners how they can take their business to the next level. While there are many ways of doing this, such as marketing initiatives, sales strategies, staffing and the like, I always stress one important factor that tends to be overlooked – the foundation of a solid team.
As a business owner, you’ve likely hired staff to support your operations. If you haven’t hired any staff yet, it’s likely just over the horizon if you plan on any form of growth in the near future. Strategic staffing ensures you are hiring not only the right person for the job, but someone who will support the vision and future growth of your organization. When hiring someone to fulfil a role, ask them what their values are and how they think they align with your company’s mission. Simply put, just because a candidate has a certain skill set, it does not mean they are a good fit for your company. Having a team mentality with cohesive goals will foster a dedicated work environment built for success. If your team encapsulates members who are willing to grow as individuals, both professionally and personally, there’s a good chance they’ll want to apply that opportunity for growth to the growth of the company. Taking the time to mentor your employees will result in unequivocal benefits for both parties involved for years to come.
Further to aligning values and goals, balanced skill sets will ensure you have a strong team. It’s important to remember that as individuals, it’s human nature to have both strengths and weaknesses. The strongest team is one that encompasses skills of all sorts that complement each other in a synergistic manner. Similarly, there must be a good balance between leadership and peer support. As a business owner, you should strive to lead your team to success through empowerment and motivation, but most importantly, through example.
One thing that I have observed in organizations is that there is sometimes a lack of effective communication within teams. As individuals, we tend to think that everyone we interact with wants to be communicated to in the same way that we do. However, this is not always the case. While one person in your organization may like to talk things through, another might like things written down. Learning how to effectively communicate with your team will allow for a more productive workplace and will ensure that your goals are always successfully met.
Ultimately, a strong team will only thrive if trust is established between team members. In my next blog, I’ll discuss in more detail the best ways to build a strong team and how you can go about measuring their success.
Do you think you have the right team in place to achieve your company’s goals?