If you’re a small business, you’re likely working closely with your colleagues – probably face to face in the same room. Most workplace communication in small businesses is either verbal, direct communication or emailed correspondence. Yet a breakdown in communication and an inefficient workflow is a surprisingly common problem that befalls many small teams. Imagine it this way: you email, or verbally assign a coworker a request, but within a week both you and the coworker have forgotten the request. The task remains incomplete.
Another problem with replying solely on emails and verbal communication is the risk of emotional strain or resentments due to the frustration from poor communication and slowed workflow. This creates negative workplace tensions and interactions. It isn’t likely that anyone on your team is trying to sabotage the workflow, forgetting tasks is simply human nature. If an assigned task isn’t forgotten about altogether, efficient workflow can still be impeded by an incorrect interpretation of the assigned task. Task completion and overall efficient communication in the workplace can be drastically slowed or impeded if you rely solely on either verbal directives or email. Even when you email your requests, it could forgotten about or lost altogether amongst new incoming messages, they may mistakenly delete your email or your email may go to their spam inbox for a myriad of reasons – something as simple as an attachment can cause this.
It’s important for small business owners to select a proper method of communication in the workplace – for everything from vital tasks to simple to-do items. Here are the critical factors that will determine the best method, technology, or program of communication for your team.
If your team is together every day, then you may want to invest in a simple Kanban board. Made popular in tech startups, the Kanban board is now a universally used tool that will streamline your company’s agenda and make it simple to visualize your itinerary. The Kanban board is basically a blank white board that you can customize for your own needs. You can make simple columns that list urgent items to-do today, completed items and long-term goals for the entire company. Or you can make it specifically organized to list each employees name and their tasks for the day or week. Either way, team members can grab post-its off of the wall, complete them, and then put them in the “done” column with their initials on the stickers. This makes work a sort of fun race and gives employees a bit of competition, since they can see their colleagues’ progress.
If your employees are working remotely, then you may want to use Trello to communicate. Trello works like a Kanban board, except it’s online and allows you to set timers and alerts for tasks that need to be completed at particular times. It also allows you to customize your to-do lists and choose which ones you share with particular people. You can even assign specific tasks to various members of your team We use Trello here at Funding Gates for efficient task assignment and all communication in the workplace concerning project statuses.
You may need to share more than to-do lists. For example, some IT companies need to share security sensitive code and simultaneously communicate about the nature of the code. For those in tech, Codebase is a code repository with a communications platform. It not only allows users to make changes to their code, but also allows for communication with the project management team so that the entire crew is on the same page.
Level of Discourse
Your team may be an ad or marketing agency that works on two to three campaigns at a time. You may need to chat a lot in order to brainstorm and delegate tasks. In such cases, it may be wise to use chat apps such as Gchat, which is built into Google’s email, Gmail. The beauty of Gchat is that you can go from writing to video chat in seconds, should your conversation need further discussion. Then, once you’ve sorted out your needs via video, you can confirm the tasks via chat. With chats, you can be less formal than email, and you don’t need to worry about information getting lost, as the chat is a direct ongoing stream of all of your conversations, rather than chops of text like email. The only caution with chatting is to stay on topic and remain professional. Sometimes you may want to joke about a client or even gossip. If you use chat as a record for all your communication in the workplace and workflow items, only write what you’d be comfortable showing to your colleagues and clients.
In order to keep the ship running smoothly, all hands need to be on deck – preferably the same deck. Meaning, that everyone on the team should refer to the same method of communication when completing to do lists and asking requests of one another. You can’t have one colleague putting things on the agenda via the Kanban board and another using Trello. So make sure that everyone is onboard with your method and stick to it.
This article was written by the communications team at BlueVine.com. It’s BlueVine’s mission to be the fastest and easiest way to get invoices paid and help small business owners free up cash for paying expenses and growing their companies.