When a small business switches to remote working, it is challenging to ensure proper communication. Poor communication impacts not only the professional but also personal lives. But better team communication can be ensured easily.
You need not have a large budget. All you need to do is to incorporate small changes within your limits.
Circumstances may change. But, this switch to digital tools will continue to be the new normal. Any employee wishes to pool in their best to the company. But social distancing has hindered communication between employees. This, in turn, is affecting your business. The need of the hour is to accommodate your employees to the new mode of communication.
Are you wondering how to curtail this and accelerate your business? Well, it’s not a herculean task. I assure you that all you need to do is to get creative. Before we look for a solution, let us dig deep into the barriers.
The communication barriers hinder the message
Communication is effective when the right message is conveyed to the right person at the right time. Communication barriers prevent the delivery of the right message to the receiver.
Are the communication barriers different from each other? Yes. The barriers can be broadly categorised into three types.
- Physical communication barriers include remote work, social distancing, or deskless nature;
- Emotional barriers are due to fear, job insecurity, mistrust, poor team support, and
- Linguistic barriers refer to differences in verbal and nonverbal communication.
Deeper insights provide better solutions. Let us take a look at the 11 barriers to effective team communication.
Poor communication due to communication style
We all know that English is a foreign language for most countries. Yet, it is essentially used for international discourse. However, as we observe, the native language largely influences the second language, i.e. English. Thus, the accent changes from person to person. There’s differences between US English and UK English too. An employee might not be able to follow his co-worker due to accent differences.
Similarly, some speak faster than others. In such cases, an employee may not understand what the colleague speaks. Or if a speaker speaks too slow, the receiver may lose his interest.
Not to forget the “tone”. A speaker should talk engagingly. A flat, disinterested tone results in the disengagement of the listener. Poor engagement ruins communication.
Remote working acts as a physical barrier
Lack of contact among the team members results in communication errors. Work shifts or satellite offices need proper contact. When employees fail to have efficient contact with each other, misinterpretation is inevitable.
With the introduction of remote working, we know that most people have gone back to their native places. However, we know that small towns aren’t equipped with technology yet. Employees face poor network coverage.
Reports show that bad internet connection and lack of internet communication account for 14% and 4% respectively as a barrier to communication. (Source: Statista)
Employees at home are indeed free and comfortable. Yet, one may lack the office environment. When one attends calls, they may face frequent distractions. This lack of designated space ultimately leads to poor communication. People fail to balance between professional and personal life.
The merger of living areas and the workplace affects the focus of the employees. In the long run, this may cause organisational damages.
Rigidity if the organisation plays a role
It is good to have a hierarchy in the organisation. If a company lacks hierarchy, communication may be chaotic. There will be discipline in information sharing. However, if the organisation is too rigid, it may result in ineffective communication too.
If your company has a complex structure the information might get lost. There are high chances of information distortion as it moves up the hierarchy. This leads to a lack of employee productivity. Your employee may get frustrated too.
The quantum of information
Scanty information leads to poor insights. On the other hand, too much information may overload your employee. You must give the right dose of information to your employees. Overburdening may affect the productivity of your workforce and hinder success in the long run.
Along with the quantum of information, its nature also plays a decisive role. The information provided must be clear. It is important to deliver clear messages with context. Make sure the receiver understands your information clearly.
Also, to ensure consistency, you must stick to a particular channel. You may provide too much information on a topic and very little for the other. This hinders communication. Hence consistency is the key.
Frequency is the next characteristic of information sharing. When you assign work and fail to get updates, the employees lose interest. Employees feel good when the boss checks their work. However, it shouldn’t be too frequent too. A properly planned overview helps to keep a track of developments. It welcomes feedback for positive outcomes too.
The complexity of communication channels
You may use different communication channels. However, the complexity of communication channels confuses your employees. You, as an employer, should use the right channel. Otherwise, you may fail to deliver the information in time. It is observed that often employees spend 20% of their time in search of internal information.
You can find lakhs of communication technologies out there. However, you must be able to find the apt solutions that suit the best for your organisation. The technology can either make or break the goals of the organisation. Hence, one must bank on the right communication technology. Indeed, these are one of the biggest barriers to efficient communication.
Demographic differences in communication
Interaction between people varies with cultural and demographic factors. When the communicators fail to understand and adapt to these differences, communication fails. A common ground ensures ease of work culture adaptability.
Managers should ensure that employees have basic English skills. Various training programs help to enhance English as Second Language (ESL) skills.
Your body language communicates as much as your spoken language. Body language plays an important role in grabbing the attention of the listener. You need to create a friendly atmosphere with your employees using your body language.
Actions like furrowed brows or crossed arms hinder the experience of the listener. Good eye contact is the key to grab the attention of the listener.
Beliefs and biases
Each employee may have a different set of values and beliefs. When the view on things differ it leads to controversies. A person may harm or offend others’ beliefs intentionally or unknowingly.
On the other hand, employees have different experiences. These experiences may have left a strong impression on them. This may lead to biases and prejudices. Though the sender is trying to communicate, the receiver may not respond positively due to underlying beliefs and biases.
Gender and generational gap
A team may have members who belong to different generations. Staff may be accustomed to working in a particular way. The younger generation may find technology handy whereas the older may feel challenging to adapt in some cases. You may easily overcome this challenge. All you need to do is to train your employees suitably whenever necessary.
Gender too plays a crucial role. A lot of differences are noted in how men and women communicate. Women are good listeners. However, they are less authoritative. On the other hand, men are direct in communication. As the popular belief goes, men may be insensitive too. Hence, communication styles vary through the gendered lens.
Often when the employee loses interest in his job, they tend to communicate poorly. When your employee has lost his heart, he fails at receiving and giving ends. This barrier is difficult to overcome. Either the mindset of the employee should be changed or he must quit.
Lack of transparency
When your staff feels that you are hiding something from them, they get anxious. This hinders communication. Thus, transparency and trust are key to effective communication. I am sure you wouldn’t wish to lose the trust of your employees.
Conflicts, for whatever reason it be, form a barrier to communication. It can be of any nature. The conflict results in miscommunication or improper communication. Hence it is necessary to pay attention and avoid such conflicts. Conflicts should be eradicated soon to ensure effective communication.
Let’s pay attention to communication principles
Just like you can’t clap with a single hand, communication is also a two-way act. The polished speaker and the listener play an equally important role in effective communication. Open, transparent communication is the need of the hour.
Each team will have its communication strategies. However, these principles are worth some attention.
- Time is precious. Communicate clearly and make the information engaging. Make sure your information is neither less nor more;
- Hone employee’s listening skills. The listener must be able to appreciate and respect the information. Conduct ESL training if necessary;
- Carefully choose the medium of communication. Know which suits the best for your information: written or verbal, one to one interaction or groups;
- Put the information in a particular order. For some linear suits the best. For others, summary or other formats would do;
- Back your information with sufficient facts, figures, files, statistical data, and others. Create a context before you dive into the information, and
- Give time to your teammates to process the information. Make your expectations clear to them.
Every manager needs to have a team communication strategy. A good strategy allows the creation, continuation, and revision of information. It is necessary to have a strategy that supports your work.
Address these questions in your strategy
- How to create a value-adding communication strategy?
- What do you want to communicate and when?
- How much to communicate?
- Where to communicate?
- What are the roles and responsibilities in team communication?
Better team communication tools are a must
European firms utilise 3.56 varied communication methods. They also plan to increase their spending on communication. In global research, 54% of respondents of various organisations focused on increasing omni-channel and multichannel digital communication.
For written communication, messaging and Emails can be used. Make sure to dedicate a channel for work. This helps the employee prioritise the message. Thus, you can easily check against missed messages.
You can have face-to-face meetings in remote working mode with Conferencing apps. You can ensure data safety and privacy with encryption. You can enable the record option for further references.
Project management tools help your team members to know all the developments. You can address problems easily. Also, it helps to track project progress and the team contribution too. When multiple staff collaborate on a single project, you can make use of collaborating tools. These help to pool into the same project or document.
There are several other tools to communicate. Phone calls, social media management, and others also play an important role in communication. You can opt for dedicated software to suit your requirements like most of the offshore software development teams do.
It is necessary to ensure effective communication to achieve success. Build enhanced relationships and overcome communication barriers. Train your employees and enhance their soft skills. Engage your team members with tech-enabled communication.
Measure the impact of your strategies and make suitable revisions when necessary. Recognise and tackle the barriers of communication and open the door to effective communication.
About the Author
Subin is currently working as a Business Development Executive at CronJ IT Technologies, Bangalore. He has more than 2 years of experience in both Content Management and Business Development. He likes to do research on marketing trends and often write articles about the marketing insights. Other than this, He also loves to write tech related articles.