Communication Strategies

How important is a clear communication strategy? A study by Watson Wyatt showed that companies that used effective communication were more than 50% more likely to report below-average employee turnover. Companies look at a yearly loss of nearly $27,000 per year for each employee.  A communication strategy isn’t just nice to have–it’s a necessity for a successful business.

The logistics of your communication strategy align your culture with your outside presence. Reducing the disconnect between who your company is and who it appears to set reliable expectations for both staff and customers. In this article, we’ll review the benefits of designing a clear, empathetic communication strategy and give you tips to get the most out of your plan.

What to expect from your strategy

A good idea is only as good as its implementation. Remember that even with a fool-proof strategy, you need steady, consistent follow-through to achieve your goals. Otherwise, your efforts will only amount to wishful thinking. Consider what you want to accomplish, what resources you have, and who will help implement your plan.

First, decide what you want overall. It could be something like increased compliance with your policies or reduced turnover. Keep these goals in mind and consider your resources. Do you have a budget for the project? Do you have an existing strategy that you can alter? When you’ve finished writing down what you have at hand, then, identify who will help. Many benefit from bringing in a consultant to develop their strategy. These can include a fractional chief operations officer or a business consultant. Keep in mind that even on a limited budget, a consultant can money overall by working faster and more efficiently.

Next, let’s take a look at seven results of a clear and empathetic communication strategy.

1.  Reduced absences

Goal: A healthier workplace

Sick leave costs companies billions of dollars a year. Setting clear expectations will let employees choose how they adapt to your company’s culture and plan for their health. According to Mindtools, some of the biggest factors leading to increased sick time are:

  • Stress and emotional tension
  • Unhealthy lifestyles (including diet and lack of sleep)
  • The tension arising from the workplace
  • Lack of positive feedback and encouragement
  • Overall lack of work-life balance

How can communication reduce absences? Think about the last time you had a boss who didn’t make their expectations clear. When your employees know what to expect, they can plan realistically and avoid the stress of wondering if they’re meeting expectations. This extra step reduces uncertainty, which in turn helps your team avoid stress-related illnesses.

Make sure that if there are any significant changes in your policy that you keep employees informed. Consistent training keeps the expectations clear and creates a healthier working environment. Remember to include your employees’ voices in the discussion to get feedback on the policies. This gesture gives you an advantage with direct input on new ideas to create a better workplace.

2.  Increased engagement

Goal: Invested employees

When your employees know what they can expect from your management and culture, they become more engaged at work. When you create a clear communication plan, you set clear expectations for how your team can interact and share ideas. Engagement involves communication from both sides, unlike simply telling a team member your expectations. This dynamic opens a channel for new ideas and improvements to your current strategy.

Ultimately, employees need a result following their engagement. For example, if you talk about adjusting your policies with staff, there must be a follow-up action taken to implement these changes. Following through on your actions builds trust and increases engagement over time. A lack of results erodes trust over time and decreases engagement, in turn lowering morale.

Engaged employees routinely perform better than their disengaged counterparts. This is not to say that employee engagement is easy or simple, but the cost of neglecting engagement undercut nearly all of your other efforts. High turnover rates are stressful on your team and their operations. Acting now to engage your employees saves you from having to fix more problems down the road.

3.  Improved culture

Goal: A desirable workplace

The adage says that people don’t quit jobs; they quit bosses. No one wants to feel fearful of talking to their boss, especially if they’re unsure how they will react. By creating structured ways to channel your internal communications, you provide a framework for positive interactions. This kind of dynamic aligns your internal and external messaging into the cohesive company culture.

Transparency is invaluable in positive working cultures. Especially now, individuals hold their treatment almost equally with pay when accepting jobs. There will always be companies offering the same salary as yours, but your culture is unique. Take advantage of your communication plan and create something truly valuable.

4.  Streamlined hiring

Goal: Approachable leaders

Some people are naturally good communicators. Others are not. When hiring for openings at your company, place a particular focus on individuals who value two-way communication. Remember that members of your staff, especially leadership, should embody the following qualities:

  • Honest
  • Authentic
  • Open-minded
  • Mindful of body language
  • Concise when speaking
  • Active listener
  • Teachable
  • Inspiring

Your leadership will have to inspire the rest of their team to do their best. This is why you want someone who leads by example. Offer regular training so other team members can improve their skills and so others can keep their abilities fresh. Consider using mentorship opportunities to invest in your team’s personal growth.

5.  Empathetic leadership

Goal: Fair, constructive dialogue

Receiving feedback from your boss can be tricky. Your communication plan should guide your management and staff through complicated interactions with both parties in mind. Go over your plans with both parties and ask for feedback. This care will ensure that the input is usable and provides valuable information about how effective the method behaves in practice.

Whenever possible, encourage small, regular feedback sessions so communicating becomes second nature to your team. Yearly reviews provide a long-term perspective that can help team members develop, but at the same time, they place unnecessary weight on both parties going in. Encourage extra thought into how a message will be received in interactions, and don’t forget to apply these practices yourself.

6.  Organized processes

Goal: Company-wide accountability

Collaborative projects, especially with teams, thrive on transparency and organization. When you outline your communication plan, make sure that you identify which project management software you use and how to use it. All conversations regarding specific tasks will be accessible to anyone who needs them. Solid organization techniques help projects move quicker by reducing repeat questions and centralizing knowledge. You can also go back and see what worked for previous tasks, which keeps you from repeating mistakes.

Even if your team misses the mark with a project, use this as a learning opportunity. Sit down with your team and detail the steps and timeline of what happened, being careful to avoid blame, and identify where you could have avoided problems. Following this, sit down and develop a new procedure for smoother progress in the future.

When a project goes well, document it just as much as you would if it hadn’t. Freely give praise to your team for what they did well, encourage input about new ways you can improve, and use this as an opportunity to plan for future success. After this, work these discussions into your broader communication playbook so you can draw on them later.

7.  Improved brand image

Goal: Genuine word-of-mouth referrals

Word-of-mouth referrals are the most powerful way of gaining new business. This means that prospective customers consider what they hear from your employees, previous customers, and others who interact with your business. Keep clear feedback channels with your staff and clients and make consistent improvements to use this to help you reach new clients. If someone has a good experience with your brand, they will recommend it and become advocates.

Keep listening to your market, and it will return rich insights. Use social listening to see what your customers look at when choosing with whom they do business. Make your company values and mission statement available on your website so potential clients can easily find this information. Your internal communication plan, through your employees, translates directly to the external interactions with your customers.

8.  Increased compliance

Goal: Structured procedures

As your company grows, you may find yourself outlining more of how your procedures flow. To some, this comes during training when you have to explain the details of a position to a new employee. These procedures give structure to your operations and show your team what expectations they need to meet. However, even with the best methods, sometimes they’re not followed as designed.

What do you do in a case like this? The goal is to see why they are not being used. As you can imagine, approaching staff with anger or complaints about them not being followed will make people apprehensive about speaking up. There could be something better than what they’re using or another piece of valuable information that you should include. Refer back to your plan for handling these kinds of conversations and use it to gather information. By the end of this talk, you’ll have a new approach for the project and more backing from your team.

Compliance with internal procedures is one thing. Compliance with legal requirements is another. Both of them have substantial implications for your business’s success, but there is little flexibility with outside regulations. Use your internal compliance as a gauge for your company’s overall behavior when it comes to following the rules. Often, lack of compliance stems from a general lack of understanding. Frequent training, open dialogues, and interest in your team’s input create conversations that lead to change.

9.  Adherence to deadlines

Goal: Increased efficiency

Communication has a vast, hidden impact on your team’s delivery. According to a survey by the computing technology industry association, 28% of survey responders selected that poor communication was why they failed to deliver a project within the specified time frame. Even further, a second study by Forrester noted that communication tools could reduce up to half an hour of lost productivity time each day. Sometimes there are valid reasons for changing a deadline, but frequent late deliveries signal a more significant underlying issue.

If your team is not obviously suffering from missed deadlines, the results of a scattered communication plan may be more subtle. Projects make it delivered on time, but the quality may not be as high as it potentially could be. Another possibility is that your team provides high-quality results but could do it in a shorter time frame. This adjustment in communication style would allow you to complete more projects in a shorter time with improved outcomes.

Closing thoughts

Your communication plan structures who you are as a company. It paints one coherent picture for your internal and external interactions and keeps expectations clear. Every other action you take as an organization relies on communication first, so be firm and consistent when enacting your plan.

Ideally, this work should come at the beginning of your process documentation as a company. The sooner you incorporate this plan into your procedures, the faster you’ll see its benefits. Implementing a communication plan later in the game will take extra time and effort, but it’s easier than continuing without it.

If you find that the programs you’ve been implementing have not seen success, now is the time to look at your current communication plan. Refer back to our article here for more pointers on how to design your plan. Also, don’t forget to consider who can help you create and execute your communication strategies.

Bringing a fractional CMO or fractional COO to your team lets you balance commitment with expertise. A fractional COO can align your team’s strategy and ensure compliance, while a fractional CMO will match it to your external communications. However, make sure to do your homework before deciding on how you can benefit from a fractional CMO or COO. To see what kind of professionals are available to help, read more here and learn about fractional c-suite professionals.

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