A Guide to Communicating with Employees in a Small Business

Good communication with employees is an essential part of a well-run business. Read up on some vital tips here

A Guide to Communicating with Employees in a Small Business

How can I use meetings for effective communication?

Meetings can be an invaluable tool for good communication within your company, so use them well.

If you employ a small team – less than 10 or 12 people – it is a good idea to hold a short weekly meeting, updating everyone on the progress and challenges of the company. This builds a sense of team spirit and can raise morale.

There are some general tips you might want to keep in mind when chairing meetings, too. First of all, you should make the objective of the meeting clear; this might mean circulating an agenda beforehand if you are a larger company.

In the meeting, stick to this agenda – avoid getting distracted or sidetracked. When you have dealt with a point, make sure you follow it up with a concrete plan of action and assign someone responsibility for carrying it out (ideally someone present at the meeting).

Additionally, you shouldn’t let the meeting become a monologue – wherever possible, encourage participation. Ask open questions and allow everyone to get involved with their ideas, but don’t be afraid to move matters along should people become bogged down or sidetracked.

When the meeting has finished, you should start by summing up. Explain exactly what has been agreed and ensure everyone knows their role going forward.

Make sure anyone who wasn’t present at the meeting knows exactly what has been agreed and any roles they have been assigned. You might find circulating written minutes to be the most effective way of doing this.

What are some tips for effective presentations?

Pitches and presentations are one of the most difficult skills to master, and you could fill a whole book with various presentation techniques.

Generally, though, it is always important to involve your audience; ask questions of them and make sure you are talking at a speed that they can follow comfortably. Use presentation software such as PowerPoint or flipcharts to provide a visual aid – and remember to take questions at the end of the presentation.

In a more formal presentation, remember to consciously speak a little more loudly and slower than you normally would. People rarely complain that someone was speaking more slowly than they would have liked in a presentation, but the opposite is often true.

How can I encourage effective two-way communication?

Communication skills are not just about giving out information; listening is an equally important skill for a business owner.

The key attribute employees look for in a communicative boss is approachability; you must built trust in your staff by encouraging them to come to you when issues arise. Keep asking for feedback and sharing ideas with them; this will make them feel included and more likely to share information with you. If you are seen as remote or unapproachable, the risk is employees keep problems away from you until they have reached crisis point.

You might have also heard that the trick to any good conversation is good listening. This is more than just an empty phrase – it really works, and you need to pay the principle more than lip service. When you ask questions, listen and respond to the answers you receive. It might be a good idea to implement a suggestion scheme, with small rewards offered to employees who participate.

Of course, part of the skill of listening as a boss is sometimes hearing uncomfortable truths – you should be prepared to deal with criticism. If one of your employees has a valid criticism, the very worst you can do is shoot it down and reprimand them for their impertinence. Try to separate your instinctive dislike of the criticism itself with the validity of the points raised. When necessary, apologise for your mistakes. It is not a sign of weakness to accept responsibility.

Finally, social events are a great way of breaking down barriers within a company, so use them. Even something as simple as a few drinks in the pub after work goes a long way in building a sense of togetherness within a business.

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