[This article was written by Dawn Castell.]
Good communication is critical for a business to run smoothly and effectively. Good communication, however, can be harder to achieve in a startup than you might think. Not all communication is effective communication. Some businesses err on the side of over-communication, so important communication ends up getting lost in the mountain of noise. Other businesses do not have effective channels of communication, so some people get the message while others do not.
Top-to-bottom communication can be difficult enough, but things can become even more challenging when you’re a startup and groups need to communicate with each other, but the groups are still trying to figure out their own operations and workflow. Here are four ways to create effective interdepartmental communication in your startup.
1. Get everyone on the same page
Most businesses have multiple means of communication, and various teams tend to settle on one means over another. Your accounting department may prefer to communicate via email, while your sales team rarely pays attention to anything not on Slack and your marketing department only communicates via Skype. On the one hand, this can be a good thing as it allows departments to share important information that relates only to that department without bothering the entire company. But this doesn’t help communication between your developing departments.
Each department having their preferred means of communication can also become something of a turf war, where teams won’t pay attention to any communication not delivered by their preferred means. You can cut through the turf wars and facilitate group-to-group communication by setting up an intranet messaging system that is specifically used for communication between teams. As an entrepreneur, cost is obviously very important to you. Getting everyone on the same page, whether it be forcing everyone in your office
2. Cut down the chatter
Sending memos, messages or emails to the entire office can be a huge time saver, but it is also a privilege often abused in startups. Email inboxes often get filled to overflowing with individual announcements about the staff refrigerator being cleaned out, the upcoming company golf outing, and someone’s lost personal stapler.
Instead of allowing people to send out individual company-wide emails, it is far better to have a single electronic bulletin board where “important” (or otherwise) announcements can be posted. Instead of taking the time to open and read 10 or more separate emails per day, employees can take a few minutes to simply read the staff bulletin board. This is often overlooked by entrepreneurs as there are so many other things to focus on, but electronic bulletin boards can save an insane amount of time for each and every employee within your budding company. With your company starting up and growing, you’re going to want your employees to be working as efficiently as possible, and cutting down the chatter is one way to increase efficiency.
3. Organize it
Another issue with interoffice or group-to-group communication is that it is often a hodgepodge of various topics with varying levels of importance. One way you can facilitate clear communications in your startup is ensuring important communications make it through the crowd and that groups pay attention to information that pertains to them by organizing your communications. You can institute a star-rating system that helps teams quickly assess the importance of communications or even a color coding system that instantly tells teams which groups need to be looped in on important information.
Your sales and marketing departments may need to be immediately looped in about an announcement from a competitor about an upcoming product launch, but your accounting department most likely has little need of this information. However, if only the accounting department can find the information about this announcement and the marketing and sales departments cannot find it, your business could take a major hit. This is why organization is so important. Your employees need to get data and new information in real time. They won’t get anything in real time if you don’t have a system in place to organize all your interdepartmental communications.
4. Post online guides, FAQs and other frequently used or requested information
A great deal of time is spent each day in most businesses finding and distributing information between departments. This can include requesting benefits information from HR, information on how to change banking information in Payroll or information from IT on how to change a password. Individual departments can save a great deal of time by automating the update of information and posting online guides to walk employees through a number of processes. For instance, an HR guide could help employees to access their own benefits information, walk them through the process of requesting time off, scheduling a leave of absence, or explain how raises and promotions are handled.
Creating a smooth flow of information between departments involves not only creating the means of communication but also preventing information overload. Information that is pertinent to the entire company needs its own source or stream, while information that only relates to certain departments needs another. By separating your communication streams and using them effectively, you can create effective communication throughout your entire company, no matter how small it may be.