Article by Namrata Ghosal.
Business communication is the single most important factor which influences a startup culture.
Businesses without proper communication skills are just like a ship without radars. For your startup to be successful, it’s very important to know how to communicate with your employees as well as your target audience.
The primary function of communication is to inform, educate, entertain, and influence people.
Before we go to how you can improve business communications in your startup, it is very important to know what communication actually is and what the different types of communication are.
Fundamentals of Business Communication
People communicate with each other in several ways –
Mainly there are 4 types of communications:
- Verbal communication – it’s a form of communication in which messages transmitted through word or a piece of writing. It includes oral communication and written communication.
Oral communication includes face to face communication, speech, telephonic conversation, etc, whereas in case of written communication, the message can be transmitted via email, report and memos.
- Non Verbal communication – This is a form of communication that occurs via a combination of gestures, body language, and facial expressions. Most businesses put very little importance on this. However, as you will see later on, these forms of communication are very important in influencing your startup culture.
Some of the facets that influence non-verbal communications are-
- Appearance – It includes dressing sense, hairstyle, and the way a person communicates.
- Body language – It includes postures, gestures, etc.
- Formal communication – Communication occurs in formal and informal manners. Most of these forms of communication are found when company officials are attending seminars, conferences, meetings, etc. Also, this form of communication is adhered to by businesses like law firms, consulting businesses etc.
- Informal communication – It’s a kind of a more casual conversation. You will find these forms of communication in tech startups where there are very few rules and the startup culture is vibrant with each individual having several roles to put on.
For proper communication in your startup, you need to take care that your business creates a balance between formal and informal as too much of either can be damaging to your startup.
Now, in a startup you need to communicate better with your employees than the average business.
Since you don’t have to deal with too many bureaucratic channels, this is much easier than a large business.
Learning to adapt and keep your own personality alive should be a practical definition of business communication.
Elements of Communication
- Sender – the person who intends to convey the message with the intention of passing information and ideas to others is known as the sender or communicator. In simpler terms, a sender is the person who is talking.
- Ideas – This is the subject matter of communication. This may be an opinion, attitude, feeling, views, order, or suggestion.
- Encoding – Since the subject matter of communication is theoretical and intangible, its further passing requires the use of certain symbols such as words, action or pictures, etc. Conversion of subject matter into these symbols is the process of encoding.
- Communication channel – The person who is interested in communicating has to choose the channels for sending the required information, ideas, etc. This information is transmitted to the receiver through certain channels which may be formal or informal.
- Receiver – Receiver is the person who receives the message or for whom the message is meant for. It is the receiver who tries to understand the message in the best possible manner in achieving the desired object.
- Decoding – The person who receives the message or symbol for the communicator tries to convert the same in such a way so that he/she may extract its meaning to his complete understanding.
- Feedback – Feedback plays a very important part in communication processing because without good feedback it’s impossible to know the defect in the communication process. Feedback is the process of ensuring that the receiver has received the message and understands in the same sense as the sender is meant it. This feedback is very crucial for proper and viable communication.
How to Improve Verbal Communication among Your Employees
Verbal communication is very important to keep your employees motivated in your business as well as for them to know your expectations of them.
- Related Read: Types of Entrepreneurs Out There – And Which One is You
Improvement of verbal communication among employees is very necessary. Verbal communication is valuable in both personal and professional life.
Here are some Practical Tips to Improve Verbal Communication BY YOU and TO YOUR EMPLOYEES
Most people think about how they can improve communication among their employees, but miss this crucial first step.
If your employees don’t believe in your mission or if they feel you are not a proper boss, you won’t be able to retain your employees for long.
Therefore it is very important that you first focus on yourself when considering how you can better communication in your startup.
#1. Think before you speak – It’s very important for a good communicator to think logically and practically. You must be aware of the fact that great communicators are those who think differently as well as logically.
Before communication you have to think about what are the consequences you have to face or expect while communicating.
Suppose you are delivering any presentation of a particular project that your company is performing.
So, what do you do?
First, you have to jot down all the points about that particular project.
Like – What are the pros and cons? How will you deliver the speech? What will you tell if somebody is not agreeing with your opinion and point of view? How will you manage yourself at that time?
So, before speak, you should mentally prepare. Thinking before you speak is an important skill for all kinds of situations. It makes you a good communicator. It helps you expresses yourself in a more effective way.
#2. Be Clear and Concise – While communicating, you should frame all that you are trying to say, inside your mind.
You should be clear and concise. Clear means you should be clear about your topic. You should keep your conversations simple and concise.
Writing and speaking clearly and concisely will help you capture and motivate your audience.
Use the fewest words possible to convey an idea clearly as that will help you become a good communicator.
Avoid excessive details, replicate words, uncommon words, technical jargons and long sentences. Your sentence should be simple so that everybody understands whatever you want to convey.
Avoid complex sentences.
Before speaking ask yourself, “Are my words and concepts easy to understand?”
#3. Speak with Confidence – You should always speak with confidence if you want to motivate your employees or get them to believe in your goals. You ideally want to be perceived as optimistic and confident.
To become a confident person you have to be optimistic. You have to build trust among your employees. You have to think positive always.
Confidence is a natural process; the more you experience and practice – the more you become confident.
Try to interact with more number of people, and practice before you go to talk with investors as your confidence will naturally rise with greater speaking proficiency.
In fact, Warren Buffet says that his best investment was when he took a public speaking course, so as to become more confident when speaking.
#4. Be a Good Listener – The one who is a good listener is the one who knows how to interact with people.
Try to understand the person you are speaking to, including the emotion behind their words and actions.
In order to do this, you have to keep calm. And, even in the worst of your moods, you should never be confrontational.
You have to pay attention to the other person very clearly. Attentive listening helps you learn more about other people and perceive their problems from their perspective.
#5. Be Aware of Your Non Verbal Communications – Actions speak louder than Words.
You need to be aware of your emotions and how they influence how. Non verbal communication is all about how you speak, your body language and the tone of your voice.
So, it’s very necessary that you be careful about your gestures and body language.
Situations may get tough in a startup. Your cash is on the verge of running out. Your customer acquisition is not heading the way you planned.
But in cases like these, if you show frustration or desperation, it is a sure-fire way to demotivate your employees.
If you say one thing but your body language says something else, you just confuse your listeners. Being aware of your non-verbal communications will bring home your messages to your employees more efficiently.
Communication Fundamentals #2
Now, that we have come this far, let’s step back a bit.
While you now know how to better the communication between you and your employees as well as people outside of your startup such as investors or clients, improving communication among all levels in a startup is a different ball game altogether.
While most guides in the Internet provide quick-fixes, if you want to actually improve the communication among your employees, you need to keep reading-
The Sender and the Receiver
In any communication, the sender must keep the receiver in mind. Encoding and decoding play an important role in communication.
Encoding a message is how a sender is delivering his / her message to the audience and decoding of a message is how an audience member is able to understand and interpret the message.
Try to take a step back and think of the last time when you were talking to someone and you were so incredibly angry at someone and couldn’t think. Try to think of what you were saying – isn’t the sentence construction a bit garbled and weird?
Well that’s what happens when we are too angry. We make errors in encoding or decoding others’ messages.
Failure to encode your message prevents people from understanding what you are trying to say and failure to decode a message prevents you from understanding others.
Now emotion plays a part in this. But often times, we need to take care of this procedure so as to improve communication.
Effective Communication is a process of exchanging ideas, thoughts, knowledge information between a sender and a receiver in an effective way.
We can say that it generally involves-
- Sender- the person who initiates the process of communication by sending a message.
- Receiver – the one to whom the message is to be delivered.
Business communication is a process of interaction with the employees as well as the target audience within and outside of a company. According to the Business Dictionary, it is “the sharing of information between people within an enterprise that is performed for the commercial benefit of the organization.”
In addition, business communication can also refer to how a company shares information to promote a product or services to potential consumers.
Requirements for Good Business Communication
- Clarity – Ideas, facts, opinions, and vocabulary should be there in the mind of the communication prior to communication
- Information – It is different from communication, but is an important component of communication. The sender first collects and keeps before him relevant information concerning a particular group of people. Principles of effective communication have information and communication in symbolic form.
- Adequate Subject Matter– It helps the receiver to understand the central theme or underlying idea of the message.
- Attention must be paid to the facts and opinions which are transmitted through communication. Effective communication can result in a change of behavior of the receiver.
- Consistency is achieved if the communicator keeps in mind the broad objective, policies, and programmers of the organization.
- Two-way communication – Communication is an organization that can be vertical – upward or downward. Downward communication means communication from superior to subordinate in the hierarchical system of the organization.
- Use of adequate languages and timings – the language used by the sender should be easy and may readily be understood by the receiver. Moreover, messages should be sent at the appropriate time to serve the purpose in the best possible manner.
Now that you have gotten a good idea of the elements of communication, it’s time we go off to –
The 4 Types of Business Communication
- Upward communication
- Downward communicating
- Horizontal communication
- Diagonal communication
Let’s start with upward communication first.
- Upward communication – In this type of communication, the lower level of the hierarchy interacts and provides information to the upper level of the hierarchy of the company. For example, the subordinates of the company interact with the seniors of the company, like an employee sending a PDF document to his/her boss.
- Downward communication – In this type of communication the upper level of the hierarchy interacts and gives information to the lower level of the hierarchy of the company. For example, the senior management of the company providing work to a junior level employee is a type of downward communication.
- Horizontal communication – This type of communication is between two people of the same position in the company. For example, communication between colleagues for specific projects or research works in the company. They work together to resolve conflicts and provide opinion for their upcoming projects etc.
- Diagonal communication – It is basically diagonal communicating is a cross-functional communication between employees of different levels of the organization. A work that is being done by a joint team of several senior and junior management executives, is an example of this form of communication.
Critique of these Forms of Communications
#1. Upward communication:
- It helps us to build a friendly relationship between colleagues, employees, etc in the company.
- Provide valuable feedback – In upward communication feedback is important for the subordinate from the supervisor as to whether they are doing their work properly or not. It gives them some motivation for doing the work.
- Two-way process – Upward communication is a two-way process in which both the superior and the subordinate interact with each other
#2. Downward communication:
- Explaining policies – In downward communication, the senior management can explain new policies in an effective way without any barriers or interpretations to the lower levels.
- Disciplines are crucial in the workplace and this is a great way of ensuring discipline is maintained.
#3. Horizontal communication:
- It removes the jealousy factor among employees and makes a vibrant surrounding in the workplace.
- It establishes teamwork, cooperation and helps all the workers achieve all the goals set out in the workplace.
- It saves time and establishes an immediate feedback
Businesses nowadays are crazy about improving horizontal communication in workplaces, with companies like Google, Facebook doling out millions of dollars to construct workplaces where their employees will get to interact with each other.
However, note that if you are trying to increase deep work in your organization, you might want to stay off horizontal communication a bit.
#4. Diagonal communication:
- It provides an opportunity of the lower workers to interact with the managers of other departments which provides to create a better understanding of a new project.
- Reduce barriers in the organization. They form a relationship with the workers which reduce barriers in communication.
- Increase knowledge flow between the departments and increases overall team efforts.
Improving Communication among Your Employees
As you probably guessed, if you want to better this type of communication, you need to focus on the horizontal type of communication.
Improving horizontal communication is pretty easy actually. It can be focused on by changing even the décor of the room. Architecture of the room also plays a key part.
If you want a vibrant startup environment in which employees from different departments talk and interact with each other, you want to create a place where they are bound to interact.
Steve Job famously placed the toilet in the Apple building in such a location that his employees who were working with different departments had to interact. This helps cause an infusion of ideas throughout the startup.
However, note that he also had a wing which was completely separate than that of Apple. It was where some of his employees worked relentlessly on one idea and one idea alone.
This actually helps helps promote deep and focused work.
Barriers to Sound Business Communication:
Barriers are an obstacle or difficulty that comes in the way of communication. Barriers can be physical, psychological, social, cultural, technical, semantic, organizational, or personal barriers.
#1. Physical barriers – Physical barriers are lack of communication quality, language barrier, inadequate selection, handling of channels, unfamiliar media.
It also includes an unfavourable environment (e.g, – high temperature, humidity, poor ventilation, glare, etc noise), jargon of communication, and subjective stress such as sleeplessness, ill health etc.)
#2. Psychological barrier – Physiological barriers include stress due to distrust of communicator because of ill judgment and illogical discussion. Other physiological barriers are anxiety, tension, the emotional state of an audience, limited perception, daydreaming, past experience, premature evaluation, loss of transmission, and poor retention.
#3. Social and cultural barriers – Social barriers include heterogeneity in the audience. Social pressures and tension is another type of social barriers. Cultural barrier even in language, the favorable and unfavorable association of words depends upon the cultural contest.
#4. Technical barriers – These are basically some technical issues that are causing problems in the communication.
#5. Semantic barriers – Problems of language are called semantic barriers. These are related to oral and written communication and can even occur with difficulty in understanding the accent of another person.
Moreover, words using while speaking can create different images in the minds of the people.
Words have subjective as well as objective meaning. Objective meaning is what exists in the dictionary and subjective is the meaning of the word for the individual with its emotional and evaluation connection.
#6. Organizational barriers – Barriers occur when duties and lines of authority are not specified. Another cause for organizational barriers is a distance of communication, more layers of communication lack of instruction, heavy communication with loads of rules and regulation to be maintained in relation to position, status, facilities, and complex organization.
#7. Personal barriers – The personal barriers include response towards superiors, attitudes towards authority, satisfaction deprived, and use of improper channels. It also includes cultural, educational, emotional prejudice, the constraint of time and experience of distrust.
Technology in Communication
In the early times, business communication was limited to paperwork, telephone calls, etc.
With technology being all pervasive nowadays mobile phones, laptops, computers, video conferences, emails, satellite communication all support business communication. Due to technology a lot of apps and platforms are available to conduct work affairs even from home.
Here are a list of 45+ apps that entrepreneurs will find useful.
Although these platforms help you communicate with your employees, make sure you respect their work-life balance as not doing so is a sure-fire way to demotivate them.
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Author Bio: Namrata Ghosal is a BJMC student in Ravenshaw University and is currently pursuing an internship at winSavvy.com.