Miscommunication Is Killing Productivity: 5 Ways to Solve It

Bad communication isn’t just annoying — it’s expensive. The Society for Human Resource Management reports that companies with 100 employees waste $420,000 every year through miscommunication. For major brands with more than 100,000 employees, that figure skyrockets to $62.4 million.

When employees, managers, and executive teams don’t know how to talk to one another, projects slow down and stress levels rise. Deadlines arrive much more quickly when no one knows who needs to sign off on what. The negative effects of miscommunication create a cumulative headache of finger-pointing and low productivity.

With so much on the line, companies and their leaders can’t leave the quality of their communication to chance. To improve your business’s, follow these tips:

1. Streamline the Schedule

Meetings and appointments are a natural part of office life, but they shouldn’t stop colleagues from working together. Instead of leaning on the old standbys of Outlook or Google Calendar, check out some of the other top calendar apps that offer improved functionality.

Calendars and communications might not sound like natural partners, but people can’t work together if they can’t find time to speak. A good scheduling app should allow you to integrate your other time management tools, share your schedule, and tag relevant parties. The more control you have over your calendar, the less likely you are to miss — or misunderstand — important discussions.

2. Diversify Conversation Channels

Email isn’t the only way to communicate. Instant messaging, video conferences, in-person meetings, project management tools, and other methods all provide viable alternatives to email, with higher levels of engagement. Even texting, once limited to your personal life, makes an excellent business tool. Experiment with different options to figure out what works with your team.

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No matter how many new tools you introduce, though, email will probably remain your most-used communication medium. So make the most of it: Learn how to write better internal emails to get your audience’s attention. Train your team members on email best practices. No one has the time to read an essay, with the relevant information buried halfway through the third paragraph. Help employees write shorter emails that get to the point quickly to reduce miscommunication and eliminate overlooked requests.

3. Improve Meeting Agendas

Pull up any office supply website, and you’ll likely see mugs and T-shirts that say, “I survived another meeting that should have been an email.” People are bored to death of unnecessary and drawn-out meetings, but even people who hate meetings continue to feed the cycle because they don’t know what else to do. You can’t eliminate meetings entirely, but you can ensure that every meeting has a purpose by creating (and sticking to) meeting agendas.

Changing the way your company holds meetings means changing a piece of the company culture. Limit meeting agendas to specific topics to prevent conversation scope creep. Invite fewer people — some people genuinely need to participate in the discussion, but anyone who just needs information can read the follow-up email. Never arrive late, and never start late. People might struggle with a stricter time policy at first, but if meeting hosts stick to their guns, the culture will eventually follow.

4. Provide Regular Updates

Ever worked for weeks or months on a project, only to find out at the last minute that someone who should have been involved the whole time never knew what was going on? Avoid leaving stakeholders out of the loop by creating a list of people to update and making sure those people know the state of the project at every turn.

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Not everyone reads every email, so this is a great opportunity to leverage your new arsenal of communication and scheduling tools. Create an email template that allows stakeholders to get the information they need at a glance. If necessary, send text updates or other alternative communications after each project meeting. A couple minutes spent composing an update could save hours of frustration down the road.

5. Accelerate Feedback Schedules

Don’t limit employee feedback meetings to annual reviews or disciplinary hearings. Instead, schedule regular one-on-ones with team members to talk about projects, concerns, and whatever else comes to mind. Encourage other managers to do the same.

Many companies already hold one-on-ones, but they limit those meetings to the projects at hand. Rarely do employees get opportunities to speak up about their concerns. Managers, on the other hand, don’t deliver frequent feedback when they limit meetings to the week’s tasks. Transform regular meetings into a two-way opportunity for employees to give and receive relevant feedback.

Bad communication shouldn’t cost your business half a million dollars (or more) every year. Use these tips to eliminate opportunities for miscommunication. Changing the culture will take time, but the more you invest in improved communication, the better your results will be.

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