Why is communication important in business and what can organisations do to improve it? Adam Davey, Director at Petaurum Solutions, explains why communication is so crucial for business success and the different types of communication organisations can improve on.
In the Oxford English Dictionary, communication is described as 'The transmission or exchange of information, knowledge, or ideas, by means of speech, writing, mechanical or electronic media.”
Why communication is important in business might seem obvious, but sometimes the obvious things are easy to overlook, so let’s recap.
Communicating with different business audiences
Firstly, if communication is the ‘the transmission or exchange of information, knowledge, or ideas’, who this needs to be communicated to will be the first stage in determining its importance. In any business, these will typically be:
- Clients (and potential clients)
- Other Stakeholders
Great communication to clients/customers (and potential clients/customers) contributes to a company’s reputation and growth. Clear communication allows you to take feedback and improve from it. In addition, it makes your clients feel that they are valued and cared for. It allows you to anticipate their needs and help not only with retaining existing clients but also with acquiring new ones.
Effective communication is a vital tool for any business. If you fail to clearly communicate your purpose, vision, and values, it will be difficult to get your employees to embrace it the same way you do. Great communication to employees improves engagement, makes employees feel valued and involved, reduces employee turnover, and helps with setting clear goals and expectations.
Precise communication with other stakeholders is critical as the messages will need to be tailored and specific to the audience. For example, Shareholders will need a different message and style of communication to a Board of Directors. An industry regulator will need a different message and style of communication to a supplier or trade body.
No great surprises so far?
If the importance of effective business communication is this obvious, how can you develop business communication skills in your team?
How to develop business communication skills in your team
Before answering how to develop business communication skills, it is important to consider what those skills are.
There are four key communication skills to consider:
- Verbal communication - The use of your voice to convey an idea or speak an opinion. Examples include virtual meetings, phone calls and in-person conversations.
- Visual communication - The use of images or graphics to make an idea clear. Examples include charts, maps, infographics, and videos.
- Non-verbal communication - The message we send and receive through behaviour. Examples include body language, gestures, dress, and facial expressions.
- Written communication - What we deliver through print or digital media. Examples include emails, letters, memos, reports, and other documentation.
Business communication activities
So, how can you develop such skills in your team? Here are 6 key activities your business can use to develop various communication skills:
1. Consider your audience
Think about the audience and what message needs to be conveyed as this will allow you to determine which form of communication will work best. (Verbal, Visual, Non-Verbal, Written)
It’s often said ‘you have two ears and one mouth for a reason – use them in that proportion’. In other words, listen! If you listen carefully you will be in a much, much better place to communicate effectively, whatever method of communication you use. (Verbal, Visual, Non-Verbal, Written)
3. Be mindful of body language
Be mindful of your own body language, posture, facial expressions and other behaviours. The obvious example is maintaining eye contact when talking to someone to maintain engagement and interest. (Verbal, Non-Verbal)
4. Be curious
Be curious and interested. Ask open questions, find out interesting facts and details and use these to inform and enrich your communications. (Verbal, Visual, Non-Verbal, Written)
5. Learning and development
Take a course if you have a specific skill you wish to develop. Good examples might be:
- A public speaking course if you have lots of presentations or seminars to deliver (Verbal)
- A PowerPoint course if you have lots of presentations to create (Visual)
- A course on English language and grammar if you have lots of formal written communication to produce (Written)
- A body language course (Non-Verbal)
- A Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) course which looks at the way that humans think and process ideas, and how language and behaviour are used to express those ideas and communicate with others. (Verbal, Non-Verbal)
6. Using technology
Use technology as a way to share information faster, more effectively and to the right audience – we’re awash with choices from the good old-fashioned phone call, to email, text and other messenger services, through to collaboration platforms such as Slack, Miro, Google Drive, SharePoint and Click Up. (Written, Visual)
10 tips for improving communication
Once you’ve developed these skills in your business, it’s all about applying them in practice to refine and improve your skills.
Here are our top ten tips that you can revisit when thinking about how to further develop your skills:
- 1. Use a strong, confident speaking voice
- 2. Actively listen
- 3. Avoid filler words, ah’s and um’s
- 4. Avoid jargon and acronyms where possible
- 5. Be mindful and intentional about your non-verbal communication
- 6. Be aware of how this makes you feel (emotionally and physically)
- 7. Consider your audience
- 8. Only use visuals if they add value
- 9. Keep them simple and easy to understand
- 10. Keep it simple and ask others to review it before sending
If you’re in a management or leadership role, you will also want to think about:
- Defining clear goals and expectations – Don’t assume your team will know them
- Holding regular 1-1’s
- Thinking about how to really connect at an emotional level with your audience through stories and examples to bring your messages to life
- And above all, being authentic
Read more from the myhrtoolkit blog
Written by Adam Davey
Adam Davey is Co-Founder & Director of Petaurum Solutions, with 30 years of experience in public and private sector HR, supporting businesses in their day-to-day staff management issues and implementing HR strategies in a range of organisations and sectors. Adam is also Chair of the Lincolnshire Branch of the CIPD.