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Tips for improving your internal communications

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Communicating well with your team is a must-have ingredient for employee retention, good teamwork and coping with change in your business.

But many entrepreneurs aren’t naturally good communicators. Healthy dialogue takes effort, trust and the ability to listen. If you don’t work at it, employees may become disgruntled, unmotivated or fearful about the future.

“Good communication is fundamental to being an effective leader,” says BDC Consultant Vicki Towriss, who advises entrepreneurs on human resources management. “It inspires a shared vision and creates a culture of collaboration and respect.”

Here are Towriss’s tips for better employee communication.

1. Start early and be consistent

Good internal communication builds an environment of trust and teamwork, in which employees feel engaged and committed to your vision.

Be sure to communicate well when onboarding new employees. Pair them with a mentor or buddy to help integrate them into your company, and check on them frequently in the first few days and weeks.

You should also have regular check-ins with established employees—for example, in a brief huddle at the start of the day and again at day’s end.

“It could just be a 30-second discussion to see how things are going, what they need from you and if they have any questions,” Towriss says.

Once a week, it’s also a good practice for managers to have one-on-one meetings with direct reports to discuss projects, solve problems and plan ahead.

2. Listen

High-quality communication runs two ways. Don’t just talk; listen. “Entrepreneurs often think they have to tell, tell, tell,” Towriss says. “But the best communication revolves around listening. For example, instead of telling employees your vision, let them tell you how your vision fits with them.”

Listening can also help diffuse conflict and turn it into an opportunity to learn and grow.

3. Give effective feedback

Sharing feedback can be challenging, but most employees truly want to know how they’re doing. You should develop a regular process of informal and formal feedback. Your daily and weekly debriefings are a good time to recognize employees for any special contributions or achievements.

At formal performance reviews, you can address tasks and behaviours you’d like the employee to keep doing, start doing and stop doing. Also, ask what they’d like to change about their work, including new responsibilities they’d like to take on, and discuss any training or support they need.

4. Be open about change

Change can be a time of serious stress for employees. Whether the change is a new process, product or leadership, good communication helps tamp down worries and get buy-in.

That means explaining clearly the nature of the change, the reasons for it and the risks of not doing it. Communication should be honest, straightforward and, ideally, face to face.

5. Build your community

Good internal communication helps to create feelings of community and loyalty among employees. You can hold company events, such as a potluck meal or sports day. You can also celebrate birthdays, the birth of a baby, weddings or personal achievements

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