Being adept at typing on a computer does not mean that you are a good business communicator. It takes forethought and planning to make your business communications sing, and experts agree that even the most seasoned business professionals can use periodic refresher courses in communications. “Everyone can use improved communication skills,” says Ann Vancza, program director at the College of Continuing and Professional Education at Kennesaw State University. “The more clear and concise you can be in your communication, the better others will understand what you are saying. It is crucial for businesses to get their message across effectively and efficiently.”
However, “efficiently” does not necessarily mean quickly. The advent of technology may make professionals think that business communications are simpler these days, but that’s not really the case. “The changing requirements of the marketplace demand organizations maintain agile and responsive internal and external communication practices,” says Lawrence P. King, co-owner of consulting practice Deblar & Associates in Austell. He and Deborah King offer tailored staff training and organizational capacity building support.
“With business communication today, there seems to be that sense of urgency to connect as quickly as possible,” Vancza says. “Sometimes time is required to respond accurately, but we feel pressure to respond immediately.” She says that this sense of urgency tends to dilute the effectiveness of business communications, which can often be the backbone of a company’s success.
LaBrita Cash-Baskett, CCC-SLP, AM.APMP, president of Fundamental Focus, a training and development firm that specializes in business communications, agrees that effective communication can equal success. “Success in business communication is measured by achieving goals tied to the communication efforts and activities,” she says. “Indicators for performance on how executives are measured on leadership communication vary based on situational factors, individual competency and personality.” Using technology effectively to connect with customers and clients can set your business above the rest.
Stop and Make a Plan
Cash-Baskett points out that communications in today’s world add a layer of complexity, in part due to the immediacy of technology. “Communication is no longer one-way communication with time delays,” she says. “Today, real-time communication requires vocal, verbal and nonverbal behaviors in addition to good messaging and content. The fast rate at which new tools emerge may cause resistance to new tool adoption and use, increased costs and time.”
Cash-Baskett goes on to say that the lack of time to proof, edit and review messages can increase error rates and lead to unintended consequences. “Business professionals need to be mindful about impacts of decreased processing time in communications,” she says. “Less processing time may lead to greater impulsivity and make it hard to manage the risks of this behavior. When additional thinking time is required, it can sometimes be misinterpreted as lack of knowledge or engagement. Listening, waiting and processing are important to the communication process.”
In today’s fast-paced business world, many professionals forget the power of basic social graces. Many people use email, but they miss the subtle nuances and pleasantries of using a personalized salutation or closing. The communication and the reply are dominated by the need to get back to someone quickly. Formality is often forgotten, and with it, the tendency to plan and research well thought out responses.
“With the use of email as a main source of communication in business, we often relax our way of communicating.” Vancza says. “We tend to not have a formal greeting and closing with email as we would with a postal letter. With the instant communication we have available to us through email, texting, Twitter, etc., formal communication is not as prevalent.” Allowing your communications to become too casual can decrease their effectiveness while increasing the possibility of being misunderstood.
Teleconferences and Technology
The advent of telephone conference calls and FaceTime meetings can also affect business communications. Not being able to read body language—even though it is more efficient to do telephone meetings instead of face-to-face—can change the tenor of the communication process. While new ways of communicating, including Skype, Google Apps and WebEx offer quick connections, they can be even more effective when there is proper planning.
There is the convenience factor to consider with teleconferences and other communications technologies. With restricted travel budgets, many companies find it is easier and more cost-effective to get people with busy schedules together on a call or videoconference. “You can have a conference call anywhere, anytime these days,” Vancza says. “Video conferencing can save time and expense as well, but technology is changing so fast that what’s new today will soon be replaced by something else tomorrow. However, using tools such as FaceTime and Skype give conference calls and interviews a more personal approach.”
Cash-Baskett agrees that teleconferences have taken on a central role in business communication. “Although teleconferencing continues to allow collaboration, it is important to define the context and purpose for business communication to overcome common barriers,” she says. Use the same techniques for telephone and online conferences as you would for face-to-face meetings, by creating an agenda with action items and a follow-up report to delineate deadlines and responsibilities.
Training Promotes Growth
With the changing tide of technology, training is essential for effective communications, greater productivity and an increased bottom line. “A fully engaged, motivated and informed workforce is essential to ensure individuals and organizations meet goals and ambitions in a competitive environment,” Cash-Baskett says. “It’s extremely important to help people develop increased awareness, understanding, practical strategies and information to improve their personal communication style and their interpersonal communication skills. If they can recognize communication barriers and learn to build trust in their communications, they will become even more successful communicators and business people.”
Cobb County business owners can take advantage of local resources for business communications training, including Deblar & Associates, Fundamental Focus and programs at Kennesaw State University. This training can result in more effective collaboration, improved delivery of products and services, positive customer service and increased productivity. While it does require a time commitment, training in the newest techniques of business communications can net positive results. “Executives are caught between what they learned early in their careers and the need to keep up with the new ways to communicate,” Vancza says. “We can all use training to brush up on our business writing and communications skills.”