Common Business Communication Mistakes that Lead to Low Productivity

Your business's productivity is slipping, and it's not alone -- the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 3.1 percent drop in business sector productivity. Some business mistakes can actually lead to better leaders and more growth, but one common business mistake, poor communication, can be catastrophic for employee productivity. Communication and productivity go hand-in-hand. As employees are unable to get the information they need to do their jobs correctly, morale decreases, trust vanishes, and productivity comes to a screeching halt. If nobody is on the same page, projects fall behind schedule, departments miss revenue goals, and the entire business suffers.

Low productivity levels in the workplace is a serious problem that can have negative consequences for your business. Low productivity means missed deadlines, lost revenue opportunities, and even low motivation among employees. There are lots of small things you can do to increase productivity throughout your day, but when it comes to business communication, important information is being missed. Here are some of the ways communication and productivity are connected.

Avoid These 5 Common Communication and Productivity Mistakes

To prevent low employee productivity in your company, avoid these five common mistakes:

  1. Scattered resources
  2. Mismatched messaging applications
  3. Hierarchy problems
  4. Lack of collaboration
  5. Lack of follow-through on ideas and suggestions

We will expand on each mistake below, and explain exactly how each one can negatively impact your business' productivity. We will also give you helpful ideas and suggestions to solve for each of these communication mistakes:

1. Scattered Resources

Low Productivity At Work Due To Scattered Resources

When a company uses too many different resources to accomplish their work, they run the risk of losing essential project assets, spending time looking for important communications, and missing the most up-to-date versions of files. Not to mention low employee productivity levels.

A solution to improve workplace efficiency is to utilize a collaborative messaging platform to bring all project files together in one place—keeping them accessible yet secure at the same time. Employees can use these tools or online sharing features that allow them to message each other with links directly to a specific document, while the administrator can keep files protected with a passphrase. With one platform, employees can find all of the project materials they need from anywhere and from any device, from laptops to smartphones. They'll reduce time searching for documents and get back to work immediately.

Emails Don't Deliver Messages Effectively

There's a reason email is so often called out as the number one business communication mistake. It seems fast, but it doesn't deliver messages effectively. Instead, in order to improve communication and productivity, employees should be using a collaborative messaging platform to communicate because it's faster -- they'll have conversations that are finished in seconds instead of dragging on for days. Messages stay online and within reach, so employees can always access them with future collaborators and clients.

Additionally, messages can come with subject headers so everyone knows exactly what the conversation is about. Plus, employees can type out a message with an IM tool instead of using email's canned response options to send formal messages as needed. Employees should be messaging each other instead of relying on emails that may get lost in the shuffle. They'll cut down on the number of replies needed to get a simple message across and finish projects quickly instead of spending time in endless email chains.

Employees Flooded With Messages

If your employees are spending more time cleaning up their inboxes than working, that's a problem. You don't want them to ignore messages, but you don't want them wasting time deleting messages that are unnecessary. One solution is to create workflows that only send messages that are important—not dozens of messages each day. Administrators can make sure employees aren't flooded with messages by setting up notifications for certain keywords and phrases, which will alert them when something needs their attention. When employees know their inboxes are organized, they can quickly find what they need and finish projects on time.

Multiple People Responding To The Same Message

It's a common business communication mistake that multiple people end up responding to the same message—with every reply, the chain gets longer and there is more room for error.
Many times, employees are using email to make requests or ask for project updates because it's quick. When everyone is doing this, messages get lost in the shuffle -- nobody knows who has seen them and what they've done with the information, leading to poor communication and productivity. A solution is to use a collaborative messaging platform that allows employees to see when other people have read messages within their inbox. With this information, they'll know if calls need to be made or if an email needs to be sent instead.

This will give employees the peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly where their project stands and who is accountable for seeing that it gets done correctly. It improves employee morale when there is positive communication between teams and their goals are clearly defined. They can spend less time worrying about whether previous messages were read and more time producing results.

2. Mismatched Messaging Applications

Poor Productivity At Work Due To Mismatched Messaging Applications

Sometimes a simple mismatch between the messaging solutions your business uses is enough to introduce problems. If most of the employees prefer a different communication method, such as video conferencing over instant messaging, forcing them to use the instant messaging software gets push back. Before choosing software, get feedback from employees and analyze how effective communication occurs in your organization. Ideally, custom designed solutions match your exact needs instead of forcing your workflow around a packaged application.

Mismatched messaging applications are one of the main reasons for low productivity levels at work. Low employee productivity is not just an HR problem but also a business issue that is impacting nearly every company worldwide. Poor productivity can negatively impact the quality of your work, slow down completing tasks, and cause high levels of stress.

Mismatched messaging applications are often introduced by simple miscommunication between team members with different preferences in the software they prefer to use for communication. By developing custom-made solutions that match your needs, you'll have a more efficient and productive workforce. You can also utilize task management tools that help you easily collaborate on projects with your team members.

Since effective communication is the foundation of any productive workforce, it's important to choose an enterprise tool that will increase coordination across teams and departments for maximum results. Low productivity can cause a ripple effect across your entire business, but this problem can be fixed with the help of a single messaging application to motivate employees to communicate effectively. 

3. Hierarchy Problems

Lack of Clear Hierarchy Causes Low Productivity At Work

Do employees know the chain of command when it comes to effective communication? If they have a problem on their project, do they talk to other employees first, speak with the supervisor, bring in a subject matter expert, or get frustrated at the lack of hierarchy? 

Hierarchy problems can lead to poor management and cause employees to not know how to communicate with others in order to get the information they need in order to do their job correctly. Establishing clear communication pathways for when an employee encounters certain situations throughout projects and workflow will help to increase productivity and communication and productivity.

Poor Information Management

If your employees do not get the information they need in order to get their job done correctly, then they will struggle to complete work on time and within budget. Low employee productivity at work can be a result of poor information management, so it is important to put systems in place that allows employees to easily access one another when they need them.

Conflicting Priorities

A lack of clear hierarchy within the workplace can lead to conflicting priorities among employees, which makes it hard for them to get their jobs done efficiently. Low productivity at work is often due to conflicting priorities, so take the time to organize your company's hierarchy and communication pathways in order to make sure that every department is working towards the correct goals.

Unwillingness To Communicate

If an employee does not feel comfortable reaching out to another department or contacting a manager for help with their work, then they will most likely struggle at getting their job done correctly. Low productivity can come from an unwillingness to communicate, which means it is crucial to establish a culture where all employees know where to turn and therefore feel comfortable speaking up and reaching out for help when they need it.

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4. Lack of Collaboration

Lack of Collaboration at Work Causes Low Productivity

When all your business departments exist in their own vacuums, it's difficult to implement the cross-department collaboration you need to improve both communication and productivity levels. Additionally, it's easy for people at different levels and departments to feel like they're working in silos and not as a team. Low collaboration between employees can create a negative environment, which can lead to low employee productivity and other workplace problems.

Low collaboration can be a result of employees feeling like they're not being included in conversations that impact their roles, or departments working on the same projects without talking to each other about what's going on. Low collaboration can also be a result of not having the right tools to facilitate effective communication between employees, whether it's email, phone calls, or video conferencing.

Contextless Communication

Not only do your employees need to know what they need to accomplish and how it fits into their job role and company goals, but they also need to work with employees outside of their department. If they don't, then the right information won't be passed down to those responsible for completing tasks, and employees feel like they're in the dark.

People need to understand why a given project is important and how it impacts other projects as well as their own work. This demonstrates the importance of having shared goals in your organization. Sharing context across departments can help employees work together and collaborate, which leads to increased productivity and positive communication across the board.

Unclear Priorities

Employees need to know what they should be working on now as well as what's coming down the pipeline. Low clarity around business-level decisions can lead to employees feeling like their department is spinning its wheels or even producing irrelevant work, which can lead to lower productivity. Low clarity around priorities can also lead to employees making decisions without consulting management, which can result in projects or tasks being completed with limited context and direction. By establishing clear business priorities across departments, you'll ensure that everyone is working toward the same goals and moving the business forward together, while understanding how each person or departments' work effects one another.

Nonsensical Communication 

Low clarity isn't the only thing that will result in missed expectations. Low clarity combined with seemingly nonsensical directives can be equally frustrating for employees. These directives are either so abstract they don't make any sense, or so unspecific that there's no way to know how to complete them. Nonsensical communication is especially damaging when it comes from senior management because it can make employees feel like they're being set up to fail - thus making collaboration frustrating and virtually impossible. Low communication clarity from senior managers can also damage trust between employees and their leaders, negatively impacting your business' culture and productivity as a whole.

Nonsensical communication can also come in the form of work requests that don't really provide enough details to complete, such as "We need to do something about our social media posts" rather than "We need to create three new posts for each of our social media accounts by the end of next week." In order to improve collaboration, consider training senior management on their communication skills and giving them the power to delegate effectively and collaborate successfully. Remember, to choose your training wisely and avoid some of the most common problems with leadership training programs. Proper training can make all the difference.

Poor Feedback

Poor communication doesn't only impact what employees know, but also how they perform. Low or nonexistent feedback creates a lack of accountability for missed deadlines or tasks that aren't completed correctly, resulting in ineffective work and poor collaboration. Low feedback can also cause employees to feel like they're not being valued or trusted by their employers.

Necessary business communication is crucial for increased productivity and improved collaboration across teams, so it's important to be aware of the common mistakes that are leading to low productivity rates among employees. Encourage collaboration between departments with cross-departmental training, company-wide communication channels, and other ways of working together. All of these efforts combined will motivate employees and improve productivity rates. 

5. Lack of Follow-Through On Ideas and Suggestions

Lack of Follow-Through On Ideas Cause Frustration In Employees

Company culture plays a part in good communication as well. It increases productivity and boosts employee morale when there is a strong company culture. If employees aren't listened to when they attempt to communicate problems, over time less and less talking happens. When employees have good idea or suggestion, it's important that they are listened to so their input can be used in order to improve company practices.

Employee feedback gives management insight into what needs improvement within the company, which ultimately leads to higher profits and better customer service. Following through on suggestions and ideas ensures that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal. If there's no follow-through, employees are left in the dark about companies' decision to take their input into consideration or not, which leads to low productivity when they feel like their input isn't valued.

Not following up on employees' suggestions is a result of poor management and is a common business communication mistake has a negative effect on productivity. So promote a culture of 360-degree listening and follow-through to encourage clear and effective communication and increase productivity throughout your entire organization. Giving your leaders proper training on how to listen to employees' suggestions and follow-through on their ideas can greatly improve morale and motivation. Additionally, good communication increases productivity in the workplace overall.

Solving Communication and Productivity Problems

Your business productivity doesn't have to take a nosedive due to a lack of effective communication. Whether you create a clear, effective communication hierarchy or get a custom messaging solution designed to meet your business's unique needs, you can get back on track. If you're looking for strategies for increasing productivity, one way of solving communication issues is communication training. We provide several communication courses designed to improve leadership skills, fixing these issues from the top down. Good communication starts with your leaders, and it increases productivity across the board.

If you want help achieving effective communication and productivity, contact us today! Our leadership training tools will get your employees back onto the same page with clear expectations and goals. Low productivity at work could mean low revenue for your company, so you shouldn't wait to take the necessary steps to improve productivity and implement effective communication strategies. Let our experts take care of this issue once and for all! 

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About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is Director of IRI's Digital Workplace Solutions Group, and the founder of A Better Leader. Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.