10 Communication Challenges and How to Master Them with Your Own Branded Employee App

We are constantly communicating: 90% of today's Americans own a cell phone and 80% use a smartphone. This is true whether we're at home or at work. In particular, communication within businesses and between different branches has changed rapidly in recent years and has become increasingly important to a company's success. Clear communication is of course only possible when there is an effective flow of information and an ongoing exchange between departments and up and  down a company's hierarchy. The inability to see the dangers of not acheiving this outcome looms like an iceberg threatening to sink everyone's corporate Titanic.


In order to safely navigate around these miscommunication icebergs, many companies are turning to the newest internal communication tool—employee apps.

improving internal communication

This article describes ten common communication challenges and shows you how your own branded employee app can help you to tackle them. 


1. Lack of feedback

If communication moves in only one direction, discourse will quickly become ineffective.
But feedback is important on more than one level. Not only does it help you determine how well your employees have met their goals, but it also shows how well they collaborate with their teams, their co-workers, and the management.


In addition, feedback shows how well employees handle stress and adversity. A lack of feedback can lead to demotivation and slack work attitudes, while positive feedback can make work more fun, engaging people and pushing positive development. But no matter whether feedback is good or bad, having it is a necessity.

For management, it's central to not only to receive feedback but to act on it. The survey everyone took is useless if it just sits on a dusty shelf. The aim of collecting feedback should be using it to make a difference. To quote Psychology Today:


“Acting on the feedback we gather—adjusting our behaviors, attitudes and approaches to improve our perceptions in the workplaceis the primary differentiator between those who rise quickly through an organization and those who seem to be stuck.”

Since we've now established the importance of feedback, let's talk about the best ways to send and receive it. The key point is to make it easy. Think of Facebook and how natural it feels to leave comments. That same easy flow should be embedded into your company's communication platform. Using a simple platform will make providing feedback second nature to your employees.


Also consider that just because you use SurveyMonkey doesn't mean that your workforce always finds it easy to understand. With an employee app, you create one obvious channel that requies no training to use but still provides regular surveys and comment sections, and makes sharing work possibile.


2. Email overload

In addition to phone calls, text messages, chat services, social networks, and internal meetings, an average person can receive as many as 120 emails every day. This communication overload often results in important information being lost, deleted, or forgotten. Employees are easily frustrated by such heavy workloads. Reading through emails on a Monday morning shouldn't feel like a hike up Mount Everest in December. 


Combining existing channels into one in order to cut down on email overload is an easy way to streamline work. An advanced app like Staffbase gives companies a way to avoid having to send mass emails and propagating confusing or irrelevant "CC" conversations.

The emails you do send should be clear of difficult jargon and shouldn't invite too many people into a dialogue. You should also follow this one easy rule: Three messages and then we talk.


3. Overall lack of communication

Some of the most dominant reasons why employees are dissatisfied with their jobs relate to communication: Managers who don't direct enough information; constant change that isn't sufficiently communicated to employees, or people in different roles who focus solely on their own objectives, ignoring overall priorities.


It is of utmost importance that managers don't talk down to their employees. Being unapproachable creates barriers and a social hierarchy within the company that prevents open communication. When employees feel heard, they become more invested and employee engagement rises. At one point or another, everyone has probably experienced the boss who's dropped off by a chauffeur-driven Mercedes E-class and never leaves his glass office unless it's to torture the new intern. Sorry to break it to you, sir, but this is not the way to go. 


Ideally, a direct line should be created upon which employees can make suggestions, tell you about their problems, and talk about their day. Staffbase offers solutions for all of these tasks. Secondly, clear aims and priorities should be communicated through a universal channel in order to make them understandable beyond specific departments or groups. This prevents communication silos from forming and supports a feeling of working together to reach one goal.

Think of your company the same way you'd think of a football team. If the receiver doesn't know where the quarterback is throwing the ball, there is no chance of a completion, never mind a touchdown. 

Communication goals, employee app

4. Device chaos

People tend to avoid communication if it's happening on a device they don't feel comfortable using or one that's hard to figure out. Gone are the days when we only worked on computers. We now use tablets, smartphones, laptops, notepads, ultrabooks, smartwatches, and paper (do you remember what that is?).


People have an average of five email addresses, three phones, two laptops, and four telephone numbers, making it hard to cut through the noise. To ensure that information gets to your employees on the right channels, why not let them work with the devices with which they're most comfortable. 

Most of the time that means their smartphone. It's the device we pick up more than 85 times a day and the first and last thing we look at in our waking hours. In addition, the Pew Research Center has found that 90% of our text messages are read within the first three minutes of receipt, while this is the case for only 22% of our emails.

Solutions like the Staffbase employee app are therefore not only innovative but they're also beloved by employees around the world. You give your workforce the possibility to engage and communicate on a channel that they're aleady using in their daily lives, therefore avoiding the sense that you're forcing extra work on them. 


5. New employees

While it's always exciting to onboard new employees, the process is often cumbersome and the teaching of important communication techniques is sometimes an afterthought. Your aim should be to create guidelines for the onboarding process that on the one hand are clear and easy to follow, and on the other introduce your new employees to the important communication techniques and methods used within your company. This way, rookies quickly feel like a part of the team and their onboarding does not interrupt or miss out on the communication flow. In addition, a clear manual designed for the onboarding process saves time, makes sure that everybody got the same introduction, and is easily distributed. 


With Staffbase you can upload a step-by-step onboarding manual that opens automatically as soon as employees accesses the app and goes through everything they need to know.


6. Language barriers

While a diverse and global workplace is definitely something you should strive for, language barriers can be challenging within a team, as well as between different corporate locations. Communication can become slow, ineffective, and ultimately nonexistent. Since we don't want your mixed-language communication to die out like the Dodo, your aim should be to avoid misunderstandings, display news in multiple languages, offer translation services, and encourage intercultural training. 


This might sound like a lot of extra work and cost, but if you ask around, people within the company will often offer to help. Language classes as well as translation services can be distributed among the workforce, and even if you have to pay for parts of it, it's well worth the price. Don't try to save money at the wrong ends.

In addition to language, cultural differences can often cause communication problems. Especially in international companies, even minor things like meetings can become extremely challenging. Consider a scenario in which an American employee has a meeting with an Indian art director. For the American, being on time will be a sign of politeness, while for the Indian, time might be more flexible—he might be half an hour late without even thinking about it. Did you know, for example, that in China it is polite to decline gifts three times before taking them; that in the Netherlands you have to congratulate the whole family if it's somebody's birthday; or that business meetings are held in saunas in Finland? Beware my friends, cultural differences abound!

An advanced employee app will offer content in different languages and automatically change the language setting to that of the device on which it is used. In addition, employees can decide upon the location to which they wish to subscribe, and they are even able to change these settings while traveling.


7. Communicate internal as well as external situations

In order for your employees to feel engaged and to fully identify with their company, it is central that their company be the source of all important information. God forbid you were to go bankrupt and your employees first heard the news from the morning news on TV. This is no less true for smaller-scale issues. Your employees should hear market or economy related news from your side first, before they can hear it from anybody else.

Many companies use a glossy newsletter to keep their employees informed, but this “solution” is often expensive and requires a relatively large amount of work. Apps like Staffbase provide an easy answer here, too, since they allow for the creation of articles on a smartphone which can be published with just one click for everybody in your company to see. They are mobile, fast, and people actually read the posts.


8. Overload of irrelevant information 

Similar to the email situation, it's important to know which information actually needs to be shared—including when and where it needs to go—and to filter it accordingly. To communicate or not to communicate, that is the question. It's therefore helpful to create different groups, closed as well as open ones, and to communicate specific information on specific channels. An advanced employee app will allow you to define user groups and target your content. 

9. Lack of respect

Ideally, groups of people working together consist of individuals from diverse backgrounds with unique experiences. On the downside, this can sometimes lead to misunderstandings if employees don't fully respect one another or they fail to consider the range of experience outside their own from which they could profit.

Sharing is caring. When employees are encouraged to share their experiences, respect for one another grows, work environments vastly improve, and communication automatically becomes more productive.

Improving internal communication, corporate comms, employee app

10. Budget constraints

Many companies and HR departments don't have the necessary resources for developing their own internal communication system, especially one molded to fit their specific needs. But with recent improvements in technology and software, external providers like Staffbase can now provide you with the opportunity to make communication effective in an affordable way


By following these easy tips you should be able to circumvent that iceberg, because really, who wants to take a bath in the murky waters of poor communication.


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Written by Sina Kaye Lockley

Sina is a communication specialist at Staffbase. She wants to help companies engage their employees and find ways to make work more fun. She writes about internal communication, mobile employee engagement and how to use an app in today's evolving workforce. She religiously reads one book a week and sleeps with pen and paper next to her head.