Communication errors cost companies with 100 employees approximately $420,000 per year, which means a company with as few as 10 employees can lose tens of thousands of dollars a year from miscommunication.
Ben Collinsworth, general manager at Yellowstone Landscape in Texas, and Josiah Kessie, owner of Innovative Restorations, a remodeling firm in Crossville, Tennessee, have both seen their share of communication hiccups.
Before improving communication, Collinsworth says his company wasted a lot of time going to nurseries without a plant list, getting stuck in traffic because teams didn’t go to job sites in the right order, and losing important papers.
Likewise, Kessie reported miscommunication ended up costing him big when a project leader misunderstood Kessie and didn’t look at the scope of work before starting a flooring project. The project leader was supposed to only tear out the entryway floor but tore out the floor in the sunroom too.
The worst part? The customer toyed around with the idea of tearing out the sunroom floor before work began but decided not to spend the money. In the end, they got the floor they wanted but on Kessie’s dime.
How to Improve Communication With Your Field Crews
1. Trade Paper for Tech
Collinsworth and Kessie say paper and pen (and even spreadsheets) were always problematic. Now, they simply can’t get the job done. To stay competitive in today’s market, you have to upgrade your technology.
Use smartphones to stay connected with your crew. You can send pictures, text, call, or video chat to get a clear picture of what’s happening on the job without having to travel to the jobsite yourself. That gives you peace of mind and can save a ton of travel time each week.
And there are several software products and apps built specifically for your industry. For example, choosing a great client relationship management (CRM) tool can help you automate communication with leads and clients—turning leads into clients and clients into happy referral sources. A mobile time tracking app like ClockShark can also help reduce payroll costs and save you hours of administrative time each week. Lastly, an app designed for group chats can help your crew stay in the loop regarding project delays and schedule changes.
2. Keep the Meetings Coming
Kessie and Collinsworth schedule meetings once a week for different teams on different days. Then, once a month, they have an hour-long, company-wide meeting for everyone. Team meetings promote inclusion, aid decision-making, increase safety, and keep everyone on the same page. You can get a lot of feedback to help pinpoint breakdowns in communication, reduce friction between team members and managers, avoid major project delays, and make more informed decisions.
3. Give and Get Feedback
Being open and honest with your employees is a building block of good communication. As Collinsworth points out, “If you're not open and transparent with the reason you make decisions, and why and how you do it, people are more likely to distrust that thought process.”
And it’s just as important to encourage crews to be open and honest with managers and higher-ups. Kessie encourages feedback from crews by having them fill out a weekly report. Their feedback goes straight to the team leaders and if anything negative comes up, they address it quickly and without retribution to encourage truthful answers.
4. Train Crews on How to Communicate
Kessie trains his crews on how to avoid negative chatter with a no gossip policy. If someone has something negative to say, he asks them to say it to the person who’s responsible or inform their supervisor instead of saying it to other members on the team. They talk about the value of good information instead, and how positives can ripple beyond the team and out into the community—changing things for the better.
Kessie also teaches his crew to share information that’s pertinent to the job or project, no matter how small it is. And when they share the information, they’re trained to ask the other person to repeat it back to them. That way, if there’s a misunderstanding, the team members can fix it before the conversation ends.
ClockShark helps teams stay on the same page with in-app communication through notes and conversations (a chat platform for a specific job or customer). Send notes with specific instructions for employees to see when they clock in for a shift. Read the notes employees leave about a shift after they clock out or throughout the day. With conversations, you can chat with employees in real time and the conversation attaches to a specific job or customer for quick reference. Read our guide to communication in ClockShark to learn more.