“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.”- Brian Tracy
1. Call the Plays – Peyton Manning calls the play before every down so that his team knows what to expect and where to be on the field. You should do the same with your team. On Monday morning (or preferably Sunday night) think of the week ahead. Is anything out of the ordinary going to happen? Will contractors be working in the warehouse? Are you getting a new machine or a new employee? Any big shipments coming in or going out? If anything new is happening, share that with your team so they aren’t surprised. Employees hate surprises and they love feeling like they are in the loop. So give them a heads up and let them know what to expect.
2. Allow Time for Feedback – make time once a day, once a week, or once a month for the team to get together and share what is happening. You will have to decide how often is appropriate for your warehouse. But don’t skimp on making this a regular event. Employees have a lot of valuable information to share and many improvements, large and small, can be gained from these talks.
For example, there may be safety issues in the warehouse such as broken concrete or busted racking that needs to be addressed. You might find out that your warehouse employees need more materials for safe operation or light bulbs need to be replaced.
3. Hold Your Thoughts – does your spouse ever tell you that you don’t listen? Are you stumped because you feel like you are listening? The problem isn’t with your ears, it’s with how you’re interpreting what she is saying. Listening is quite possibly the best way to improve communication in the warehouse.
Remember, some people are not talking about a problem to immediately get a solution. They might need to just “talk it out” so they can figure things out for themselves. Before rushing to solve the issue, listen carefully and then ask if the person would like your advice or help.
You’ll certainly want to use your discretion, because some problems are very immediate. However, you should try giving your employees time to talk and work out their own issues. Doing so will empower them to think for themselves and solve problems more effectively the next time.
4. Send Fewer Emails – thinking carpal tunnel is in your future because of all the time you spend working on a computer? A great remedy is talking face-to-face rather than sending emails. There are many positive effects of speaking with someone rather than sending an email, and here are a few:
- Sending fewer emails will make the emails you do send seem more important. Your emails will be more likely to be opened and read if you send fewer emails throughout the day.
- Talking in person can improve understanding and will reduce time-consuming and frustrating back and forth emails.
- You can make someone feel a little more special by taking the time to go talk to them.
- More will be shared in a face-to-face conversation. Problems in the warehouse will take on a new dimension and solving them will become easier.
5. Be Polite and Patient – rarely do you want to discourage someone from sharing with you. Impatience and rudeness can quickly discourage a co-worker from sharing important information. So it’s always best to respond positively and constructively. You might think someone is off topic and is wasting time in team meetings, but rather than insulting them or being sarcastic, you should politely ask them to keep their conversation relevant and appropriate.
Warehouses are complex places that are made more complex by the challenge of communicating with everyone’s best interest in mind. Following these simple steps will encourage communication and will help unearth and solve problems. Happy warehousing!
Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/ Freedigitalphotos.net