How to ensure good communication at an international company?

Managing a business is not an easy task. It’s even harder when you employ international staff. This is when a problem appears regarding the information flow between departments as well as the general management of all organisational units. This is also why the key aspect is to develop standards that simplify communication at an international company. The above is done so that the functioning of an organisation is ensured to create one organism.

There is always a problem with communication

Managing information flow is a serious challenge and this is evidenced by the fact that a problem with communication occurs even in smaller organisations. Even at such companies, there are people who speak another language. Optimising communication-related processes is one of the most important activities that should be undertaken in order to improve the functioning of the entire company. Masaaki Imai talks about this. He is a specialist in implementing the Kaizen philosophy at companies. According to his guidelines, improvement of communication between employees is one of the key aspects that has to be looked after when thinking about optimising business processes.

How to ensure proper communication at a company?

It is worth being aware of the fact that communication at a company is not only based on official channels but also on unofficial ones. Furthermore, it takes place in three directions, taking into account the different levels of an organisation: from top to bottom (supervisors – employees), from bottom to top (employees – supervisors) and horizontally (managers – managers or employees – employees). These aspects are fundamental from the point of view of optimising information flow processes because they provide a certain image of how communication at your company looks.

What are official and unofficial channels?

In order to match the content of the message better, you need to know what official and unofficial channels are. Unofficial channels are used to transfer personal messages between employees and are a proof of close relationships between them. However, optimisation should be ensured for the official channels which are used to transfer information that is key for the functioning of the entire organisation. 

They can include messages about successful projects, new recruitment processes, presentation of financial results, sharing information regarding task progress, providing remarks and suggestions in relation to the company’s functioning, notifying about new projects or distributing tasks. They occur in all directions between all levels and generally speaking, they relate to all formal and organisational aspects of a company.

Because communication through official channels has a huge impact on the effectiveness of all business processes, the method of sharing information should be standardised. First of all, such messages should be very clear and prepared to ensure that there are no doubts as to their content. A good practice is also to ensure their linguistic and logical correctness. The more precise your message is the bigger the probability that it will be interpreted in the right way.

How is a message created?

In order for the recipient to understand the message, it has to be compact. Knowledge of the process of creating a message will help you formulate one effectively. Theory shows that the content is first developed in the creator’s mind. Then it is coded and passed on. At the end, it is decoded by the recipient. Why is it important? Because when you assume that the message content is a type of a code, its decoding is possible only when you assume that the recipient is able to do that without any errors. The case is similar with software development. If you use the wrong code, the software will not work.

Taking into account the code quality, messages should be created in a compact way. Long monologues are a guarantee that the recipient will not understand the key information. There is no time at work for reading long messages so be sure that they are as short as possible but at the same time logical and grammatical. The key information must be contained. Any unimportant remarks can be shared through unofficial channels: you can send a private message or call a specific recipient. And preferably do that after working hours.

How to ensure communication at a multilingual company?

The same rules apply in the case of international teams. The only difference is that you need to use multiple codes when creating a message. Its decoding will be done by recipients that use various languages. Message compacting at such organisations is even more important. You have to take into account the method of formulating the message and also cultural differences and the fact that a recipient from France, for instance, may interpret a sentence in a different way than a recipient from Germany. 

Agree upon one language of communication at the company

You can avoid misunderstandings if you ensure proper standardisation of the process of information flow at your company in advance. What we have in mind here is to define the language of official communication. English works well provided that all your employees are able to use it at a level that enables making and understanding messages correctly. Your recruitment process should already specify requirements regarding language skills. When you post a job ad you should stress that you require the candidate to be fluent in English, for instance. If you don’t feel like you are able to communicate in English yourself, you can always order a service of written translation of your message.

A lot depends on where your employees come from. If you have offices in such countries as Austria, Germany, Switzerland or Liechtenstein then German would the best method of communication between all organisational levels. The case will be similar in the case of Spanish-speaking countries (Spain, Mexico or some American states).

What are the tools for supporting communication at a company?

When it comes to standardising information flow, it is a good idea to think about tools that will help you with creating official and unofficial channels for sharing information. The leading solutions of this type include Slack and Rocket Chat. They feature very similar interfaces but differ in details such as the available integrations.

Rocket Chat and Slack – the similarities

When you look at them from the point of view of user friendliness, Slack and Rocket Chat offer similar possibilities. Both tools make it possible to create thematic, open communication channels (e.g. news, projects, random stuff, etc.), as well as closed groups which can only be accessed by particular people. They also feature the possibility of sending direct messages to all users. Even the interface is quite similar. At first sight, Slack and Rocket Chat look almost identical.

How does Slack and Rocket Chat differ?

However, as the case usually is, the devil is in the detail. Slack features a built-in integration possibility with numerous external tools. It makes it possible to create tasks in Asana, manage documents in Google Drive, etc. Theoretically, Rocket Chat also offers integration with external systems, including with CRM systems (e.g. GitHub, NextCloud, etc.), but such integration requires programming. In terms of integration, Slack is a significantly easier solution.

Important differences between these two solutions are also visible in the installation itself. Slack works on external servers but Rocket Chat can only be installed on your internal server. If you know how to protect your server, then Rocket Chat is an ideal solution for you. When using it, you can be sure that data will not leak to unauthorised people, which cannot be guaranteed by Slack. In the latter case, you have to rely on the compatibility and stability of the external environment without being certain how and where your data is stored. Keep in mind, that such information is usually confidential and should not be disclosed.

Rocket Chat for multilingual organisations

Another advantage of Rocket Chat is the aspect relating to the multilingual interface. Even the free version makes it possible to configure the application so that all system information is displayed in multiple languages.  This is a huge simplification for organisations employing international teams. In this regard, Slack offers significantly less, with the interface being available only in English.

How to ensure efficient communication in several languages at a company?

Improving communication processes at a company is one of the key challenges for every business owner. This task is more complicated when a company bases its activity on international teams. The key issues here are as follows: correct formulation of messages; standardisation of the communication formula; and implementing an official tool for communication. It is equally as important to enforce and follow agreed standards of information flow. Putting all aspects relating to communication in proper order is one of the key optimisation tasks leading to improvement of a company’s efficiency. Keep this in mind specifically when you expand your business to international markets.