Tips for Creating Effective Team Communication

Building a cohesive team is one of the most important and challenging undertakings for those in the restaurant industry. And yet, developing an effective process for team communication is often low man on the totem pole behind ordering, inventory, scheduling, and customer service. We get it—there are only so many hours in a day.

Here is one of the first lessons that great communicators share: keep it simple. Otherwise known as the K.I.S.S. principle—it stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid or, the acronym that we prefer, Keep It Simple and Straightforward. We’re going to take this well-known communication approach and develop your team-building communication strategy—here and now. What could be simpler?

Communicate from Your Adult State

Before we delve into the tools and techniques that can make an effective communication process easy to implement, we need to talk about you, the manager. After all, it is your communication style that will define and determine the level of interaction and open interchange that your team ultimately achieves.

Transactional Analysis, a social psychology technique first developed in the ‘60s, defined our unconscious ego states as Parent, Child and Adult. When you’re communicating from your Parent state, you tend to speak as your primary caregiver spoke. If they were nurturing, you may respond in loving, helpful and caring tones. If they were controlling, you may find yourself criticizing, reprimanding and scolding.

If you’re operating from your Child state, you will most likely communicate in one of two ways: your natural child is open, creative and loving while your adaptive child is guilty, afraid, defensive, or anxious to please everyone. It’s the child you became in order to survive. Tony Robbins states it well: “Whose love did you crave the most?” What did you have to do and say in order to gain their acceptance, love and approval? This is how you will communicate from your child state.

Now, to the state in which we ideally reside, at least during conversations with our staff—the Adult state. Communications from your adult persona are rooted in the present. They are straightforward and carry little emotional triggers. You’ll know you’re in your adult state when your comments come from a place of critique, not from the desire to blame or criticize. It is objective, goal oriented, analytical and logical.

Okay, enough of Psychology 101. This is the starting point for taking a good look at your communication skill-sets and make sure they are effective and fostering an environment that leads to team-building instead of team-destroying. Remember the mantra, K.I.S.S., find your adult, and then move forward with these tools for developing an effective team.

Motivation: 86 percent of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures. Over 99 percent of polled employees preferred a workplace in which people identify and discuss issues truthfully and effectively. Logging important communications is a proven way to build a strong collaborative culture.

Tools for Effective Communication

  1. Mobile Logbooks

We all know that the written word carries power—particularly in the restaurant industry where you can only be so many places at one time. In order to keep in regular contact with your staff, Manager Logbooks allow you to reach out with reminders, praise, and updates to all or a select group. Ctuit offers a mobile app called “On the Fly.” Within it is a Manager’s Log that allows you to communicate with your team in real time using data-driven information.

The Cohn Restaurant Group in San Diego uses Ctuit’s Restaurant Management software and manager log-in to achieve effective communication between their 20 restaurants.

HotSchedules also offers a Logbook mobile app where your team can access messages, schedules, and training materials. This app allows you to send messages to specific groups such as managers, kitchen staff, or servers. Their mobile communication logbook helps you assign tasks and follow-ups and check in on a restaurant’s activity when you are not on sight.

Here is an example of a broadcasted message to all team members: “Team, remember to check in with Chef John on tonight’s menu and garnishes.”

Both services offer time-stamped, logbook entries. Hopdoddy, an expanding burger bar, uses HotSchedule’s Logbook to streamline communication—approximately 344 messages are sent every month from each unit.

  1. Promote Employee Communication

The McKinsey Global Institute found that productivity improved by 20 to 25 percent in organizations with connected employees who communicated and collaborated using social technologies.

A study conducted by Queen’s University found that 49 percent of Millennials (in most instances, the majority of your staff) support social tools for workplace collaboration. Surprisingly, 40 percent of them would even pay out-of-pocket for the social collaboration tools.

Hubbion offers a free Task Management and Collaboration Tool. This is particularly good for assigning tasks and includes messaging windows.

Crew is a communications app that encourages collaboration, keeps team members informed, and provides scheduling, including requests for time off and employee availability.

One of the best tools for employee engagement is to get them out of the workplace and focused on a common good. Find out what charitable and volunteer programs interest them and then set up some time each month or every few months to devote to these projects. BJ’s Restaurants created a BJ’s Team Action to Support Communities Force which has come up with events such as painting houses for needy seniors and setting up campaigns for local food banks.

  3. Create a Creative and Engaging Environment.

A study conducted by Alive With Ideas revealed that 93 percent of communication pros believe creativity is essential in internal communications. Only 6 percent, however, believe it is being used wisely. How can you adapt a creative and engaging environment that is easy and simple to implement? Create a competitive, albeit friendly, environment by adopting a social media engagement platform that also instills friendly competition.

Tipzyy is a mobile app that educates and motivates waiters and bartenders, rewarding those that excel following each shift. This friendly rivalry promotes communication, personal achievement and can team motivation.

  1. Monthly Newsletters.

This may seem out of vogue, but busy schedules can deter the best intentions. By committing to a monthly newsletter, events, new menu items, and updates on training and opportunities can be shared on a regular basis.

  1. Face to Face.

While social engagement platforms may be all the rage, nothing beats face-to-face activities that create a bond among your staff and managers. Consider monthly team building events such as a shared meal that also includes getting everyone’s opinion on possible changes to the menu, or creating competitive sports tournaments with fellow restaurants in the area.

With employee turnover costing American businesses almost $11 billion every year, creating a strong culture with positive and open communication processes in place is essential. This requires an effective strategy. By applying a sound software solution, outside activities, creative competition and focused communication, you can be in the 25 percentile—those businesses that have a strategy or plan to bolster engagement.


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