Workplace communication skills are one of the most highly praised, but at the same time underdeveloped qualities.
How many resumes do you think claim to “Have strong communication skills”? Probably almost all of them. But is that always true? Definitely not. And that is a big problem. A lack of communication skills is not an individual-only problem. It’s the company’s problem too.
When communication is poor, deadlines are delayed. Ideas are not discussed properly. Employees don’t give their best at work. Avoidable conflicts happen.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. A brilliant team with bad communication skills will drag down the results of any business.
In this article, we will explore some unique strategies on how you can develop communication skills in your employees. But first, let’s find out in detail what is important in Workplace communication.
5 Important benefits of good workplace communication
The result of a good workplace communication strategy manifests itself in many ways. Employees feel valued when their voices are heard and it is one of the best employee retention strategies. With a transparent and open communication culture, your employees will work better, feel better, and collaborate better. Here are 5 important advantages of effective workplace communication:
1. Improve Morale: It’s no secret that a workplace that encourages communication also fosters motivation. When people actively communicate, there are lesser conflicts, lesser confusion, and better workplace relationships. These are things that will hype anyone up.
2. Increase Productivity: Sometimes, it’s not your employees who slack off. The inefficiency of the workflows is to blame for the project’s delays, while instead, you want to improve project productivity. With better communication workflows, you’ll do things much more quickly and efficiently.
3. Enhance Teamwork: Communication is often touted as the “oxygen of a distributed company.” This is even more relevant in increasingly more remote-first companies. Remote or not, the foundation of teamwork is built on good communication within a culture of knowledge sharing.
4. Build Accountability: When a team has strong communication skills, each member becomes more accountable. People understand what they need to do and who is responsible for what. It establishes a precedent for self-leadership and boosts the employee’s confidence.
5. Boost Employee Engagement: You may be surprised to see this on the list, but hear me out. Your employees’ bond with the company (which is fundamentally what employee engagement is all about) is heavily influenced by their trust in you. A communicative culture accomplishes this. It allows employees to be themselves, be respected, and express their opinions. It also contributes to the development of an inclusive culture. If this isn’t the recipe for happy employees, I don’t know what is.
10 Tips On How to Improve Communication Skills in the Workplace
Your employees are not the only ones who suffer as a result of poor communication skills. Your company happens to be in the same boat.
According to communication expert Debra Hamilton, miscommunication costs a company with 100 employees (or less) $420,000 annually. So a company has a responsibility for improving its employees’ communication.
A well-thought-out communication strategy is an effective tool for keeping workflows as smooth and seamless as possible. It brings transparency, which helps to remove barriers and distractions from an employee’s path to doing great work. It even improves the quality of your recruiting by providing a clear and pleasant candidate experience.
Here is a list of strategies on how to get started.
1. Provide Regular Communication Training
Most employees probably don’t even know how to be better communicators. Like any other business skill, being a good communicator takes time and practice. That is why today’s businesses should start taking regular communication training more seriously.
An ideal communication training plan should familiarize employees on how to be:
Corporate employees in particular need to master the art of being considerate. When you’re considerate, you frame your words courteously and empathically. It sets the tone for a more professional and constructive discussion.
Communication needs to be transparent. And, for the sake of transparency, everything you say should be clear to the receiver. Clear communication conveys information, so your colleague understands exactly what you’re trying to say.
The ability to be concise means limiting your discussion to what is necessary for the conversation. Keep it short. Drawn-out communication can be tiring, especially if everyone is busy and short of time.
Concrete communication means backing up your claims with facts and figures. Everyone has an opinion or hunch, but often it isn’t enough. It is especially useful when you’re in a corporate setting and have to create reports and business strategy.
Don’t end it on a cliffhanger when communicating with a colleague or boss. Communicate the information in its entirety. Half-way communication is particularly risky because it can lead to miscommunication and losses.
Misinformation is notorious, both inside and outside the workplace for running decisions. Being correct necessarily doesn’t mean only communicating when you are sure. Correctness informs the receiver if the information you deliver is true, verifiable, or hearsay. When you add a disclaimer like this, it aids in accurate communication.
The most challenging part of being a good communicator is being confident. It is an unavoidable part of communication. Others will find it hard to trust you in a professional setting unless you are confident in what you share.
2. Identify The Communication Style Of The Other
Acing a communication loop is more tricky than simply being a good communicator.
Communication is a two-way street. That means that even if you are a skilled communicator, the other person’s communication nuances, traits, and unique skills affect the course of the interaction.
That is why successful communicators pay attention to the other person. They know how to cope with persons with varied communication abilities. Strong communication skills allow you to adapt to the context.
One of the most important talents that successful communicators possess is recognizing a person’s communication style. Only then will they choose the communication path that will allow the other person to open up and result in a productive discussion.
There are essentially four types of communicators:
- Director: They are difficult to read, are action-oriented, get things done, and need results.
- Expresser: They are easy to read, very social, show emotion, and need recognition.
- Thinker: Non-emotional, very precise and systematic, need accurate facts.
- Harmonizer: Better listeners, relationship-oriented, team players, crave harmony.
Make it a habit for people to openly acknowledge their communication style. It ensures that employees know how to approach and communicate with their co-workers effectively. To start, you can have your employees take a test (such as this one) during their onboarding.
Then you could even put their communication in their company profile. It’s not so different from having your pronouns or phone number next to your profile icon. This will help their co-workers and manager understand how to approach them and have an effective conversation.
3. Become An Active Listener
Unfortunately, many people consider communication to be all-or-nothing. Either sit quietly and bite our tongues or interrupt, argue and dominate. As if those are the only options available.
Active listening skills are seen as nothing short of a superpower. Active listening bridges the gap between talking and silence. It lets you have a respectful discourse.
Active listening is the capacity to hyper-focus on your conversation and leave no room for distractions. It is more important to focus on the meaning of the words rather than taking them at face value. You consider the other party’s point of view, even if you disagree.
The problem with this strategy is that you can’t force anyone to be an active listener. Sure, you can provide communication training. Aside from that, here are a few things you can do to promote active listening in the workplace culture:
- Create active listening spaces. Remove any potential sources of distraction from these spaces. Include plants, ambient lighting, and soothing colors. Soundproofing these rooms is also a good idea.
- Have round-robin meetings. Everyone in a meeting should have a minimum amount of time to share their thoughts and opinions. It not only reduces the chances of being distracted, but also creates inclusivity.
- Set up an employee grievances committee. Every member of that committee can help employees become more empathic. And allowing them to practise active listening. Make sure that the members of the group are rotated periodically.
4. Body Language Matters
When it comes to having good communication skills, people focus mostly on honing their verbal skills or written communication skills. And it’s understandable why.
People with good verbal skills see a lot of perks in their careers. From public speaking to displaying leadership skills, these people seem to be ideal communicators.
But there’s a catch.
When you say one thing and do another (when your verbal and nonverbal language is not in sync), people will first believe the non-verbal cues.
Anthropologist Ray Birdwhistell discovered that face-to-face conversation is only 35 percent verbal, and 65 percent nonverbal
Nonverbal cues can be anything that your body reveals. The tone of voice, making eye contact, inflection, facial expressions, and open body language— can reveal a person’s true emotional state.
Fortunately, nonverbal communication training can be relatively simple (and enjoyable). Here’s a particularly interesting video on how to read body language from a former FBI agent.
5. Understanding Your Communication Objectives
Before designing any communication strategy, plan your communication objectives to the last detail. You may think this is a pretty straightforward (and boring) tip, but hear me out.
Don’t just pen down some random unrealistic goals when planning your communication objectives. Instead, use a goal-setting strategy like SMART.
SMART is a goal-setting framework that helps you decide on realistic goals that your team can achieve. SMART is an acronym that stands for:
Goals should be simple, clear, and sensible. Goals that aren’t clearly outlined aren’t helping anyone. Unspecific goals will simply leave employees questioning what they should do.
Goals should ideally be “trackable” so that employees can stay on track and motivated. Measurable goals emphasize the effort required to achieve them.
Setting unattainable goals is a recipe for demotivation. An achievable goal sets the bar:
- High enough that striving for it is challenging.
- Low enough that it is still feasible with the current resources and time constraints.
- Avoid lack or scarcity of sufficient resources.
Great goals take into account their relevance in terms of:
- Situations that have an impact on the goal’s completion.
- Other pressing goals that have higher priority.
Personal goals should be aligned with the company goals, contributing to the overall success of a company.
Goals that are time-bound are assigned a specific amount of time to be completed. It means that each goal should have a specific and reasonable deadline.
A too short deadline isn’t effective, but setting a goal with an exceptionally long deadline (such as a year) also doesn’t work. If you discover that any goals require such a long time to complete, it is time to break the goal down into sub-goals.
Related: How to use Notion as project management tool
6. Encourage An Appreciation Based-Culture
Making people feel at ease at their work is a big part of having a smooth and transparent communication flow. People are more likely to express themselves openly and effectively when they feel happy, appreciated, and valued.
When it comes to making employee appreciation more effective, there are a few rules.
Firstly, ditch manual appreciation.
Manual appreciation is slow, unreliable and unsuitable for remote use. Opt for digital rewards and recognition platforms to ensure that you recognize your people in the most effective way possible.
Employees at organizations that were highly effective at integrating technology into recognition were three times more likely to be in the top quartile of business performance.
Secondly, go beyond only top-down recognition.
To boost communication between your people, start by encouraging them to appreciate their co-workers. Every human being craves acceptance from their peers.
According to an SHRM and Globoforce report, 57 percent of HR professionals in organizations that implemented peer-to-peer recognition programs reported higher levels of employee engagement.
Bonus point? It will surely boost camaraderie and strengthen the team’s bond.
Thirdly, stop treating it just as an HR exercise.
The effectiveness of rewards and recognition is primarily decided by how well they are integrated into your company values and how well your employees receive them.
The majority of reward and recognition programs are ad-hoc. Companies rarely make a good plan, structure, or strategy for implementation. Taking rewards case-by-case results in the entire process of rewarding a workforce being inconsistent.
With most manual recognition programs, people are unclear about:
- When will they be recognized?
- By whom and how will they be appreciated?
- For what behaviors are they getting recognized?
7. Host Frequent Communication-Based Activities
Effective communication is a skill that you can refine through practice. One of the most enjoyable ways to practice is through communication-based activities.
My personal favorite communication-based activity is the Anxiety Party.
The Google Ventures team came up with the idea of organizing Anxiety Parties. The idea was born when the team members of the Google Ventures team started experiencing doubts and work-related anxieties.
So, this is how you throw an Anxiety Party:
- An Anxiety Party requires participants to jot down any work-related anxieties or worries that have kept them awake at night.
- After collecting the paper chits, the moderator reads out the anonymous concerns and asks everyone to rank them. A rank of 0 would imply, “I had no idea it was a problem.” A rank 10 would say, “Yes, I’ve been having the same issue.”
- Then, starting with the highest-ranked anxiety, each issue is addressed. Talk about how you can use concrete goals to help you overcome your fears.
8. Go Through A Refresher Course On Email Etiquette
Like it or not, most corporate communications are carried out via email. Still, only a small percentage of employees have mastered the art of successful email communication.
Investing in an email etiquette course for your employees is a simple hack you didn’t realize you needed. Even a basic training course can help your employees learn how to use email to communicate rather than just respond to it.
9. Invest In the Feedback Process
It is critical to provide employees with a feedback process. Feedback offers employees the impression that they are more than just team members. Secondly, when you take employee feedback seriously, they start valuing the power of communication.
Structured feedback creates a strong sense of positivity in your employees, making them feel confident about voicing their concerns and opinions. That is why your leadership responsibility is to ensure that your employees have a proactive feedback platform to voice their concerns.
While you can use manual feedback strategies such as 1:1s or performance reviews, you should pair them with an anonymous employee survey tool.
Instead of the sugar-coated version, anonymous survey tools allow your employees to express their true feelings. More than any one-on-one conversation, this helps you better understand the strengths and weaknesses of your company.
The questionnaires and normal 1:1 sessions with the manager are private. As a result, many team members are unaware of what others are working on. It can be a major source of disconnection between team members.
That is why our team has a daily Scrum meeting in the morning. Every team member answers three basic questions during this meeting. These questions, which are listed below, ensure that everyone is up to speed:
- What did you work on the previous day?
- What are your goals for today?
- Is there anything getting in the way of achieving your goals?
This team ritual gives a sense of accountability. And it empowers our employees to be more proactive and confident in speaking up.
10. Invest In Quality Communication Tools
If we consider the team’s functioning as a well-orchestrated symphony, then communication is the conductor. That’s why having an agile communication toolbox is perhaps one of the most important things you can do to elevate the productivity levels of a remote team. You’re making a tremendous mistake if you exclusively use email.
You’ll need a mix of tools designed for regular teams, messaging apps, remote teams, one-on-one collaboration, and company-wide collaboration. Meanwhile, you must guarantee that these technologies improve work quality while not being too complex to use.
Conclusion: How To Improve Communication Skills In The Workplace
Here is the disclaimer. There is no standardized formula for magically improving communication skills. Even if you are following all of the best tips and tricks, even the most seasoned communications professional will make mistakes from time to time.
That’s why it’s so important to focus on developing communication skills AND brushing them up.
Honestly, it’s more of an art than a science to keep other people’s attention. When you implement the above tactics can help you reach a point where your employees don’t require any hand-holding to communicate effectively.