11 Expert Tips For Improving Workplace Communication
Effective workplace communication is an essential element of your business’s s...
Employee communication is one of the building blocks of every successful business. It doesn’t matter if the business has three employees or 300, good communication matters.
In this article, we’ll discuss ways you can lay a strong foundation and build effective employee communication among your team — whether your business is just starting out or has been running for years.
When you strip away all the extraneous detail, employee communication is simply the exchange of information between two people in a business. It doesn’t matter if it’s between a CEO and a new hire, you and one of your direct reports, or two coworkers on the same team — it’s all employee communication.
But, if you have to exchange information with more than one individual at a time, is that still employee communication? It sure is.
Employee communication extends beyond the simple one-on-one exchange of information to include the more complicated mass communication as well.
Like one-on-one communication, mass communication takes on many different forms. It may be one person presenting information to a group, a group presenting information to a single person, or a group presenting information to another group.
This, too, is all just employee communication in one form or another.
As we mentioned earlier, employee communication takes many forms and can be conducted via a variety of methods.
The message may be exchanged one-on-one, one-to-a-group, or even group-to-group. It may be delivered face-to-face, online, or as a hard copy of some sort. It may contain a significant piece of information or a minor one.
Regardless, there’s a best-possible format for every message.
For example, you can quickly and easily communicate a reminder about an upcoming due date via instant message, email, or printed memo.
Major policy change, however, is better delivered via a face-to-face meeting where you can go into detail and answer any questions that may come up.
When considering the right format to use, take a few moments to ask yourself:
Answering these questions can help you choose the right format for your employee communication and ensure that your team receives and understands the message the way you meant it.
Clarity and brevity are essential components of effective employee communication.
If you’re writing a message, do so in a way that is easily accessible to your audience, avoid ambiguous language whenever possible, and refrain from using jargon unless it’s a regular part of your team’s communication.
It’s also important to be as concise as possible in your written communication. Don’t use five sentences when one will do, and don’t go into minute detail unless absolutely necessary. Too many words can obscure your message and sow confusion in your reader’s mind.
Effective employee communication starts at the top of the business hierarchy.
CEOs and senior management set the tone for everyone else in the company. As such, it’s imperative that they abide by all communication best practices whenever possible.
For example, if you encourage your team members to be as concise as possible in their written communication, and you then go off and produce a five-page email for everyone to read, it sends the message that you are somehow “above the law” that the business laid down.
Employee communication overload is a very real thing when it comes to in-office and remote work.
If you’re sending multiple messages several times a day via email, Slack, Zoom, or any number of other communication apps, the distraction can be a speed bump to your team’s productivity.
Avoid communication overload by limiting your messages, notes, conversations, and other interactions to one regular channel or app and only engaging with coworkers when necessary.
For non-business-related conversations, it’s extremely beneficial to keep such communication to a minimum during work hours. Of course, some personal conversations will occur — that’s inevitable — but try to restrict them to breaks and when you’re away from the main work area.
If your team works remotely, set up a “Random” — or other aptly named — channel that your employees can use when they feel the need. This keeps the “chit chat” in one place so that it doesn’t overflow into and disrupt the work-related communication.
Despite the fact that much of today’s business communication is going digital, it’s still essential to meet in person and one-on-one with your employees now and then.
Whether you set up a weekly, an every-other-week, or a monthly meeting with the whole group, talking face-to-face — even virtually — keeps the lines of communication open so employees feel comfortable with you and the other members of their team.
Sometimes, management or ownership has to make mandates without offering explanations to the rest of the team.
But, whenever possible, take the time to go into detail about the conclusions you reach, about the assignments you give, and about other aspects of the business that may be affected by a certain decision.
This is especially important when your team (or an individual) offers an idea that they feel can have a real impact on the task at hand. If you simply dismiss it because you are privy to other information that they’re not, your team morale will suffer.
Instead, offer explanations as to why you decided the way you did. Tell your team why an idea won’t work. That way, they understand the thought process behind it all and can begin searching for new solutions.
Employee communication is a skill just like any other, and, to some, it doesn’t come naturally. To add to that difficulty, team members may have different ways of communicating that don’t always work well together.
When all is said and done, you may need to train your team to communicate according to a set standard and in a way that may be contrary to their normal method of conveying information.
That can be a challenge — for both you and them — but the rewards may be well worth the effort.
With ongoing training, patience, and persistence, your team can learn to communicate effectively for the betterment of your company culture and your entire business.
Delivering understandable instructions and achievable goals can be a challenge when you’re dealing with employees who communicate in different ways.
That highlights the importance of training your team to communicate in a unified way while at work.
It also highlights the importance of making sure that each member of your team understands the instructions and goals that you put forth and is capable of achieving those objectives.
If you’re unclear in your communication, you may unintentionally put undue pressure on your team and even undermine the success of a project.
Before delivering instructions and goals to the team, write down what you want to say and review it for clarity and accessibility.
Try to look at the message from all points of view and ask yourself:
Once you’ve refined your words to be as clear as you can make them, ask another manager or your supervisor to review your words to see if you can improve the message even more.
Progress reports and updates are vital for the overall success of your team’s projects and workflow, but they can also serve as a type of training and contribute to the effectiveness with which your employees communicate.
Whether those reports are face-to-face or written, one-on-one or in a group setting, they help to keep you and your team up to date on changes that may affect the way your business operates.
Progress reports also serve as a form of feedback and practice for developing better employee communication. At a fundamental level, they require that each and every team member do their best to get their message across clearly and concisely.
Progress reports are especially necessary when your team includes employees who work online or those that work at different locations.
Remote workers don’t interact with the team as often as in-office employees, so it can be very easy for information to fall through the cracks.
Similarly, because they often work in isolation, remote employees may lose the ability to communicate effectively according to your business standards if not pushed to do so periodically.
Regular progress reports plug the information gaps that can occur among hybrid teams, ensure that everyone is on the same page, and provide opportunities for everyone to strengthen the way they communicate with each other.
Another way you can contribute to effective employee communication is to always strive for transparency in the workflow.
In everything your team does, they need to be privy to information such as when deadlines are, who’s responsible for each step along the way, and countless other details that can mean the difference between success and failure.
Good communication helps make everything as transparent as possible and ensures that each member of your team knows what’s going on at every step of the process and has all the information they need to succeed.
Making the workflow as transparent as possible may take more work in the planning phase of the project, but the results are often well worth the effort.
Building trust and rapport with your employees — whether they’ve been with the team for years or only a few days — goes a long way toward reinforcing the communication channels that can improve the way your business operates.
Trust is important because it fosters confidence between you, your team, and the individual employees that make it up.
When everyone feels that they can trust one another, communication will often flow more easily at all levels.
To help build the trust that leads to effective communication, try showing genuine interest in each employee, doing what you say you’re going to do, and empathizing with your team when they hit roadblocks.
When they do encounter difficulties, work with them to find solutions.
As you do these things, take the time to help your team members exhibit these qualities among themselves.
Trust and rapport often develop simultaneously and can often be viewed as two sides of the same coin.
When you do your best to establish rapport with your employees right from the get-go, they’ll be more likely to trust you and feel comfortable communicating with you when a problem arises.
The same goes for the rapport they develop among themselves.
Not sure how to build rapport between you and your team or how to encourage rapport between team members?
There are many ways to do it, but one that has worked well for many is to take the team out to lunch periodically. While there, try to avoid talking about business and, instead, try to learn more about each other.
This is especially useful when a new team member arrives. Gathering for a meal — whether it’s in the office or out — helps the new employee integrate into the team and the culture faster so they don’t feel like an outsider during their early days.
Building trust and rapport in this way is like greasing the wheels or priming the pump of communication — it makes everything work better.
A big part of effective employee communication between management and the team, and within the team itself, is understanding that the activity is a two-way street.
Too often, those in authority view communication simply as a way of getting a message across. When that happens, they often ignore the messages coming from their team.
As we’ve discussed throughout this article, your ability to communicate effectively with your team is important. But your ability to listen to the communication from your employees is equally, if not more, important.
To help understand the importance of listening, think of the communication process as a telephone conversation between you and an old friend.
If problems on the line prevent your words or your friend’s words from getting through, the communication can break down almost immediately.
The same is true of communication between you and your employees and between members of the team. If the message only goes one way, it’s almost impossible that everyone will be on the same page and working toward the same goal.
To prevent this from happening, make an effort to strengthen your listening skills and really hear what your team members are trying to say.
Not sure how to do this? Try these suggestions to cultivate active listening:
Active listening like this is challenging — and you won’t always get it right — but when it does happen, you may see a marked improvement in communication at all levels.
Drawing quick assumptions before you have all the facts and fully understand can be the death of effective communication.
For example, if an employee isn’t performing well on a task or project in which you expected them to excel, don’t assume that they’re slacking off — that could be an incorrect conclusion.
Instead, take the time to talk with them, find out where they’re having issues, and how you can help get them back on track.
Perhaps they’re dealing with things outside of work, or they’re not used to handling a larger workload.
When you avoid quick assumptions and take the time to dig into the cause and effect of the issue, you contribute to streamlined and effective communication throughout your business.
In business, the right tool can mean the difference between success and failure, between strong relationships and weak ones, and between good communication and bad.
When it comes to effective employee communication, the right tool should make everything easier.
It should streamline the exchange of ideas and information but also contribute in a large way to other vital aspects of your business, such as scheduling, payroll, time tracking, and controlling labor costs.
The one tool that does all that and more is the Sling app. The powerful features built into the Sling suite of software can help you:
Sling’s communication features include cloud-based storage, Newsfeed, and Messages.
To make communication as efficient as possible, Sling stores all of its data in the cloud. When you need to share a schedule, report, or template with a team member, simply give them permission and send them a link. They can then access that information anywhere, anytime.
Sling lets you send messages to individuals or groups, optimize your workforce, and build a stronger business culture — all in real time so you can get more done during your busy workday.
For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit GetSling.com today.
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This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal, tax, HR, or any other professional advice. Please contact an attorney or other professional for specific advice.