16 Ways to Improve Communication in the Workplace
For nearly 95% of recently surveyed company leaders, effective communication is the single biggest influencer of employee commitment at work. But only 22% think their companies are getting effective communication done. So how do you do it? Here's a clue: how to improve communication in the workplace starts with you.
How to Improve Communication in the Workplace [5 Key Questions]
These are the five most important questions you need to ask yourself and the 16 things that will show you how to improve communication in the workplace:
"Why is communication important in the workplace?"
Most companies will say that communication is the glue that connects all of the moving parts of their organization. It's the cornerstone of their operational strategy for creating value, scaling their growth and achieving success.
At least 86% of leaders and employees acknowledge that the main reason why failure happens in the workplace is due to a lack of effective, collaborative communication. For a project to be handled properly, 94% of people say it's absolutely necessary to be kept up to date on the exact status of all associated deliverables all the time.
It's no secret that improved communication influences productivity levels:
- 97% of workers believe communication affects their ability to get work done every day.
- People who work with company strategies that minimize communication silos and make information, knowledge and data available to all are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers.
- "Improved communication and collaboration through social technologies could raise the productivity of teams by 20 to 25%," says the McKinsey Global Institute.
Improved communication keeps the right people in the right seats:
- 96% of workers believe empathetic communication is important for retaining a great workforce.
- Top priorities for leaders include effectively communicating company strategy, values, and purpose to their employees (64%) and enhancing leadership communication (46%).
Improved communication boosts engagement:
- According to Gallup, organizational elements that rely on clear communication like understanding roles and responsibilities, the right tools for the job and working towards common goals with a common vision are determining factors in elevated employee engagement.
- 92% of employees feel their performance would improve if they received corrective feedback delivered positively. While 43% of highly engaged workers receive feedback at least once per week, only 18% of low-engaged workers do.
Improved communication enables trust among leaders and teams:
- 63% of leaders and teams think that trust at work must be earned.
- More than 80% of workers in the U.S. say a key factor in developing trust with employers is company communication skills.
- Trusted companies see 106% more "energy" at work, have a 50% higher employee productivity level and outperform companies with low trust levels by 186%.
Communication is the essential solution for creating a culture of transparency and trust, dissolving confusion, resolving internal conflicts and ensuring everyone knows what's expected of them. It keeps everyone engaged and creates an effective and enjoyable workplace.
"How can communication be improved?"
1. Develop your own communication skills first.
At work, we accomplish things like leading teams, delegating responsibilities, explaining concepts and building relationships through messages that convey information. This knowledge-share is only effective when your necessary soft skills are refined for better understanding and thoughtful response.
Every day, we communicate in four ways:
Verbally, which can be immediate and efficient (when done thoughtfully). Here's how to hone your verbal communication skills:
- Speak slowly with a confident, even voice so people can easily hear you.
- Get to the point with succinct, simple sentences, so your ideas are easily understood.
- Prioritize active listening, so you can genuinely understand the meaning and intent of the speaker's message before you respond appropriately and empathetically.
Written, which provides a record of each interaction for reference. Here's how you can refine your writing skills:
- Craft simple messaging with detailed information or descriptions, so your ideas are concise and easy to understand.
- Proof your written messages to identify typos, mistakes and confusing wording.
- Check your written tone of voice to ensure you sound positive and encouraging because you won't have body language to help convey your intentions.
Nonverbally, which helps to convey emotion and feelings. Here's how you can improve your nonverbal communication:
- Notice how your emotions affect your body and how others' body language affects you. Observe your posture, facial expressions, breathing patterns, muscle tension, and your limbs' positions when speaking and listening.
- Practice body language that makes people feel at ease and shows that you're receptive to what they're saying. Uncrossed arms and legs, shoulders back, steady and relaxed eye contact.
- Take a deep breath and adjust your body language whenever you notice yourself expressing defensive and unreceptive body language, like crossing your arms or avoiding eye contact.
Visually, which helps with different learning styles and a person's ability to comprehend ideas. Here's how to improve visual communication skills:
- Choose visuals that help people identify and understand the knowledge and information you're communicating. This could include graphs, charts, photos, illustrations, or videos — get creative.
- Consider where you can add visuals to what you're expressing verbally and on a page. This is a proven technique to help improve understanding of an idea or concept.
- Provide context to visuals, like a key or legend, to help people translate visual data.
"How can we fix poor communication in the workplace?"
2. Review and refine your communication process.
Consider how good communication benefits the workplace and assess whether your organization is enjoying all those advantages. According to Gallup, improving workplace communication begins with three essential elements of a core process: accuracy, openness and timeliness. Ask yourself if your communication process:
- Enables employee engagement. Once you have a greater understanding of team members' skills and needs, you'll have a more satisfying work environment.
- Provides a customized experience for workers. People expect personalized communication in their home lives, so they expect the same from their employers.
- Helps build a positive culture. Once you mitigate misunderstandings, any conflicts and possible feelings of disrespect, you'll have a workforce that performs better.
- Allows for well-timed messages. Information should be communicated appropriately when required.
- Improves customer relationships. Once you provide great solutions for customers' needs, you'll have happy customers.
- Is strategy-based. Unclear communication that confuses more than it explains won't help keep employees engaged or connected.
- Boosts performance and productivity. Once you have workers who feel good about expressing their ideas at work, you'll have workers who take ownership and problem-solve creatively.
- Values openness and trust. Once you have a communication process that acts as a dialogue for the entire workforce, you'll enable clear messaging and active listening among all members of an organization, whether in-office or remote.
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3. Show you're trustworthy by communicating with compassion.
Research shows that at least one-quarter of employees don't trust their employer. Express genuine interest in the conversation, show empathy for the communicator's point of view and their dilemmas, and follow through on your offer to work together and find a solution.
4. Approach workplace communication as the free flow of information.
Emphasize transparency, adaptable processes and ways to practice open communication and continuous improvement of both communication skills and technology.
Create a culture of accountability where:
- Team members take ownership of their roles and responsibilities and answer for their actions.
- Leaders value initiative, self-direction, personal responsibility and integrity.
- Team members use their work time efficiently.
- Leaders allocate resources appropriately.
- Companies recognize that taking responsibility creates a more open communication channel for honest feedback and thorough understanding.
5. Start with understanding before assumption.
Some people make up their minds first about what a message means before absorbing and comprehending the communication. This can cause inappropriate reactions and confusion. Strengthen this practice by ensuring you have all the information before deciding. Ask questions that allow the communicator to clarify their message and give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to positive intent.
6. Become a better listener.
Good communicators are always active listeners. They take time to consider what a message means before responding with care. Start by observing your listening habits. When are you not listening? What draws your attention away the most? Work on your listening skills every time you're talking with someone. It's the first step toward how to improve communication in the workplace.
7. Use your company's preferred communication tools.
Leaders and team members have many options to connect with others at work, such as in-person meetings, live video conferences, chat, phone, email, productivity software and more. Each communication channel has its benefits and drawbacks to effective messaging. Different types of communication require different types of channels for success. And most companies need to use a variety of them to communicate effectively. Take time to learn the technology, and become a proficient user.
8. Make feedback a positive experience.
Whether giving it or getting it, feedback is the stuff that enables people to better understand and respond to communication of all kinds. Pay attention to how you offer feedback. The words and the methods you use are part of what makes for actionable feedback. Also, use care in your response to feedback. A good rule of thumb is to focus on the work and leave judgment out of it. Offer suggestions and alternatives rather than opinions of the work or the communicator.
As an organization, provide ways for employees to offer feedback, confidentially and company-wide. When leaders and team members feel comfortable freely sharing their thoughts and ideas, voicing their concerns and fears and asking questions, it creates a more trusting culture they want to invest in.
9. Change your approach to meetings.
All companies use meetings as an integral element of their communication strategies. Make sure yours are great. And there's great technology out there that can help. As Mark Abbott, founder of Ninety.io, explains, "Now more than ever, our employees want to feel connected; they want to feel heard and understood; they want to feel like they know what's going on and what's working and/or could be better."
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10. Make workflows transparent.
You can improve communication and transparency by integrating your data, opportunities, issues, processes, and people. There are extraordinarily simple tech tools out there that can help you:
- Create clear agreements, measurable results, and confident decisions
- Share a vision of the future based on what needs to happen now
- Enable leaders and teams to see their roles and how performance is measured
- Create clarity and connection
- Document core processes
- And more
11. Respect the importance of accountability.
When people clearly understand their roles and responsibilities as part of a team and the work to be done, it makes it easy for them to be accountable.
Establish a framework for communication around accountability through:
- A common purpose. Explain what your team is accountable for and why they're doing it.
- Clear expectations. That way, everyone knows who's doing what and how performance is measured.
- A pathway for achievement. Establish how you and your team will get the result.
- Collaboration. Work together to identify challenges, answer questions, and recognize when help is required and when it's time to step away to let work progress.
- The possible results. Discuss positive and negative outcomes and how they might set the stage for future successes.
12. Streamline operational processes and document them.
When communication does break down (and it can), take the opportunity to improve the process, so it's less likely to happen again. Document the new procedure and make it available to all stakeholders. Then take it one step further: Ask for feedback on what's working so it can inform future processes.
13. Explain how tasks and projects fit together when delegating.
Making sure leaders and team members understand the importance of what they're being asked to accomplish – in a positive, informative way – helps them see how their work will directly affect company goals and create value.
14. Observe others' preferred communication styles.
Notice how people communicate with others. Get to know the strengths and weaknesses of their communication skills. Pay attention to the platforms they like to use. Ask them about the ones they like least. This way, it's easier to have purposeful conversations in places where people can respond in a positive, helpful, energized way.
15. Follow up on expectations.
Regular check-ins on how projects are proceeding are a great way to maintain improved workplace communication. People will have a convenient time and place to ask questions. They'll remain clear about deadlines and what's expected for the finished project.
16. Talk it out, one-on-one.
Sometimes just talking about it is the most efficient way to gain alignment. Set up regular feedback sessions and recurring meetings where you connect with people to find out how projects are going, their opinions on operational processes, constructive feedback or criticism – whatever's on their minds. It's also an opportunity to get to know them, ask questions and show you care.
Get a System that Encourages Better Communication
It takes a consistent effort to improve communication in the workplace. But the extra time and attention will pay off.
- You'll see greater alignment and faster agreements,
- Spend less time clarifying and unwinding miscommunication,
- Experience fewer missed deadlines,
- Avoid frustrations caused by miscommunication and confusion regarding assignments and measurables,
- And enjoy stronger working relationships with genuine, thoughtful and empathetic interactions.
Leaders who invest time and energy in clear communication work with team members who communicate clearly with colleagues and customers. Improved communication builds trust, elevates engagement, increases productivity for every employee at all levels of an organization and drives growth.
Find out how Ninety can help you easily improve communication in the workplace right now with a comprehensive system of tools.
Ninety is built to transform the way you communicate through meetings, documented processes, assignments, data, roles and responsibilities, feedback and more.
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