Effective Communication Strategies in the Workplace
For a business to be successful, you need to employ effective workplace communication strategies.
But why is good communication so important?
We know that good public relations is all about external communication with your public, whether that public is your customer or a shareholder or investor.
But good comms starts in the workplace. It’s internal. Good communication with our colleagues, teams and managers is how we build and maintain relationships and get things done. But it shouldn’t be left to chance and companies which want to thrive need clear communication strategies in place.
This post looks at the importance of communication in the workplace, and gives you tips for developing an effective communication strategy for your organisation.
What are effective communication strategies in the workplace
Good communication in the workplace is the difference between achieving long-term success – or not. In fact, it can be the difference between your business succeeding or failing.
Good communication skills and tools in the workplace are needed to manage teams, complete projects on time and on budget, pitch to clients and get staff to work together. It’s also important for getting the best out of your teams and listening to any concerns they may have. Poor communication can result in employees feeling out of the loop and unheard.
So communication strategies are simply action plans for ensuring the communication within your organisation is free-flowing and effective. Your communication strategy should include a mixture of tools and processes that ensures knowledge is easily shared, cross-department collaboration is simplified, the business is streamlined and efficient, and is able to build strong relationships with its employees.
Two key elements of workplace communication
Whatever workplace strategies you employ, there are two elements that are consistent across the board: successful communication must be inclusive, and it must be two-way.
An inclusive communication strategy is where all members of the business from senior managers to junior staff have the ability to share ideas, access information, give feedback and be part of the decision-making process. This open and inclusive style of communication encourages employees to be more productive and more committed as they feel their opinion is not only heard, it’s acted upon too.
Good communication should always be a two-way street. It helps the business be more transparent and encourages employees to be innovative.
Employees are more likely to be engaged with a company’s values and goals, and are more likely to retain information, if they’re part of a dialogue. Businesses should ensure that there are systems in place for employees to give feedback easily, whether that’s in face-to-face meetings, via email or even anonymously via a suggestion box.
So now let’s take a look at some tips for effective communication strategies in the workplace.
1. Face-to-face communication strategies
From how you stand to your ability to listen: good face-to-face communications are not just about what you say.
How to talk to people
Having a conversation with someone in person and getting your point across clearly can feel a bit like a lost art. We’re all so used to pinging off emails, we’ve forgotten the power of a face-to-face chat. It’s important for all members of the team to get up, move around and speak to colleagues in person.
Your tone of voice, the words you use and the way you project yourself are all essential for good communication. Use clear and simple vocabulary that’s easy to understand. And keep the tone light and upbeat. Don’t crack jokes, especially at other people’s expense, avoid using swear words or slang, and don’t mumble or sound unsure.
Make sure you listen
Listening is the flip side of the coin and is a key communication skill. When someone else is speaking, it’s important to focus on what they’re saying rather than thinking about your reply. Don’t cut people off halfway through or start talking over someone. It makes you appear arrogant and aggressive. Instead, let them finish what they’re saying. And employ a technique called active listening, whereby you repeat what’s been said back to the person that said it, to show you’ve listened and understood their concern or point of view.
The importance of body language
Effective communication in the workplace isn’t just about what is said, of course. Body language or non-verbal communication plays a huge part in how we come across.
Think about your facial expressions and gestures. Avoid frowning or looking angry when someone is talking and instead adopt a neutral, open face using eye contact. Waving your hands around madly can look passionate or deranged. And pointing at someone can feel threatening. So refrain from gesticulating too much. Think about your posture too and the way you move. Sitting up, standing straight and leaning forwards all demonstrate your interest in what’s being said.
Examples of positive face-to-face communications
Here are a few tips on making the most of face-to-face communications.
Managing a meeting
No-one wants a three hour meeting. But short team meetings give employees an opportunity to speak to each other in person, talk about up-and-coming projects and solve problems. If you’re the person managing the meeting, ensure everyone has their say without being interrupted. And if you want to keep the meeting short, have it standing up.
Not all meetings should be held in a group setting. Sometimes a one-to-one meeting is the best option, especially if it’s to address an issue around performance. A private chat, away from the noise of an open-plan office, gives you the opportunity to talk to a team member about any issues they have and how you can support them. And it enables them to raise any suggestions they might have felt uncomfortable about doing so in a group setting.
Workshops are a good opportunity to discuss potential new ways of working, or changes in the company, or even a new project. And this open style of meeting gives employees a chance to share their opinions and feel part of the decision-making process.
After any meeting, ask for feedback. Not just about the information you shared, but how you delivered it. And remember to thank the person or group for their time. It makes people feel included, and it shows that you value their time.
2. Online communication strategies
For communication to be really effective, technologies shouldn’t be overused.
Having said that, online tools when used correctly, are the easiest way to share a lot of information with a lot of people quickly.
We love it. We hate it. But the fact is, email is here to stay.
Using email for business communications has its detractors, of course. It’s easy to misconstrue the message when you can’t see the tone of voice or body language used. And there’s always that pressure to respond to an email within 30 seconds of receiving it because it’s marked High Priority (pro-tip: you don’t have to, and they’re ALL marked high priority, even when they’re not).
But the fact is, email is a quick and efficient way to communicate with a large amount of people at once or to have a written record of an instruction. Just go easy on the CCs and don’t send company emails after 6.30pm.
Some communications don’t need an email and a quick message via text, WhatsApp or Slack will do the trick. It’s a good way to keep all team members up to speed with what’s going on and keeps everyone feeling part of the team, even if they’re not physically in the office. The same rules apply though. Don’t send work-related messages during out-of-work hours.
Remember when we’d never heard of Zoom? If your teams are working from home or work remotely and never come to the office, a weekly video call is a way to manage employees, communicate effectively and build relationships. It’s also a useful way for different departments to talk to each other and share ideas.
The company intranet is one of the most effective ways to communicate with staff and colleagues. Use the intranet to collaborate, streamline processes, educate, inform and share information.
Ensure your employee directory is up-to-date so staff have an understanding of who does what in the business and who they need to contact. And have a training portal with videos and documents that help staff improve their skillset. What’s important with an intranet is that it shouldn’t be a dumping ground for absolutely everything. Make sure your intranet is clean and user-friendly and a useful resource for staff.
Social media is a powerful tool for communicating with your customers. It’s also a useful way to engage employees and facilitate collaboration. Encourage teams to follow each other and engage with the articles, points of view and images shared. This fosters good working relationships and sparks meaningful conversations. But ensure you have a robust social media guide in place so employees are clear as to what they can and can’t post or comment on. Embed the company’s social media channels in your intranet too, so employees can always see what the company is sharing with the public.
3. Environmental communication strategies
Creating an inclusive and receptive workplace environment where there is trust between the company and its employees is key to a happy and productive workforce.
Have an open-door policy
Encourage employees to connect directly with the senior management team and to not hold back when it comes to concerns or ideas that can benefit the business. An open-door policy helps build positive connections and ensures team members feel valued. But be specific about what that means. If employees are in the same building, can they knock on the door and come in? How about if the team are all around the world or working from home? Make it clear that anyone in the team can reach you via email or video call at anytime, and you’ll create an open environment for communication.
Include an onboarding process for new employees
Good communication is absolutely imperative when it comes to new employees. A well-designed onboarding process that every new person must complete, will ensure they receive the right training, talk to the right people and understand how to use the company intranet all within the first week or so. And that means your new recruit can hit the ground running and quickly feel part of the team.
Make sure company history, key clients, working hours, holidays and social media use are all clearly communicated.
Carry out surveys and suggestions
Employee engagement surveys may seem old-school. But they can help you improve communication within the workplace by asking team members for feedback on their preferred communication methods and whether or not communication within the business could be better. A survey makes employees feel heard and valued. Although the survey itself is just the beginning. The feedback received must then be actioned, otherwise staff will not engage with future questionnaires.
What are the benefits of a having an effective communications strategy?
Poor communication in the workplace has a negative effect on employee engagement with team members often feeling disconnected, unheard and likely to leave the business.
By contrast, good communication has a whole host of benefits, including a positive work environment that encourages collaboration, increases productivity and supports innovation.
Encouraging collaboration: Teams that collaborate and have their opinions heard and recognised are much more likely to succeed and build a strong sense of community
Increasing Productivity: When tasks and goals are communicated clearly to well-trained and engaged employees, productivity goes through the roof, with more collaboration taking place and less mistakes made.
Supporting innovation: When employees can share ideas in a supportive environment, they’re far more likely to bring fresh solutions to the table. Through sharing ideas and opening up channels of communication, you can increase innovation within your organisation.