Improving communication in the workplace is a tricky task. Fortunately, there is a simple yet profound concept that, when grasped, will transform an organization’s ability to excel; communication is relationship building. Everything from our speech and body language, to what we wear and eat contributes to workplace communication. Establishing efficient communication across departments and teams is vital for encouraging productivity. The better a team communicates, the more they’ll be able to accomplish and the better results they’ll produce.
Improving Communication in the Workplace
Improving communication in any organization starts from the top-down. The people in leadership positions at your company are ultimately responsible for implementing changes. To improve communication, you need to foster an environment where feedback, collaboration, and unity is not only encouraged but is comfortable.
Extroverts comprise approximately 50-74% of the population, meaning most of your workforce is likely to communicate voluntarily. If anything, they may communicate too much and in the wrong way. That’s just one of the many challenges you’ll face when building a culture of communication. Fortunately, there are seven highly-effective techniques that will improve communication in your workplace:
1. Set Communication Standards
One of the best ways to improve workplace communication is to prevent miscommunication. Start by establishing standards that explain accepted communication practices and procedures. For example, the Google Code of Conduct tells employees which practices are and aren’t accepted in the organization and gives directions for communicating problems or concerns. Before rolling out the new standards you should call a company-wide meeting to explain the upcoming changes and demonstrate how employees, and the company, will benefit.
Make sure that communication standards aren’t so stringent that they don’t allow for people to express themselves. But they also need to be enforced, otherwise change won’t occur and communication won’t improve. Your standards should act as a guide for the workforce as they strive to become a united team.
2. Leading by Example
Say what you mean and do what you say. People love to follow the example of executives and managers that communicate well and follow through on the standards they set. It’s important for leadership to live by the established rules for two main reasons:
- It sets a good example for employees
- They’ll be able to identify aspects in the standards that need to be changed, added, or removed
Following through with new communication standards establishes trust between personnel by demonstrating that there are no double standards.
3. Encourage Feedback and Participation
Standards don’t do any good if you disregard the opinions of your employees. There needs to be an “open door policy” that makes everyone feel comfortable coming to their managers and executives with ideas, questions, and issues.
Equip your employees to speak up in meetings and participate in brainstorms and on projects by asking them low-pressure questions:
- What are your thoughts?
- Are there any experiences you feel are relevant to this project?
- Do you have some takeaways we might have missed?
Let everyone know that their ideas are valued and won’t be dismissed. Validating employee opinions is one of the most effective ways to improve staff retention. Everyone likes to know they have a voice at the table.
4. Clearly Define Roles and Responsibilities
Defining job roles is a vital component of improving workplace communication and morale. When everyone in the organization knows the scope of their duties and understands how they are responsible for each piece of the pie, efficiency improves.
Outlining roles and responsibilities begins with the hiring process—specifically, identifying the positions you need to fill in your organization. The more detailed your job description and job screening process are, the easier time you’ll have finding a great fit for the role.
People who understand their duties and role in the company’s big picture goals are effective, productive, and satisfied.
5. Work Towards a Common Goal
It’s not unusual for rifts to form between departments, especially between sales and marketing departments that constantly face alignment problems. This can always be traced to poor communication. One way to solve this problem is to establish company-wide goals that all departments must achieve as a team.
Collaboration requires teamwork, and teamwork helps build trust. It also ensures that nobody is working in a silo, focused on differing objectives. Departments that trust each other will be willing and eager to openly communicate.
6. Create a Culture of Respect
A 2015 report by the Society for Human Resource Management stated that “respectful treatment of all employees” was the biggest contributing factor to job satisfaction. Building a culture of respect requires four specific actions:
- Listening – Paying attention and absorbing what people are saying shows respect and contributes to effective communication.
- Encouraging – Being supportive and providing motivation encourages people to produce their best efforts.
- Helping – Offering assistance makes a huge difference when someone is struggling or doesn’t feel comfortable asking for help.
- Demonstrating empathy – Showing people that you care for them, not just as employees and coworkers, but as individuals.
Following through with these characteristics demonstrates your respect for people and helps others show that same respect in return.
7. Leverage Technology to Effectively Communicate
Modern forms of communication are based in technology. Applications like Slack, HipChat, and even Google Hangouts have changed the way companies communicate. Coworkers that sit ten feet apart shoot messages to each other online rather than talking across their desks. Memes, GIFs, and emojis are just as popular–if not more so–than text communications, and some companies even use Snapchat as a main form of communication.
This all boils down to one thing; your modes of communication must evolve with your workforce and the technology of the day.
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Improving communication in the workplace can be a long, difficult task–but one that leads to a productive workforce with high levels of satisfaction. Healthy communication is a solution to almost every problem. When a workforce comes together, recognizes the problems they must overcome, and follows a plan to address those issues, you know your communication has reached expert-level.