A strong organization understands that successful communication in the workplace is an integral and essential component of the success of the business. Without communication, leaders cant communicate with their employees and employees can’t communicate with each other, leaving the business to flounder and become inefficient.
Workplace communication is important because it will allow the leader’s vision to reach everyone in the organization. It will increase productivity, revenue, and efficiency. When everyone in the organization is communicating at a high level it positively impacts every single aspect of the business. If there’s no communication, you simply have a collection of individuals with their own individual plans and thoughts which leads to chaos and lack of productivity and morale.
I want to discuss why workplace communication is important but equally important, and maybe the reason you are here searching this topic, is that you want to have a greater understanding of how to increase workplace communication.
Giving feedback is an essential part of a manager’s job. It is well known that giving employees feedback and setting expectations allows them to develop and grow at an accelerated rate which has a very positive impact on the business overall.
Unbelievably though, the majority of managers have a difficult time communicating with their employees. A study by Interact shows that a stunning 69% of managers have something that makes them uncomfortable regarding communication with their employees. Understanding this and taking action by training managers on how to communicate is key.
Imagine you are on a basketball team and you lost a game terribly. In this situation, you would expect the coach to review game tape and provide feedback so that you can understand where mistakes were made and thusly improve. However, this is not standard operating procedure in the business world; at least not in underperforming companies. In my experience people need feedback and they thrive on it as long as it is presented in an appropriate manner. When providing feedback don’t beat around the bush. Be clear and concise with being condescending. Don’t lay blame but instead focus on the future and what is needed to improve or change the situation. Proper feedback with the appropriate level of candor is a beautiful thing and can change people’s lives.
Source: Interact survey conducted by Harris Poll
Alignment to Company Vision and Culture
I experienced the wrong side of this in a big way. I started with a company as the national Senior Director and the company was experiencing rapid growth. Think exponential for more than 5 straight years. In the beginning, we had a lot of people that were working hard but unfortunately, our unifying vision and strategy were not being communicated clearly. Around the same time I joined a new President and Vice President also joined. Between the 3 of us, we worked diligently to align everyone on the same vision and strategy and the results were nothing short of amazing. Communicating the vision and the strategy to execute said vision properly unified the workforce and with that communication, it clarified everyone’s job responsibilities creating a more focused, cohesive company.
Communication helps foster trust. When there is a high level of workplace communication you can have trust in your fellow employees and managers. When the vision and strategy of a company are properly communicated employees understand their roles and thus trust is built. Open, honest communication creates a bond and a feeling of safety which is paramount to cooperation. When it’s obvious that a company has secrets this creates distrust. Humans inherently need safety to cooperate and secrets destroy that feeling of safety.
Communication can affect productivity directly and indirectly. If you literally don’t know what you are supposed to do at your job it stands to reason that you cannot perform it with any level of efficacy or competency. When clear expectations are set, job roles are defined and projects or duties clearly explained. Indirectly, communication improves productivity by improving the company as a whole. Communication allows a company to move as one unit, as a cohesive group instead of a collection of individuals bound together but not necessarily facing the same direction.
Communication is power. Those who have mastered its effective use can change their own experience of the world and the world’s experience of them. All behavior and feelings find their original roots in some form of communication.
Tony Robbins, Unlimited Power
Even the most driven and focused of us sometimes lose our direction. Maybe we get mired in emails and instead of focusing on a project that will drive the biggest difference we spend our time fighting our email box to try and keep it clean. Communication in the workplace drives accountability and when everyone is accountable it helps drive results. Being accountable keeps everyone sharply focused on the company’s vision.
The Right Kind of Conflict
Lack of communication is generally at the core of any conflict. Teams that communicate well can work harmoniously together and generate more ideas because they have the trust necessary to innovate and share. When they disagree they have the trust to voice that disagreement in the right way and discuss it. The wrong type of conflict is quite destructive and creates discord which neuters trust and prevents people from being comfortable and sharing. When I talk about conflict I don’t mean that teams should constantly agree with each other; far from it in fact. Disagreements are fine and are actually necessary and very beneficial as long as communication and trust within the group are high. As long as the conflict is resolved and doesn’t continue it can create positive change. (interesting study from pub med on how the right kind of conflict can improve performance.
Everyone Needs to be Heard
I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen workplace issues because an employee didn’t feel heard and, because of that, significantly underperformed in their job. This affected not only their own job but everyone around them in a negative manner. Communication between peers and from the president or CEO down allows everyone to feel like they are contributing and that they matter; because they do. I can tell you from experience that a company that ignores what their employees are saying is in for a big surprise down the road. Even front line staff need to be heard and when they are satisfaction levels will be much higher.
Technology is a wonderful thing. It allows us to be connected across the world but it comes with its own set of pitfalls that we need to be highly cognizant of. Humans have only recently developed the ability to be connected across vast distances. A lot of subtle but powerful signals are lost when communicating via technology. If you are part of a company that is spread out over multiple locations/states or even countries then you should be aware of the dangers. Email is especially bad for this.
The bottom line is; take a great amount of care when communicating electronically so that messages are not misconstrued. And whenever possible get people together face to face and outside of work. It seems counter-intuitive but taking people away from work and putting them in a social situation will actually improve productivity, not the reverse. When people have the opportunity to meet socially they see each other as people with real lives and real responsibilities. This too will foster communication.
This is a real example from my past. I was in charge of all the systems for my company across the country. It was also my job to onboard new acquisitions. There was one particular acquisition that was giving me a lot of trouble. First, there was a personnel change so my main contact was no longer with the company. The replacement contact had a minor language barrier issue and was no-showing over 50% of his meetings. It turned out that he was having medical issues within his family and was going to the hospital. He didn’t feel comfortable sharing this so instead pretended to forget or be busy or whatever. When I found out what was going on I literally flew across the country to sit down with this person. I took them out to a sporting event and we talked about our families. After that, the situation was drastically better. Even though he still sometimes couldn’t make it to meetings he gave advance notice. He was also very appreciative of the support we offered and I believe this helped him to onboard the rest of his business at a much quicker rate.
Improving Workplace Communication
- Be honest but direct
- Promote safety to foster innovation. Allow people the freedom to make mistakes without fear of job loss or reprisal
- Don’t shy away from conflict but manage what type of conflict it is
- Strengthen relationships
- Give constructive feedback in a structured manner
- Align company vision
- Ensure employees feel empowered to speak their minds
- Create clear lines of communication
- Leave ego out of it
- Train on communication and other soft skills
Along with culture, communication in the workplace is one of the most important aspects any business can focus on. This also applies to personal growth. Communication skills are generally considered twice as important as other hard managerial skills like the ability to generate process or project management.