We have all been there, where we’re given tasks and have no idea what to do next. This is a common culture, as according to statistics, 57% of employees report lacking clear direction while 69% of managers aren’t comfortable communicating with their employees. From such data, it is clear that there is a need to improve communication in the workplace.
Effective communication remains one of the most critical issues in the workplace. It helps everyone in the team to feel understood and heard. As a result, everyone benefits from an encouraging and thriving environment.
On the other hand, ineffective communication brings about the opposite results. The team tends to feel unacknowledged, misunderstood, and frustrated. Their morale declines and ideas will fall flat due to the lack of proper communication channels.
According to a Watson Wyatt study, companies with effective communication are 50% more likely to report turnover levels below the industry average compared with only 33% for the least effective communicators.
Making communication seamless in the workplace can be a daunting task, especially for first-time managers. While there are plenty of online courses out there that covers this topic in detail, however, to make work easier for you, we have compiled ten strategies you can employ to promote team spirit.
1. Give your undivided attention.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who kept looking elsewhere or didn’t appear to understand whatever you’re saying? The lack of focus devalues a conversation, and you end up not understanding each other.
Maintaining eye contact during conversations and putting all other activities on hold helps you convey your focus to the speaker. Whether you’re in a group meeting or with one employee (or colleague), strive to offer your undivided attention as this will significantly improve how your message is received.
2. Make time for regular one-on-ones.
Sometimes, all that is needed to open up proper lines of communication with your staffers is to create a time to do so. There are many things that an employee would want to discuss with you (the employer or supervisor), but they would be scared that you’d be too busy to make time for them. They might want to talk about some of the issues they’re facing, their concerns, or even triumphs.
One of the best approaches to take is to set up recurring 1:1 meetings with the employees. You’ll get to learn more about their inner workings and get better ideas of how to iron out the kinks.
Once you reschedule your one-on-one meetings, ensure to honor them or if not, notify the other party in advance. It would be rude to consistently reschedule the 1:1s as it conveys the wrong message to the other party, insinuating that you do not value their time or opinion. This can easily breakdown the communication line.
Furthermore, you don’t necessarily have to get a strict agenda for your 1:1s. It is good to have a casual conversation, basing on the current priorities. Apart from airing out their concerns or feedback, the employees can also share new project ideas that they think could be valuable to the organization.
3. Take time to listen.
Listening is one of the most important communication skills that are vital to the success of an organization. If you wish to have a fruitful discussion or meeting, you should train yourself to listen. Do not monopolize the conversation. If you don’t engage the other parties in the conversation, they might tune you out.
Take regular pauses after important points to take questions or feedback. Taking into consideration their feedback makes the employees feel that they are a vital part of the company, and they play an active role in the conversation. At times, junior employees might have more to bring to the table, so lend them an ear.
4. Follow up in writing.
Regardless of how compelling the meeting was, there is a possibility that some people might not recall all that was discussed and agreed upon. It is crucial that before the meeting takes place, have a designated person to take notes or minutes of all that’s shared in the discussion. After that, imbibe this information into short points and send it to your team via e-mail as a follow-up or refresher.
5. Create a psychologically safe space for your employees.
It is important to create a sense of ‘psychological safety’ amongst your employees (or team). This can be defined as the state of being free with someone else without the fear of the negative consequences due to status, career, or self-image. This was pointed out to be one of the key values of a successful team in a recent study by Google.
Ideally, the best workplace environment is one where people are free to express their opinions while voicing criticism and seeking clarification on any topic. When provided with such a chance, the employees are open to saying what they really mean (or want.)
Leading by example is the best way to create a safe space for your team. Ask questions when something is unclear. Furthermore, it shows maturity to admit whenever you make a mistake, do not be the ‘all-knowing’ type but seek assistance over something, even if it is from your juniors. You also need to learn how to control the flow of a conversation. Do not be overly aggressive, but create enough space for them to express their feelings.
6. Explain why you’re asking someone to do something.
Most, if not all, people want to have a sense of purpose at their workplace. For the work to become meaningful, we like to feel that we’re part of something far bigger. Although it might sound silly to you, giving someone a task without offering any explanation as to how it fits into the bigger picture is a sure way of frustrating them.
But come on, doesn’t Alfred know why updating the CRM records is important? Without sounding condescending, there are various ways you can task an employee positively and in an informative manner.
Think about it, instead of just telling them to do the task; you can follow up by telling them that it is part of an initiative to enrich new leads for the sales to hit the annual target. By doing so, you’ll have turned a rather meaningless task to be part of a bigger picture with real value to the business.
Apart from providing vital information on the task, you’re also allowing the employee to ask questions which they might have hesitated to ask before
7. Avoid making quick assumptions.
One of the most dreaded inhibitors of quality communication at the place of work is missed signals and quick assumptions. As a leader, never be too quick to assume things without ascertaining them first. This not only shows your weaknesses but also depicts a bad picture of your employees.
Simply because an employee doesn’t perform a task as required doesn’t necessitate you to immediately assume that they are a slacker that doesn’t care. Perhaps they don’t understand the assignment, or they never received any helpful training beforehand.
Instead, try to talk to them in their ‘psychological safe space.’ Ask them how things are in general before questioning them about their job. Perhaps they’re going through a rough patch that might make them lose focus at work. Keep the lines of communication open in your organization by keeping your ears open to your employees.
8. Offer constructive feedback thoughtfully.
No one is perfect, and so you should always approach your employees by keeping in mind that you can also make mistakes. Show them that you believe in them and that there is still room for improvement. If something is done the way you didn’t intend it to, you can always try to correct the individual calmly.
A starter tip? Allow the other person to share their thoughts on the matter. Remember to focus on the behavior and not the person’s character. This is because, although feedback helps people to understand whether they are meeting expectations or not, they can come across as a personal attack if done wrong.
However, when the feedback is constructive, it can help the employees to understand how they are performing and look at areas that they can improve on. Feedback should be used for growth, so ensure that you wouldn’t feel hurt if you were the one on the receiving end.
9. Use the right tools to enhance workplace communication.
There are many apps and tools that you can use to make communication seamless for your organization. However, they should not be used to truncate workplace communication. If the back and forth of the computer and smartphones are getting a little more complicated, don’t hesitate to get off Slack and have a 1:1 instead. It will simplify the task at hand and prevent any misunderstandings.
10. Master your body language.
Your words make up a fraction of the message you relay to your employees when talking to (or with) them. Leaders and managers to learn how to leverage their non-verbal communication skills, as it also has a huge impact on those around you.
Communicate with a positive physical presence and ensure that your body shows an approachable posture. The same applies when you’re working remotely. Your body language on video calls should also indicate someone willing to listen to the other party while paying attention.
Some of the things to consider about your body language include:
- Always smile — it is comforting!
- Do not cross your arms to demonstrate openness.
- Always maintain an upright posture as it shows your engagement.
- Maintain eye contact
- Turn off your devices, or put your phone on silent when having a conversation (or in a meeting.)
Effective Communication Requires Consistent Effort
Most of us can comfortably communicate with friends and family, but why should it become an issue in the workplace? In most cases, it trickles down to having a safe environment that people can easily express themselves without the possibility of backlash.
Organizational leaders need to set a good example by displaying what it takes to boost effective communication at work. All it takes is having superb listening skills, allowing others to speak freely, and encouraging regular feedback.
However, the fruits of effective communication may not appear overnight. Look for what’s missing and fill the gap. Stick to your set goals for the long haul, and eventually, your business will reap the sweet rewards of better communication.
What are some of the steps you’ve taken to improve communication in the workplace?