Communication is the foundation for every relationship and business process. Without effective workplace communication, you cannot hope to complete projects or deliver results. Organizations that have better workplace communication outperform those that do not. Successful companies often attribute their success to effective leadership and communication.
Workplace communication is necessary throughout the company. Communication should flow both vertically and horizontally. That means employees at different levels (frontline, CEO, managers, etc.) should be able to bring up and resolve issues. At the same time, communication within teams, departments, and between people at the same management level is also crucial.
Without effective communication, you cannot meet project deadlines or deliver results. Miscommunication, errors in listening to each other, and not enough communication is the death knell of any team. No wonder managers and senior leadership put so much emphasis on workplace communication strategies.
Effective communication – both internal and external – can drastically affect the customer experience. Employees who are armed with complete information are better able to:
All this directly impacts sales, revenue, and profits positively.
Open communication in the workplace also affects employee turnover. Workers who feel they are appreciated and that managers listen to their concerns are less likely to leave the organization. They help each other and co-operate instead of competing with each other. While friendly competition can encourage good performance, a highly-charged workplace is not conducive to long-term employee health. Effective communication promotes a healthy work environment for everyone in the office.
Quick and effective communication also helps to minimize delays in any business process. It enables staff to reach the person for the job and get it done as quickly as possible. With the right tools and knowledge, you can reduce miscommunication that leads to project delays or missing project deadlines.
Any number of communication errors that occur daily but you can categorize most into 4 broad groups:
This happens quite frequently, even if you’re not aware of it when it happens. Take a service agent who receives a customer call over the phone. They do not have enough information or authority to solve the issue. Unfortunately, they also do not know who to call for help or directions.
Quite often, it’s not as simple as calling the boss or supervisor. They may need to contact someone in shipping or billing to resolve the problem but don’t know who can help. They may call their boss, only to get voicemail. Messages go undelivered or they get a reply when it’s too late to help.
In the meantime, the customer is frustrated with waiting and hangs up. It’s a coin toss whether they will call you or a competitor at this point.
Missed communication happens when someone does not get your message or is simply unavailable when contacted. It may happen because you don’t have the right tools to reach out. For instance, you only have a phone number but they are away from the office.
It can also happen due to differences in time zones, locations, work responsibilities, and meetings. They are too busy when they receive the message and forget to respond later on. Sometimes the person you are asked to contact does not know of the situation has no information that can help you solve an issue. Then, the employee has to start all over again.
Miscommunication happens when the message is not received in the manner intended by the person initiating the conversation. It can happen with verbal or written communication. Sometimes it’s because of language barriers when people are communicating across the world. At other times, it’s because they don’t understand or misinterpret the context.
The communication issue is exacerbated if some or all employees work remotely. Written communication can be easily misunderstood, since the majority of information is often conveyed through body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, etc. However, verbal communication, even if you meet face-to-face, also has pitfalls. For example, people may not remember the conversation accurately or fill in missing gaps with what they thought the other person said.
It is unfortunate that most people listen to respond rather than to understand. What does that mean? It means when people hear the other person saying something, they are not paying attention to the message completely. A part of them is already thinking of a response or an answer.
It prevents people from actively listening to the other people in the conversation. Imagine 5 people in a meeting and one person starts to speak. If each of the remaining 4 are trying to formulate a response, then no one is listening and understanding what is said. Yet another opportunity for communication to fail even when all people are in the same room.
If your organization is suffering from ineffective communication, then you might be looking for ways to change the situation. You cannot fix something if you don’t know what is broken or not working. Creating a communication strategy involves multiple people, time, and effort. But the first step is to analyze what isn’t working.
Remember to talk to your staff to get more direct feedback, rather than simply relying on monitoring tools or tracking data.
Once you have an idea of what’s wrong you can start working on solving them. Not every business will face every communication issue. But here are some processes to look at and tips to improve workplace communication:
There are so many communication tools available it is often hard to judge what exactly you need. Email, phones, video conferencing, why even faxing is often crucial for companies in specific sectors. Some channels allow you to communicate in real-time (phone and video) while others allow users to think and take time to respond (email, voicemail, etc.) it’s overwhelming but what if you could purchase a single system that can do all of the above and then some?
Here’s where unified communication suites come in. Instead of scattering your employee communication across multiple systems, use one that builds on hosted VoIP technology as a foundation. A unified communication suite brings all your communication tools into one place with a unified interface. This allows you to view and respond to messages without missing anything crucial.
It’s not just departments or project teams that need periodic meetings. Make sure to check in on all your employees at frequent intervals. Managers may need to have weekly or monthly meetings, senior management may wish for quarterly reviews. Regardless of the frequency, make sure communication channels are open and used regularly.
Employee surveys, informal social hours, monthly after-hours parties, and virtual chats are other informal meeting opportunities. Many people find that it helps to call them chats instead of meetings, keeping it informal. Some people appreciate one on one sessions while others prefer to air their concerns in small groups of their immediate colleagues.
Keep your options open and schedule multiple types of meetings. Track what is working and what isn’t, so you can tweak things for your company.
One reason for ineffective communication is that new staff may not know what options are available. Say you’ve hired a new technical support agent. The onboarding process shows them where to find documentation and other knowledge but not how to communicate with their colleagues. So when they have a problem they need help with, they send out an email not knowing that the team has a message group for quick questions and answers. The email is not answered, lost in various inboxes and no one even knows that the new hire needed help.
Do not let this problem affect your teams. Optimize the onboarding process so that everyone knows where to find the information they need or how to ask for help should they need it. A repository of FAQs, training videos, manuals, and other documentation is always a good idea but your staff should know how to find them!
What does creating content have to do with effective communication? There are multiple benefits to such a strategy. If you set up a dedicated place for staff to create and share content (videos, images, articles, helpful links, etc), it can pay off in several ways:
There are other areas you can optimize for effective communication such as the company’s social media channels, an open office layout, instituting an open-door policy for managers, and so on. But the above tips should get you off to a good headstart.
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