How would we ever get anything done in life without communication? It lets us know what to do, how to do it and if we are doing it at the right time. Communication in the workplace greases the wheels of the office machine and keeps it running smoothly.
Let’s start by briefly looking at the four main types of communication in the workplace. Remember that communication isn’t just about what you say, but also your tone of voice and your body language.
Verbal face to face communication
This greatly eliminates misunderstandings that can occur with other types of communication. It is the only method that allows both parties to read body language and tone and thus get the full message. It also allows for immediate back and forth.
This says what words do not say. How you sit and position your arms can communicate to the other person that you are paying attention and that you value what they are saying. The body can also communicate disinterest.
These are effective for when face to face communication is impossible (perhaps because of distance). People can still hear your tone even if they can’t see your face.
The biggest benefit of written communication is that it allows for well thought out messages. You have a chance to think through and edit before hitting send. It also allows for the recipient to go back and read the message again. However, where someone doesn’t understand, they are more likely to fill in the gaps, leading to instances of miscommunication.
Despite these different types and the many methods of communication that continue to be developed, companies still continue to get communication wrong. However, experts agree that effective communication is more important than ever. As a leader or manager, these seven simple methods can help you improve communication in the workplace.
Seek regular feedback
Communication shouldn’t stop at the employer telling the employee what to do. In fact it only starts there. The next step is to ask your team for feedback and input. What do they think? Do they have questions or ideas on how a certain decision can be improved?
You will never know this if you do not ask. This has two benefits, it boosts staff morale because people will feel heard and valued and it will also help you close any communication gaps. You can use a number of methods to collect feedback from your staff.
Close on the back of this is how you react to feedback. It is inevitable that you will get some negative feedback once in a while. Getting upset will signal to your team that you have a hard time hearing hard truths. Instead, offer a level headed response.
This will build trust and show your team that they can come to you with anything.
Build trust by following through
As a leader, it is a good idea to keep communication channels open and for your team to feel they can speak to you freely, but this will all be washed away if you do not do what you say you are going to do.
If you had promised to help a member of staff do something on a given day, don’t consistently shift the date and make them feel like they have to beg you to prioritise them.
When team members trust that you will work with them to find solutions and that you get stuff done, they will keep coming to you.
Combine different types of communication
In a busy work environment, it is easy for people to forget important things. So send a reminder. Don’t think of this as baby sitting, rather as closing any potential communication gaps in the workplace.
If you run into someone in the corridor and suddenly remember that you need them to complete a task, ask them and then follow that up with an email telling them what you said. This is one of the reasons that taking minutes of meetings, an old school workplace technique, is still relevant today.
Make people’s roles clear
A very simple way for communication to get jumbled up is when people do not know what their roles are on a particular project. On the one hand, some things won’t get done at all, because everyone thinks someone else is doing them. On the other, you might wind up with duplication of work. Neither of these is an ideal scenario.
Go ahead and establish who is in charge of what. But simply handing out job roles is not enough. Go further to list the exact responsibilities, with clarification on whom to approach if there are any queries. This will save a lot of time and boost efficiency of your team.
Tell people why you are asking them to do something
There are number of reasons why this works to improve communication in the workplace; the first is that it shows people where they fit in to the big picture and why they are an integral component of the business.
“Can you compile the reports from the last 5 months so that our partners can see what a great job we are doing?” is more effective than, “Can you compile the reports from the last five months?”
The second, is that it allows people to ask follow up questions. Once they know the Why of it, they will be keen to lend their efforts. This opens up the floor for discussion and also gives you a chance to clarify.
Set up regular one on one meeting
Who has time for meetings anyway? Meetings have earned a bad reputation lately for just being a waste of time. With an increasingly busy work day, they might seem unnecessary but these meetings are very important.
They allow employers to tackle issues specific to the individual. Employees will have the opportunity to speak up about things that may have been uncomfortable to bring up in a group meeting.
You can be creative and have these one on ones on a walk or over coffee or tea. With some tips, you can have very successful one on one meetings.
Understand your employees
This is one of the benefits of those one on ones. You get to know your team. Much as we would like it, it is impossible for people to be the same. And you have likely hired people for their unique strengths and abilities. Don’t be surprised to find that your employees have different communication styles.
You might learn that while one employee thrives on communication via email, the next one works better with one-on-one communications. Understanding this will allow you as a manger communicate more effectively.
Communication in the workplace requires consistent effort. But if you treat it as a two way street involving a give and take between management and employees, you will have set your business up for success.