How Communication in the Workplace Influences Business Longevity
There is an obvious need for reform of communication in the workplace. While 57% of employees report they are not given explicit directions, 69% of managers report they are not comfortable communicating with their own employees.
What is Meant by Effective Workplace Communication?
In its simplest terms, workplace communication is defined as the exchange of data within an organization. Effective workplace communication occurs when data is sent and received correctly. There are many different types of communication including informal, formal, external, and internal communications.
When communication is used effectively, businesses will find their bottom line improving and everyone involved in business operations will benefit. Some of the most basic benefits of effective workplace communication include-
- Clearly defined job descriptions, roles, and responsibilities
- Creation and sustenance of worker accountability
- Strengthened company culture
- Improved customer and employee engagement
Why is Communication in the Workplace Important?
Communication in the workplace has a direct correlation with both business operations and the overall work environment. Below are some reasons that communication in the workplace are important-
- Decreased distractions- Avoid communications not directly related to employee duties or deadlines in order to keep everyone focused. Business professionals should share only relevant information on a timely basis whenever possible.
- Team building- Effective communication helps team members understand both their own and their team members' responsibilities. Clearly communicated expectations decrease confusion, provide guidance, and stop potential conflicts and misunderstandings from surfacing. Established effective communication protocol will decrease communication gaps and greatly increase team building potential.
- Happier employees- Offer your team support by regularly inquire about their successes, failures, and frustrations. Requesting and acknowledging feedback shows your team the symbiotic nature of the relationship between managers and employees. When everyone is given a voice, they will feel much more comfortable and happier in the workplace.
- Expansion- Ensuring that everyone associated with internal operations is on the same page will increase the likelihood of consistent external communications. When your employees are all receiving different information there will necessarily be miscommunications, both internally and externally. An organized and unified company is much more attractive and assuring to consumers.
- Improved management- Poor communication erodes a company from the inside out and has a trickle-down effect for everyone involved in the supply chain. Management that demonstrates strong communication skills sets an example for everyone else in the company. Leading by example empowers employees to speak up for themselves and others.
Effects of Poor Communication
Larger companies report an average loss of over $62 million dollars a year due to ineffective employee communication. Smaller companies also feel the negative consequences of ineffective communication, with an average loss of $420,000 per year. Other ways companies are hurt by improper communication include-
- Negative company culture- Employees are much less likely to be happy in their roles if they feel that they are not being heard or validated. Miscommunications can breed into conflicts and deep resentments if left unchecked. Customers would rather do business with a company that does not have a toxic work culture, especially if that toxicity trickles down into customer service practices.
- Legal consequences- A failure to properly communicate in the workplace can get business in legal trouble. Depending on the severity of the miscommunication, your human resource team is crucial to avoiding lawsuits. Legal issues are expensive, damage reputations, and could oftentimes be avoided with clear communication practices.
- Issues onboarding- Unsurprisingly, workers are much more likely to want to work at a place that has a positive work culture than a toxic one. Your applicants should be met with a unified interview team or at the very least, a proficient and well-trained interviewer who will represent your company well. This effective communication needs to continue throughout the onboarding and training processes.
Barriers to Workplace Communication
Human communication is very complex. In the workplace, communication is even more complex when factoring in an individual's identity and cultural norms that define professional workplace etiquette. Barriers to effective communication in the workplace include-
- Technology- Although some assume technology has made communication more efficient, that is not always the case. Verbal cues and body language make a huge difference in how messages are sent and received.
- Inaccessibility- If communications in the workplace are complex and riddled with professional jargon, employees may not understand as clearly as they would if a more accessible language was utilized. Some employees or customers will avoid asking for clarification if they do not understand an acronym or term and workplace communication suffers greatly as a result.
- Distractability- People may have trouble focusing while communicating, especially if they are under a lot of stress.
- Disabilities- Mental and physical health disabilities may prevent communication from happening as effectively as possible. Hearing problems or speech issues may cause miscommunications. Anxiety can manifest as irritability or distractibility during important conversations.
- Identities- Variations in language, accents, religions, political views, cultural differences, gender, and other factors of identity can create confusion or tension where it need not be. Prejudices and stereotypes are also very important to acknowledge and fiercely combat in the workplace.
Employees should have adequate training in diversity and tolerance. Staff should also be aware of the consequences that would result from inappropriate actions or communications towards individuals with different identities than themselves. Fostering a culture of acceptance, accountability, and accessibility can help decrease identity-based misunderstandings and conflicts.
- Environmental- Extreme temperatures, distracting noises, closed doors, or a highly spaced out floor plan may discourage communication between coworkers.
How Can You Improve?
Once business professionals better understand how workplace communication fails, they can focus on improving both internal and external communications. Below are some tips to improve communication in the workplace-
- Communication training- 91% of employees report they feel their leaders completely lack communication skills. Proper training for higher-level management is essential for your business's communication channels. Communication training should ideally be reinforced periodically throughout your employee's careers through mentorships, seminars, and coaching.
- Provide feedback- Provide an employee feedback system that your employees clearly comprehend and feel comfortable using. An established feedback system provides a consistent metric for employees to measure their performance at their role and will show them their strengths and areas that could use improvement. A feedback system will also encourage two-way conversations on employee performance, encouraging growth and improvement.
- Power dynamics- When appropriate, higher-ups should have at least some time during the week when they offer an open-door policy with employees. Employees are human beings with personal lives and varying emotions, who deserve decency and respect from their leaders, regardless of their role title. Staff feedback is an invaluable asset to optimizing your business's bottom line.
- Decrease punitive conversations- Constructive and calm conversations that promote transparency are much more productive and pleasant than punitive formal conversations. If the conversation may be a difficult one, consider taking your employee for a cup of coffee and chat.
Doing so will mitigate the chance of them shutting down while receiving more critical feedback. Casual face-to-face conversations increase receptiveness, demonstrate strong leadership, and show your employees that they are more than just workers to you.
- Investing in communication software- Communication software provides a centralized place for communication to take place instead of creating unnecessary stress about monitoring a wide variety of platforms for messages, notifications, and updates.
Communication apps allow staff to instantly streamline important communications both internally and internally. These apps lessen the risk of individual emails getting lost within lengthy threads, keeping information and data accessible and organized. Make sure that your employees are comfortable with the software and encourage them to reach out for troubleshooting or technical support if the need arises.
Team Building Activities to Strengthen Communication
Team building activities are proven to improve communication in the workplace. Team building activities are exercises used to cultivate and strengthen relationships within a team. An ideal team building activity will be both educational and enjoyable for your employees. These activities help employees to understand how one another thinks and communicates differently. Below are two examples of team building activities-
Truths and lies- Assemble five or more people and instruct them to each state two truths and a lie about themselves. This exercise is a fun way to get to know coworkers, build trust, and pick up on each other's body language cues
Zen counting- Instruct team members to sit in a circle and start counting from one to ten, with each individual saying only one number. Whenever someone interrupts another person or repeats the number, the whole team starts over. This exercise encourages active listening and cooperation
Why Written Communication Matters
Written communication is just as essential to address as verbal communication in order to promote effective communication in the workplace. As technology increases, written communications are becoming more commonplace, replacing many in-person or phone conversations. It is important to keep communications professional and clear to get your message across correctly whether the conversation is focused on customer service or an internal memo.
Written communication is unique in many ways, including-
- Permanence- Written communications provide a permanent record of the interaction. If a communication is sent digitally, both the sender and recipient can usually access timestamps and confirmation of successful delivery. These written records are invaluable when you need to reference a specific conversation, whether in a human resource meeting about employee performance or in legal proceedings should a judicial issue arise.
- Efficiency- Written communication allows a message to be sent to many people at once, whether an internal memo or a statement to shareholders. Instead of having to spend the time individually contacting each party involved, a blanket document can be fine-tuned and sent out to all recipients.
- Brand definition- The ability to personalize your company's voice via social media and email can help your business to create its unique brand. Social media and public relations professionals can utilize slang or devices like hashtags to target specific clientele.
Benefits of Good Communication
While poor written communication skills can be disastrous for your bottom line, there are many benefits to effective written communication. Listed below are some benefits a business can experience as a result of developing company-wide effective communication channels-
- Conflict Aversion- By avoiding miscommunications, many issues will be halted before they can worsen. Conflict resolution occurs best when all concerned parties feel heard, validated, and everyone can work together to find a mutually beneficial solution.
- Trust-building- Transparency in communication promotes a culture of trust in the workplace.
- Relationship Improvement- Active listening promotes respect and strengthens professional affiliations.
- Team building- Accountability is increased when team members believe they can rely on one another. Using team-building exercises will further boost this camaraderie and positively influence not only your business's work culture but your entire bottom line.
- Workplace communication is the transfer of data within a business. Effective workplace communication happens when data is transferred and accepted accurately
- Larger companies lose an average of over $62 million dollars a year due to ineffective employee communication, while smaller companies lose an average of $420,000 per year
- Barriers to effective communication range from disabilities to distractibility
- Communication training and investment in communication software are just a couple of ways that business owners can improve employee communication
- Team building activities improve communication in the workplace and should ideally be both instructive and fun for employees
- Written communication is as necessary to discuss as verbal communication, especially in our technological age
- Benefits of good communication range from conflict aversion to team building
- Why Effective Written Communication is Important in the Workplace
- How to Improve Workplace Communication Skills
- Why Team Communication Matters and Activities to Improve It
- Communication Styles in the Workplace and How to Navigate Them
- The Top Barriers to Effective Communication in the Workplace
- Tips to Improve Overall Team Work and Collaboration in Your Business
- How Communication in the Workplace Influences Business Longevity