Improving communication in the workplace

October 11, 2021  •  Reading Time: 11 min.

How to ensure effective communication in the workplace

Effective communication in the workplace is the most important factor for employee engagement. This is a major challenge as the workforce becomes more dispersed and diverse. In this article, we explain how you can improve your internal workplace communication.

how to improve your communication in the workplace

Good communication is critical to engagement and productivity at all levels of an organization. Employers who invest time and energy in open communication ultimately build trust among their staff, which also strengthens employee morale. And employees who communicate effectively with colleagues, supervisors and customers are a valuable asset in achieving business goals.

Advantages of good communication in the workplace

Effective workplace communication brings many benefits to a business. To name just a few:

  • Increased employee engagement

Effective communication enables you to better understand the needs and motivation of your employees. It creates positive relationships between colleagues and a better working environment. It also gives you a better understanding of your employees’ talents, skills and training needs.

  • A positive workplace culture

One of the benefits of better communication is defusing conflict. Conflict often stems from misunderstandings or feelings of not being understood. When employees feel that their needs are not being taken into account, or when they don’t feel heard, it leads to tension. Teams that know how to communicate are more relaxed and work better.

  • Better customer relationships

If your frontline employees, such as the sales team, can improve their own communication skills, most employees will be able to better understand customer needs, resolve conflicts, and present information more persuasively.

  • Improved performance

Not only does internal communication drive employee engagement, it can also help foster more productive and talented employees in other ways. In a culture focused on relationships and face-to-face communication, supervisors better understand their team’s talents and abilities. Effective communication also creates a safe workplace where employees can think outside the box and voice their ideas or offer constructive feedback. It encourages employees to take ownership of projects and leads to more creative problem solving.

Why is workplace communication often not that effective?

Poor communication in the workplace inevitably leads to less motivated employees. Here are some specific examples why internal communication is not always as effective as it could be:

  • Communication at work is not on a personal level

Employees have become accustomed to personalized on-demand content and expect the same in the workplace. Language and cultural barriers can also play a role, especially with today’s diverse workforce and the popularity of remote work.

  • Communication lacks a plan

If your employees perceive communication as incoherent and not easily accessible, this will undoubtedly limit your attempts to build the kind of two-way communication you are striving for within the team.

  • Communication is not interactive

Good communication is always a dialogue with the other person. Employers and supervisors who broadcast a lot but listen little are missing the mark.

  • Communication does not include the entire workforce

Effective interaction with employees who are not sitting at a desk or remote employees requires a different approach and specific tools to make important conversations a two-way street.

  • Communication is boring or difficult

To effectively convey a message, it must first be read. If your communication at work is not clear and concise, visually unattractive, or uninteresting to the recipient, you must be a great optimist to expect any feedback at all.

a man looks at his laptop and makes a questioning face

Workplace communication: which communication skills are important?

But what exactly does good internal communication with another person or in a team look like?

  • Openness

An “open door” approach is the be-all and end-all of a positive communication and company culture. Conflicts can only be resolved quickly if colleagues and superiors deal with each other honestly and there is a sense of psychological safety within the team. Openness and emotional intelligence also play a major role in the culture of discussion: Constructive discussions can only take place if the other person’s opinion is recognized as a possible solution. Those who stubbornly insist on their point of view inevitably bring projects to a halt. If, on the other hand, all sides openly discuss each other’s contributions, ideas can cross-fertilize and thus strengthen creativity and productivity.

  • Clarity

Poor communication in the workplace doesn’t always have to do with unwillingness or bad intentions, but often with inability. When conversations lack the necessary clarity, misunderstandings quickly arise or information is not conveyed properly and thus not everyone is one the same page. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to clear formulations. Whether in an e-mail, in a meeting or in a conversation with a new person, it is always counterproductive to hide the actual message behind empty words. Complicated topics in the work context in particular require detailed explanations so that they do not trigger disinterest and lack of understanding on the part of the other person. In other words, you need to take the time to communicate.

  • Respect

Friendliness, politeness and mutual respect – whether among colleagues of the same rank or between superiors and subordinates: People should always treat each other as equals. When supervisors treat their employees with respect, they are much happier at work and also willing to do more. Respect goes both ways, however. Employees should also make an effort to treat their supervisors in a respectful manner.

  • Admitting mistakes

Admitting mistakes is an indispensable foundation for communicating well. An honest apology has a disarming effect: the open admission of a mistake makes the counterpart sympathetic. Incidentally, it is wrong to assume that this admission is a sign of weakness – quite the opposite. Those who admit mistakes and deal with the consequences show strength.

9 effective ways to improve communication at work

Communicating effectively can greatly improve company culture and holds real value for the whole team. Below are nine ways to improve communication with all team members:

1. Understand your communication channels

There are many ways to communicate: chat, e-mail, face-to-face, and many more. Each channel has its own unique benefits for communication. However, not everyone knows how to best use each channel. A chat, for example, is great for team collaboration and internal communication. It’s a powerful, effective and immediate communication channel. But there are times when chat is not the best way to communicate, such as when a somewhat clumsily written text is misunderstood.

Sometimes it’s better to have a direct conversation with someone. Finally, one of the best tactical ways to improve communication in the workplace is to talk face-to-face and always maintain eye contact. When that’s not possible due to geography, video chat is another solution for effective communication.

2. Create a communication-friendly culture

In addition to giving your team the right communication tools, you should create a safe environment where they are accepted and encouraged to talk about feelings, share ideas and address difficult issues to improve communication. This can be done, for example, in weekly team meetings.

Work colleagues make a selfi together

3. Stay in dialogue

A strategic approach to internal communication and team building requires a constant flow of information and dialogue. Example: As a supervisor, try to find time for monthly one-on-one meetings to find out about your team members’ workload and job satisfaction. Ask them how they are doing and what they need from you. On the other hand, know when less is more. Don’t drown your employees in a flood of information. What you want to tell them or ask them should always be relevant to the recipient.

4. Listen actively

We can all use this advice, both in our professional and personal lives. The sad reality is that people generally don’t value the power of listening enough. We spend a lot of time trying to become better conversationalists – which for most people means speaking better and more persuasively. But also train your skills to become an active listener.

Active listening is especially important if you work in a decentralized team and communicate with a remote teammate. Then you should pay even more attention to staying focused and really listening. Since improved communication is the key to success, active listening can solve many of your problems. The benefits of this simple but challenging aspect of improved communication cannot be overstated.

5. Ask for feedback

Communication should never be just top-down or one-way. Always give employees the opportunity to express their opinions. When discussing feedback, offer the opportunity to give anonymous feedback. Employees are often reluctant to share critical or negative feedback with their supervisors.

6. Express criticism constructively and openly

Inappropriate criticism is one of the most common causes of conflict among colleagues. To improve communication, you should address and communicate points of friction openly and constructively:

  • Be aware of your motives and goals: What exactly do you want to criticize and why? What change do you want to bring about?
  • Protect the self-respect of the criticized person: With all justified criticism, you should hold back on hurtful statements. Criticize a specific behavior – describe it as objectively as possible – and not the whole person as such.
  • Consider when is the right time to criticize: Depending on your emotional reaction to a particular incident, you may want to sleep on it first – on the other hand, your feedback should definitely come soon.
  • Give your colleague the opportunity to defend themselves in an open and honest dialogue: Phrase open questions such as “How do you see that?”, “How do you explain that?”.
  • Focus on finding a solution to the problem together: In this way, your colleague will learn that you are not concerned with criticism per se, but with improving your joint working conditions.

7. Conduct 1:1 meetings

One-on-one meetings are especially important for managers and leaders. They encourage open and consistent communication with each team member so that everyone feels heard and understood. In addition, one-on-one meetings provide a setting to address issues for which there may be no other option. These meetings build trust and naturally foster more open and inclusive communication.

Plan your 1:1 meetings carefully. Schedule them to be convenient for both parties, and adjust the length of the conversation to fit both parties’ schedules (30 minutes to an hour). It is important to check from time to time whether the mode you have chosen is still working or whether it may need to be adjusted.

8. Introduce communication training

With the right techniques, your employees can more easily build relationships, have difficult conversations and address issues within the team. Hiring a communication trainer and conducting a communication training from time to time is one way to help your employees communicate more effectively and, as a result, work better together and accomplish more.

9. Promote joint activities

A company party or outing, a regulars’ table or joint bowling – events of this kind are usually suitable for improving the working atmosphere. But they don’t work in every company. When hectic, stress and excessive demands are the order of the day at work, employees often perceive such events as time-consuming and more of a burden than a pleasure.

If you notice such unwillingness among your colleagues, you should refrain from promoting joint activities such as all-day outings – even if you would enjoy them yourself. You will reap more goodwill and positive responses if you approach your colleagues or supervisors with the following suggestion:

For example, an ideal forum for formal and informal communication in a department is a monthly work breakfast. Here, all colleagues in the department come together, exchange information, develop ideas and discuss problems and solutions. Such intensive communication promotes a sense of community and the working atmosphere.

colleagues play bowling after work

Key takeaways

Good communication in the workplace is essential to the functioning and performance of an organization. Improving internal communications should therefore be a priority for employers and supervisors. One of the biggest challenges is finding ways to reach an increasingly diverse and dispersed workforce. However, with the right tools, you can create a workplace culture where everyone stays informed, feels heard and included. Effective employee communication is about keeping employees well informed to encourage ownership of their work, support teamwork and ensure smooth business operations.

  • The benefits of effective employee communications include increased employee engagement, creating advocates for your business, increased turnover, and increased trust in leaders.
  • Regular conversations with employees, both casual and formal, build rapport and foster trust between you and your employees.
  • Provide safe channels for feedback to encourage team members to voice potential concerns or make suggestions that can improve your business.
  • Reward feedback and remember to address any concerns expressed and show employees that they are valuable to the company.
  • Ensure transparency and accountability are present in your communication strategies to provide credible leadership that your team members can emulate.

FAQ

What does good communication in the workplace mean?

In addition to clear expression, convincing argumentation and a connection to the person you are talking to, communication skills are another important element of good communication.

How important is communication in the workplace?

Effective workplace communication can help increase efficiency, productivity and innovation, keep employees motivated and help your business thrive.

How can the working atmosphere be improved?

– General openness in communication
– Constructive feedback culture
– Recognizing and using employees’ strengths
– Assuming personal responsibility
– Remaining respectful
– Showing interest in colleagues