The Ultimate Guide to Effective Communication in the Workplace
Communication is often taken for granted as something people are naturally good at. But without practicing and consciously working on effective communication skills, companies may find their employees lost in ambiguity and confusion.
Collaboration and communication skills were in high demand over the last year as many people adjusted to completely virtual work from home. Gone was the ability to pop by someone’s desk for a quick clarification on a task. Teams had to learn how to become better listeners and work through the murkiness of digital-first communication.
There are many factors that make up strong communication skills. Here, we look at the components of effective communication and ways to improve communication across your team.
Skills for effective communication in the workplace
Sure it helps to be a clear speaker, but because communication is a two-way street, honing your active listening skills is also important. When we are actively listening, we’re not thinking about what we’re going to have for dinner or how to prep for the next meeting. We’re also not thinking about how we’re going to respond to the other person or waiting for our turn to talk. Rather, we’re mindful and present and focused on what someone is saying to us. We’re paying attention to the speaker’s body language and tone and making eye contact.
You’re not going to agree with every idea or opinion of your colleagues. But using empathy when communicating with someone you don’t agree with will free you from a lot of annoyance. Before assuming the wrong intent of someone’s actions, take a minute to consider how they see a situation. Use questions and feedback to get to the heart of the issue at hand and uncover all of the facts before you draw conclusions.
Patience is something many of us feel we have in short supply. It can be easy to feel frustrated or overwhelmed if a teammate isn’t understanding your perspective. This is when tapping into your patience reservoirs for others and yourself is important to avoid workplace stressors. Not everyone is going to align with your views immediately. Cue your patience. Have awareness for why a colleague or boss is questioning you and try to anticipate questions that might come up during tricky conversations.
With the many tasks and responsibilities, we’re all juggling at work, there’s no time for ambiguity. Whoever you’re communicating to within your company — from an intern to a peer to the CFO — clarity is key. One way to make sure you’re clear is to practice delivering your message. Make an outline or jot down some notes that detail the points you hope to get across. Try to include supporting evidence that you can use during the real conversation. Clarity will help to ensure that projects meet deadlines and achieve their business objectives.
We all have those days you just don’t want to go to work. But allowing a negative attitude to creep into your work will not only make it hard for you to feel less burnout, but it can also affect your relationships with coworkers. If you’re facing issues at work, talk with your manager or HR representatives to find ways to solve them. If you suppress and challenges you are facing, they will only grow larger and burden you.
How to improve team communication
Just as skills like public speaking can be learned with practice, so too can communication be sharpened with practice. Learning leaders or team managers can help employees practice and improve their communication skills with these techniques.
- Be a role model: Leaders are effective role models for encouraging a skill or behavior in their teams. Smaller companies especially might see that leaders who interact often with employees, can have a large impact on the company’s communication norms and its efficacy. For larger organizations where communication modeling from executives isn’t possible, pair new employees with an onboarding buddy who has been with the business for a while and is deeply familiar with its internal communication practices.
- Wrap them into performance reviews: One way to emphasize the importance of communication skills for your workforce is by building them into performance reviews as a key competency. If communication seems to be a challenge for some employees, build detailed learning plans that outline an employee’s communication goals and the initiatives they can take on to reach those goals.
- Practice with team-building activities: Team-building exercises may have many people remembering summer camp, but they can be an effective way to build trust and strengthen communication. Plan exercises for your team that has them working together on fictional scenarios (escape rooms are great!) to flex new ways of communicating and working with each other.
Improve communication, improve team performance
Every person on your team has a different style of communicating, which is something to celebrate! These different approaches to communication offer diverse perspectives that help companies perform better. But whether your team is comprised of seasoned professionals or people new to the industry, it’s always beneficial to continue developing communication skills, especially as more people work from home.
Get more guidance on which communication skills to develop in your teams in The 2021 Workplace Learning Trends Report.