How to encourage effective communication in the workplace

Friday, October 19, 2018 - 10:00
How to encourage effective communication in the workplace

It works just like the grease that keeps the wheels of your organisation turning. A lack of effective communication between teams, managers, and employees will almost certainly grind your business to a halt.

In a digital economy where a growing number of technical tasks are being automated, developing the communication skills that govern our interactions with both colleagues and customers is becoming increasingly important. According to the CSIRO, communications skills have had the fastest growing demand of any skillset in Australia, with an average increase in demand of 15.7% every year since 2009.

Why is communication so important in the workplace?

In a Wall Street Journal survey of more than 900 senior leaders, 92% say that soft skills such as communication are now equally as important as technical skills. However, 89% also said that they’re struggling to find people that are equipped in the talent pool. But why are communication skills so crucial?

  1. It provides purpose – Effective communication empowers your people because it provides the clarity they need to perform their roles with confidence. With a clear understanding of the “why” behind a task, they understand how their efforts contribute to the whole organisation.
  2. It eliminates confusion – Misunderstanding and miscommunication can create a constant state of confusion. This leads to your employees feeling disengaged, which in turn drastically lowers their productivity.
  3. It builds a positive workplace culture – Those organisations who best utilise effective communication can create an environment where employees feel respected and understood. This significantly boosts morale and enhances productivity.
  4. It creates accountability – Effective communication allows team members to keep each other accountable. When everyone understands clear instructions and their responsibilities, it provides them with an incentive to perform at their best.

5 ways to improve your communication skills

With a shortage of communication skills in the talent marketplace, how do we go about encouraging and developing effective communication practices in the workplace? What methods should we be using as leaders, and how do we promote effective communication among team members?

  1. Use an open-door policy – Even though most of us now work in offices without doors, people still need to feel comfortable approaching their manager’s or colleague’s desk. A lack of verbal, face to face communication soon leads to a lack of effective communication generally.
  2. Encourage people to ask questions – If a project or task isn’t completed correctly, don’t expect people to understand what needs improving straight away. To get the best out of them, they need to feel comfortable asking questions until they believe they have clarity around what is required.
  3. Schedule and use time wisely – You don’t need to organise a daily team meeting, as otherwise, your team members could begin to resent this as a constant waste of their time. However, it is essential to schedule regular team meetings, and one-on-one catch ups with individual team members, so they always know they’ll have an opportunity to share their ideas.
  4. Don’t overuse email - Research by Atos Origin revealed that the average employee spends 40% of their working week dealing with internal emails which add no value to the business. While email has undoubtedly revolutionised communication, we are sometimes too quick to send out one without taking the time to ask ourselves if a face to face conversation would be more effective and efficient.
  5. Provide training – Not everyone in your team will be a natural communicator. Luckily, these skills can be developed through formal training and practice. Even for people who are good communicators, it’s sometimes useful to take a course to brush up on the basics and further develop effective communication techniques.

We all need to communicate ideas in the workplace, no matter our job or what stage we are at in our career. The further we advance, the bigger the ideas we need to write, report and present to our colleagues, customers and chief executives.

If you’d like to empower your team members to express their thoughts and opinions with more confidence and conviction, AIM offers an “Effective Communication” 2-day short course. You will explore a range of proven communication techniques and strategies including:

  • identifying and developing their personal communication style while adapting their behaviours to better express their ideas in the workplace
  • understanding the role of culture, stereotypes and bias in communication and breaking down barriers to effectively communicate
  • using active listening techniques and effective questioning skills to enhance their understanding and show empathy
  • giving and receiving appropriate feedback and using trusted techniques to deal with difficult situations