7 Tips to Dramatically Improve Your Workplace Communication
7 powerful, easy to implement ideas that can dramatically improve workplace communication in your business.
It’s no secret that workplace communication is the key to smooth operations, but in today’s technologically filled world, managers are finding it harder than ever to maintain open lines between themselves and staff, as well as between staff members. Working at different office locations around the country (or the world) and telecommuting can put a wrench in what should be an easy task.
So, what’s a manager to do?
Well, there are a number of ways to improve your workplace communication, and we’ll delve into 7 of them in this blog post. Now, not every single one will work for you; you’ll need to pick and choose what works with your managerial style, your team members, and current operational mandates, but no doubt you will find some “aha” moments while reading that you can implement without enormous pain, cost, or grumbling among the workforce.
So let’s get started….
Why Workplace Communication Is Important
The bottom line here is that proper workplace communication allows for a smoother and more effective operation (saving time and money) and more productive (and happy) team members. I know, this sounds too good to be true, but hear me out. You’ll see why something so simple as a conversation, email, or meeting can have a big impact on workflow and profits.
Let’s say an employee finds a shortcut or workaround that not only helps with revenue but also makes work life just a little bit easier. You see how this affects workflow and the bottom line, but on a very small scale. However, if they shared that knowledge with the team, it would make everyone’s life a bit easier and the overall impact would be much greater. Now imagine all of your team members sharing one tidbit of information on a regular basis.
Sharing that knowledge also engenders appreciation, both from superiors and team members, making that employee (and everyone) happier. Happy employees that feel valued tend to have more job satisfaction, less absenteeism, and reduces employee turnover. All of these things make for an improved operation.
Sharing also improves camaraderie amongst your team members. They see the impact that it has, the positive response it garners, and they are more willing to share themselves. Now imagine them not only sharing those shortcuts. What if they start sharing and workshopping ideas? We’ve always found that the collective is far stronger than the one.
But none of this would be possible if you don’t have the proper communication channels in place. Let’s find out how you can make that happen.
7 Ways to Improve Workplace Communication
When it comes to these 7 ways to improve your workplace communication, you’ll need to assess what you currently have in place, the tone and tenor you want to set moving forward, and how best to serve your team members and company to achieve the desired end result.
Take what you need from this list and build on it. Nothing is set in stone, and feel free to mix it up and try different things along the way. What works for one group or company, might not work for another. Individualize your plan until you find the right balance and mix. Among the ways you can improve communication are:
- Set the Tone for Effective Communication
- Go Agile!
- Make Workplace Communication Regular
- Give Team Members the Appropriate Tools
- Encourage Two-Way Workplace Communication
- Pay Attention to Nonverbal Communication
- Learn About One Another
1. Set the Tone for Effective Communication
As a manager, your role includes fostering workplace communication amongst team members, and doing so with a positive approach. Negativity can stem the tide and do damage, so approach your plan with the idea to foster a communication-friendly workplace.
This all begins with you.
The obvious starting point is to lead by example. Encourage communication by starting conversations amongst your team. It could be something as simple as greeting them when they arrive to asking them to join you for a cup of coffee before the day begins. These simple things will prompt communication all on their own.
Take the time to ask them how things are going, if they need any help that day, or if they are encountering any issues with a project. Encourage them to let you know during the course of the day if problems crop up or they need any guidance. Foster an open-door (or open cubicle) policy. And, if you have an open floor plan workplace, always offer to discuss things in private if an employee so desires.
2. Go Agile!
“Go West young man, and grow up with the country,” said John Soule way back in the 1850s. Heading west was the wave of the future back then, and the Agile methodology analogous with today’s companies wanting to lead the way into the future. While its benefits are myriad, one of its strengths is in improving workplace communication.
Implementing an agile methodology allows for your team to communicate regularly, know where a project stands, provides for daily scrums, and the creation of planning sessions and huddles as needed. It truly unifies a team with their project on many levels.
In a recent survey by Hewlett Packard, 54 percent of those polled said they made the full switch to agile to improve communication between departments that normally didn’t work together. Agile can allow team members to take ownership and solve problems on their own and communicate directly with members outside their team when necessary.
Imagine what it could do for you.
3. Make Workplace Communication Regular
Improving workplace communication takes work—on a regular basis—for both you and your team. That means you cannot limit your interaction with your team to annual or quarterly reviews and that your team’s monthly project meetings are just not enough to foster important conversations.
As a manager, you need regular one-on-one meetings with each team member. That could be a monthly one-hour get together or a weekly 15-minute session. Ultimately, the projects, your team’s autonomy and skill set, and your management style will all play into how often this needs to happen. But it does need to happen regularly.
Also, don’t hesitate to mix it up from time to time. While these meetings can take place within the confines of the office, think about taking those 15 minutes to buy them a cup of coffee, or that hour to go to lunch. Sometimes taking things out of the office allows for more honest and frank communication.
When it comes to team meetings, the same criteria will apply. Schedule these on a regular basis based on the needs of the project, deadlines, workload, and each team member. Encourage brainstorming, open and honest discussions about stumbling blocks, and allow team members to ask for help when needed. And it never hurts to throw in a bit of praise or celebration for a specific task, a project completion, or other milestone. Kind words can go a long way in opening up the lines of communication with your team members.
Taking the extra time may seem like a burden, but in the long run it will play in your favor. You’ll be able to head off problems that would have otherwise gone unnoticed and delayed projects. You’ll also get a better feel for your team members when they are unhappy, unsatisfied, or suffering in silence from either a personal or work issue. Those 15 minutes won’t seem like much when your projects come in on time and your employee turnover is non-existent.
4. Give Team Members the Appropriate Tools
In order for your team to work efficiently, you need to provide them with the tools to communicate effectively. This includes team messaging, file sync and sharing, and project management software, all of which make it easier for them to communicate and collaborate.
Products like Slack, Yammer, Zoom, and Skype for Business make this possible, each having a separate function. You can choose to patch together several of these to improve your workplace communication or opt for an all-in-one package like PanTerra’s Streams.
With Streams, you get real-time team collaboration functionalities, integration of all communication devices (smartphone, computer, tablet), file sync and share capabilities, and much more. You can set up team rooms and share content easily, use team messaging for communications, and share multimedia content with multi-level access controls. And with employees spread out across multiple locations, this type of technology is more important than ever.
5. Encourage Two-Way Workplace Communication
Earlier we talked about having regular workplace communication with your team members. Now we’d like to address the need that the communication needs to be a two-way street.
Employees need to be able to share up and down the ladder. Often that will mean that you need to solicit their feedback on how both you and the company as a whole are doing. Don’t just talk at them, talk to them, and be sincere in wanting their opinion on how a project is going, how your management style fits in with the team, and what you could do to be a better manager.
Let them know that their feedback is important, indeed critical, to the success of not only your working relationship but for the team and the projects you collaborate on. This is especially important when there are big changes, like a reorganization, change in leadership, the loss of team members, or a project gone wrong.
This two-way communication is also vital at the end of a project. While team meetings are a perfect venue for a post-mortem, sometimes honesty is best served with a one-on-one. Be open to their praise and their criticisms. Let them know that you take their opinion seriously and, if needed, make sure that you touch base with them after any issues they report have been resolved.
6. Pay Attention to Nonverbal Communication
Managing teams is a juggling act and you need to be sensitive to not only the two-way verbal communications mentioned previously, but it pays to be aware of nonverbal communication as well—both yours and that of your team members.
While you are in a position of authority, you need to be approachable. Stiff posture, with arms crossed, is a nonverbal red flag to an employee. Try to stay relaxed, maintain eye contact, and pay attention when a team member is speaking to you. This also means not staring at your computer screen or cell phone while in conversation. Give them your full attention.
Conversely, if you see an employee becoming withdrawn, sullen, angry, or incapable of typical workplace communication, act swiftly. Try to engage them in a conversation that will allow you to ascertain the issue and discuss how to resolve the problem together. It’s important that your team members know you care enough to ask and are willing to help them seek a resolution to the issue.
Staying aware of your own physical presence in front of team members and gauging their moods and identifying problems early is the sign of a good leader that will earn respect and in turn encourage further workplace communication.
7. Learn About One Another
In order for you to lead a team you need to know them, and it benefits your team to know about each other. The more they know, the more likely they are to share and collaborate.
This can be achieved in a number of ways, primarily through workplace communication. Your one-on-one meetings and regular review sessions will begin to give you a sense of each team member, their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. But it’s wise to dig a little deeper.
Some companies like to do profiles on new employees or to celebrate a work anniversary. This doesn’t need to be anything in depth and should include something fun, like best vacation ever or favorite book. Or maybe once a year, you send out a 5-question survey and then bring the completed questionnaires to a team meeting and everyone guesses which ones belong to which team member.
You might also schedule team events outside of work, where members are more likely to open up and you can all see each other in a different light. Maybe happy hour at the local pub where you play Table Topics with questions like “Have you ever been published?” or “What three words would you use to describe yourself?”
The goal is to be more comfortable and know each other a little deeper. This can serve you all well over time, assigning tasks based on strengths or weaknesses, finding out which workplace communication style each team member responds best to, and fostering a stronger and more close-knit team.
While it may be difficult to get started improving workplace communication, the benefits far outweigh the effort you will put in. These suggestions will help you take that first step. Let it be a baby step and implement one at a time. Maybe give three a go and work up from there.
We’d love to hear about how it goes or if you have some suggestions of your own (feel free to chime in below in the comments section).
Finally, when it comes to tools to support and improve your workplace communication, PanTerra’s Streams platform is the perfect solution for any size business. Take a moment to learn about how it can help your business or reach out with your questions today!