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17 Ways to Improve Effective Communication in the Workplace

Effective communication in the workplace positively impacts productivity, employee morale and builds trust.

Effective communication is essential in all aspects of life, both personally and professionally.  Successful communication requires consistent attention but the benefits of valuable and clear messaging are universally welcomed.

During my 15 years working as a hospital administrator, the highest priority was communication. A safe environment, people’s lives, it all depended on crystal clear messaging. Not only was it crucial to ensure that the proper messaging was being sent but equally as important was how the messaging was being received.

There is a natural tendency to assume that just because we say or send something to someone that they hear or read it in the way in which it was intended. But if you ever played the game “telephone” as a child, then you know how easy it is for communications to be misheard or misinterpreted. 

Simple words or phrases like “fifteen” may be heard as “fifty.” And in some industries, like healthcare, ineffective communication can be the difference between life and death.

So yeah, creating an effective communication strategy is pretty important!

The experience of working in healthcare taught me a lot about the importance of effective workplace communication skills as well as what’s at stake in its absence. The old saying “it takes two to tango” is real. Just because one person sends a message does not mean it was received, or interpreted, in the way it was intended.

Communication is a constant work in progress and one that deserves critical attention, no matter your industry. The advantages of effective messaging are far reaching and can yield additional gains for your team as well.

Benefits of effective communication in the workplace

  • Lessons the rumor mill. Clear communications, from the source, are tougher to dispute or misinterpret. Employees exchange information on a regular basis so any messaging received straight from the team leader lessen speculative opportunities.
  • Creates efficiencies. Tired of repeating yourself? Using consistent methods to deliver your messaging cuts down on the repeat questioning.
  • Builds trust. Being transparent is a great way to nurture relationships and instill a sense of professional responsibility amongst your team.
  • Promotes engagement. People are more likely to feel comfortable sharing their input and exchange ideas in an environment where discussion is encouraged, and interaction is valued.
  • Improves productivity. When team members understand their roles and responsibilities they tend to perform more efficiently and experience less frustration due to less ambiguity.
  • Develops positive company culture. Effective communication promotes relationship building among team members which can lead to a more pleasant, inviting environment.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no one size fits all strategy or method of communication. Great leaders utilize multiple approaches to develop clear communication strategies and deliver effective messaging. 

How to Improve Effective Communication in the Workplace

1. Listen first

As my mother fondly said, two ears versus one mouth means you have twice as much opportunity to listen before you speak. Active listening may be the single most important communication skill. It involves more than just hearing the other person. Active listeners seek to understand what the other person is saying and convey presence in the conversation in ways such as practicing non-verbal cues like eye contact and using open-ended questioning.

2. Survey employees

Knowing what type of communication your team prefers will set you up for greater success. Ask them what methods of communication they are most comfortable with and regularly assess their satisfaction with the different communication channels. Additionally, surveying your team about what topics have interest in learning more about may provide a great opportunity for career development.

3. Post business goals and metrics

Be transparent about what everyone is working towards and the progress. It can be difficult, and inefficient, to call meetings just to provide status updates. Find convenient spaces or hubs where metrics can be shared or posted as a way for the entire team to be in the know about where progress stands.

4. Be aware of, and utilize, all available communication channels

If your organization has multiple opportunities to message the team, take advantage! The company intranet, common areas such as break rooms, screensavers, text blasts, instant messaging, newsletters, etc. all provide occasions to communicate.

5. Ask questions

There are multiple way to be inquisitive with your team members without coming across as intimidating. Asking people to share best practices can be a great way to learn more about how your team works as well as to encourage open communication amongst one another.

6. Focus on building trust

As a leader, you can create all the “safe spaces” you want but if employees don’t trust you, those spaces will sit empty. One of the best ways you can start building trust is by taking the time to listen to the individuals on your team. Not just their concerns but also their ideas. 

7. Respond timely

Aside from the fact delayed responses can have a negative impact on employee productivity, a lack of response may cause team members to feel devalued. A timely reply is an easy way to signal that you care and have listened.

8. Block specific time and offer different types of meetings

Offering a variety of methods for team members to connect with you will do wonders to help meet the needs of a team. It also creates value by appealing to their specific needs. Saying “my door is always open” is not an effective strategy because it’s not realistic. Block specific time for open office hours so people feel they have the opportunity to drop in with an idea or concern versus feeling like they may be interrupting you or having to wait until a structured 1:1 meeting. Sticking to the schedule will help build your reliability, foster trust and may also improve employee engagement.

9. Respect others time

Cancel meetings when there’s not enough substance or important information to share. Wasting people’s time leads to meeting fatigue. Attention spans may dwindle regarding future communications and devalue your messaging.

10. Be aware of your body language

Non-verbal communication such as your facial expressions, posture and even hand movements are just as important as the words coming out of your mouth. Sometimes your body language communicates more than your verbal language, so be cognizant of all the signals your sending.

11. Assess your initial onboarding

Organizations often miss the mark with new hires. Onboarding is your one chance to make a first impression on new employees. Clear direction and thorough, well-planned training is the best way to ensure you are setting the stage for effective communication right from the start!

12. Ensure that simple contact information is up to date

This is a no-brainer yet oddly overlooked which can lead to unnecessary frustration, delay, and error. Make sure your entire team has the correct contact information for each other as well as anyone else they may need to be in communication with so they can reach out in real time. 

13. Encourage inter-departmental communication

Working in a silo can stifle creativity and hinder communication. Fostering teams to learn a bit about more about each other’s work can promote a more open environment where people feel empowered to reach out to others.

14. Incorporate team building activities

Communication trainings can sometimes be a bit dry and fall flat. Try adding some structured group activities to find new ways to promote good communication skills while encouraging strong relationships. Here are 23 great activities to help build better team communication.

15. Take a communication assessment

We make assumptions about how we communicate and how our communication styles are received. You may think your tone of voice is instructive while others may feel it’s condescending. Or perhaps you don’t have an awareness of how your nonverbal communication is being perceived. Becoming more knowledgeable about your own communication style may help you achieve better results and build a stronger team. There are tons of quick, free online assessments to get you started. Here is a free assessment I enjoyed taking that took less than 5 minutes.

16. Video yourself

Yes, it may be uncomfortable to watch the first time, but watching yourself on video is a great way to learn your communication style and where there are opportunities for improvement. Most of the time we are completely unaware of the things we routinely do or say. Video is the perfect way to understand how others see and hear you.

17. Ask for feedback

Of course we all love positive feedback. But since some of the best learnings come from constructive feedback, it’s a good idea to incorporate these asks into your routine on a regular basis. Provide staff members with an opportunity to provide anonymous feedback and encourage them to help you grow as a leader.

It’s important to remember that the most effective communication strategies are the ones that best fit your team and given situation. If the majority of your team is made up of remote employees then your communication strategy will look and feel a bit different than those who are in the office. Whether it’s through video conferencing or face-to-face conversation, the good news is that effective workplace communication strategies can be delivered regardless of the environment type.