Strategies for effective workplace communication
Effective communication in the workplace isn’t just about being open and honest with your employees and peers—although that won’t do any harm. The crux of professional communication goes to the heart of your business’s internal processes and company culture, dictating how you work and the manner in which you navigate interpersonal relationships. Explore the importance of workplace communication, as well as some of the best strategies for communication at work.
Why is effective communication in the workplace important?
Smart workplace communication is one of the keys to the long-term success of your business, helping to improve productivity and maintain strong working relationships throughout your organization. Just think about the symptoms of poor communication at work: incomprehensible company goals, limited or non-existent feedback models, poor conflict management, or unclear instructions from managers. It all adds up to one thing—waste. Wasted time, wasted effort, and wasted capital. In other words, your company’s professional communication standards have a direct impact on your business’s bottom line, with one study indicating that companies that communicate effectively provide a 47% higher return to shareholders (over a five-year period) than those that don’t.
5 professional communication strategies
Ensuring effective communication in the workplace should be top of the agenda for your company’s leadership team. We’ve outlined some of the best ways to improve communication at work below:
1. Invest in a smart workspace
Most importantly, it’s vital to centralize your professional communication tools. Around 50% of employees use unsanctioned apps or software, which—aside from being a security risk—can lead to teams and projects getting out of sync. Decentralized, fractured channels of communication cause issues with access to documents or files, as well as situations where some co-workers may not have all the information they need to proceed, resulting in delays and wasted revenue.
The solution? A smart workspace, such as Dropbox, that consolidates all of your business’s platforms, apps, and content types in one place. That way, there’s no need for team members to switch between tools when they’re working on different tasks throughout the day. For example, Dropbox Paper’s task management feature can help to ensure that everyone’s on track and understands what’s expected of them, helping to improve accountability and ensure clear lines of communication.
Project planning is also an area that requires excellent workplace communication. Dropbox Paper’s project planning template can give you the tools you need to keep the whole team on the same page. Delegate to-dos and gather all your feedback in one place, so that there’s no confusing back and forth over email. When it comes to managing feedback in real time, annotations on Dropbox can be far more effective than long, messy email threads with too many people on cc.
2. Talk face-to-face, when possible
In the modern workplace, face-to-face meetings can sometimes fall by the wayside as workplace communication tools like Slack and email have become the go-to standard. However, you shouldn’t let face-to-face communications go completely out of fashion. If you need to relay sensitive information, face-to-face meetings are a must, while meeting your team in person (or at least via a Zoom call) allows you to see body language and facial expressions, so you can fully understand how well you’re communicating certain pieces of information. Think of your communication channels like a hierarchy: video calls are more personal than phone calls (eye contact is a must), and phone calls are more personal than emails or instant messages.
3. Focus on the clarity of your messaging
When it comes to effective communication in the workplace, you need to bring clarity and concision to your messaging. Unclear office communication from leaders can delay or even torpedo a project before it gets going (i.e., duplication of work, confusing time-frames, incorrect deliverables, etc.), which is why it’s important to get the message right the first time. Include detailed instructions for any task, and make sure that you’re addressing your team’s core questions—what, how, and why. If you don’t do that, you’ll only confuse and disengage co-workers from the task at hand. Of course, poor professional communication can also hit suppliers and customers, causing them to become disenfranchised with your business and go elsewhere. Avoid this by maintaining prompt and clear communication from the outset.
4. Practice “radical candor”
Radical candor is a framework for professional communication that requires you to care about your colleagues while also directly challenging them on their behavior, giving you the right balance between aggression and empathy in a work environment. For many leaders, good communication skills don’t come naturally. In fact, a survey by Interact found that 69% of managers are uncomfortable communicating directly with employees, while 37% stated that they’re uncomfortable giving direct feedback if they believe that the employee may respond negatively. If that sounds like you, radical candor could be the office communication strategy you’re looking for, helping you to build a cohesive team and achieve better results.
5. Maintain a horizontal communication structure
Opening up the flow of office communication is a great way to give your employees a voice. A 2018 survey from The Economist Intelligence Unit found that 31% of employees cite a lack of honest, open communication as a cause of low morale. This is an integral factor for employee engagement and job satisfaction. To boost connectivity within your workplace, you need to ensure a horizontal communication structure wherein C-level employees and senior management communicate directly with employees, inviting direct feedback.
In other words, junior employees should feel empowered to talk to high-level employees—there shouldn’t be any sense that lines of communication with your organization’s leaders are blocked or frowned upon. This may require change on an institutional level, but there are other workplace communication strategies that you may be able to implement to bridge the gap between leadership and employees, such as virtual town halls with question-and-answer sessions.
Professional communication can play an important role in virtually every aspect of your business. Mastering effective communication in the workplace can help to increase efficiency, productivity, and innovation, keeping employees engaged and leaving your business primed for success.