Employee engagementConflict management

Communication is something we all take for granted. Thousands of hours and money are wasted every year because of misunderstandings. We need to fully understand communication to ensure it is working effectively.

How do you promote effective communication in the workplace? If your team doesn't appear to be working together effectively, it is very likely that communication is a contributing factor. Communicating is something we do very naturally, almost like breathing. We go about our days talking to our colleagues, family and friends but without giving very much thought as to how we are doing it.

So what is effective communication?

Effective communication in the workplace is about so much more than just an exchange of information. It is a two way exchange of information for mutual benefit, but it relies on each individual articulating and understanding the message as it is intended. Effective communication is very valuable in the workplace and there are many potential problems that can arise if these skills are lacking. Brushing up on communication skills can lead to improvements in employee motivation, productivity and profitability.

Communication is vital in building, maintaining and improving relationships between individuals and teams within an organisation. It is also important for the leaders in an organisation to be able to communicate clearly, concisely and with transparency when delivering strategic messages to the wider business.

Each person's perspective is different and the same piece of information given to two different people can produce two completely different reactions. Ensuring that information is managed, articulated, presented and communicated in a way that appeals equally to the range of different types of people and individual preferences for receiving information, will allow each employee to process the information in the way that works best for them.

Barriers to effective communication

There are many barriers to effective communication, but to allow us to remove them, we must first understand what they are.

One of the most common factors is not listening and making assumptions. Both of these are often done in order to cut corners and save time, which means time management can also be counted as a contributing factor. Others include:

  • Ineffective questions
  • Conflicting messages
  • Emotional distractions
  • Perception
  • Culture
  • Language
  • Stress

Communication in the workplace is far reaching and goes beyond just verbal interactions, for example email. This type of communication lacks the non-verbal signals that often play a part in how we receive information as it was intended.

So what steps can you take to improve communication in your organisation? Let's take a look at team working skills as an exercise.

Team working must be cultivated over time and carefully monitored by managers. You can take a pulse of how well your people are collaborating and communicating right now. Try this 20 minute exercise today:

1. Gather your team and announce the following:
Communication is the key to achieving all of our goals.‚Äč

  • Ask the team if they agree or disagree with this statement
  • Ask the team why they believe this is true
  • Ask the team if they can think of a situation or problem in which communication was NOT critically important
  • Challenge the team to thoroughly explain how better communication would NOT be necessary to correct that situation or problem
  • Variation: Ask employees to share situations, problems and challenges at work in which communication DID play a critical role, both in the cause and solution

2. Debrief:
Emphasise that communication affects everything that happens in an organisation. Communication can be one of the greatest strengths of an organisation or one of its biggest weaknesses. Ask the team to specifically discuss how communication is important in their jobs.

At Thomas, we can help your employees to understand their communication preferences as well as the preferences of others. This can help employees learn how to get the best out of each other and ultimately improve team working skills. When communication channels breakdown, so does performance, which can impact on delivering results and organisational performance.

We can help you to find out the reasons for any communication breakdown; identify the potential for difficulties between different profiles; why teams are struggling to build strong relationships and how this is affecting their perceived effectiveness. Our engage tool measures 'voice' and can help you to see whether the communication within the organisation from leadership is having an impact on engagement levels. Finally, we have a range of workshops designed to improve self-awareness and boost communication based soft skills.