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7 Tips for effective communication in the workplace

7 Tips for effective communication in the workplace

Enhance workplace communication by practicing active listening, setting clear goals, and using visual aids. Regular feedback and empathy improve collaboration and reduce conflicts.

Listen, and Really Listen Attentively

Being listened to is one of the most important factors in effective communication. According to a study by Wright State University, active listening not only increases one’s understanding of the message but also makes the listener appear more competent and reliable in the eyes of their peers . Active listening includes several steps:

  • Focus on what the speaker is telling you . Resist the temptation to check your phone, watch the clock, or take notes. Your body language should reflect your attention to what the other person is saying. Make nods and brief verbal responses such as “I see” or “I understand”.

  • Reflect back on what has been said to ensure understanding . Repeat in your own words the message you heard from the speaker. For example, “So, what you were saying was… ”.

  • If the message is not clear, ask for clarification . Respond naturally and provocatively: “Can you tell me what you mean by this?”.

    Example: if you were a subordinate listening to a manager giving you a schedule, you would listen to not only the dates but also the priorities, as well as understand what he is worried about in terms of resource allocation.

Clear and Unambiguous Phrasing

Unambiguous wording is important for communication. Google’s research on team cohesion confirms the importance of clear and concise communication in team-building. Steps to implement this framework:

  • Be as direct as possible and do not use unnecessary explanations or impressive phrases that the listener may not understand.

  • Embrace the assertive, affirmative pattern of voice. For example, don’t say, “It’s possible that we could possibly meet next Wednesday” . It’s better to say, “Let’s meet next Wednesday!”.

  • Example: Project managers should always introduce the purpose of the email in the first sentence: “The purpose of this email is to inform you about the project”.

Constructive Feedback

Feedback is vital for training and professional growth. Three out of five employees say that recognition and praise are not given often enough.

Guidelines for Giving Feedback:
  • Be specific and fact-based. Instead of saying “You didn’t do a good job,” say “The report missed the data analysis section, which is critical for our decision-making.”

  • Focus on the behavior, not the person. This helps in keeping the discussion objective and less personal.

    Example from Practice: A supervisor notices that an employee has problems with time management. They provide the employee with tools and techniques for time management and set a weekly check-in meeting to see if there is any progress.

    Adapt to Your Audience:
  • Understanding the diversity of your workplace audience is essential for communication. This includes cultural differences, professional backgrounds, and personal preferences.

    Adapting Strategies:
  • Learn about the cultural backgrounds of your colleagues so that you can tailor your communication style to them.

  • Use simple language if you address a wide audience with different levels of technical expertise.

    Real-Life Application: If I speak to a group of engineers and salespeople, I would use a detailed diagram to explain technical details to salespeople. At the same time, I would refer to the fine details of the team’s solution and its business impact to the engineers.

    Use Technology Wisely:

  • In the digital age, technology can improve communication. For example, tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams facilitate real-time communication.

    Best Practices for Using Technology:
  • Choose the right type of communication for your platform. Complex discussions should be held using video, not audio calls, to almost replicate face-to-face interaction, while brief messages can be sent via chat.

  • Keep your messages brief and to the point to ensure they are easy to digest.

    Effective Example: During the brainstorming session for the Design Thinking project, my group used a shared document for real-time feedback. The team was able to make edits after discussing the project so that each team member’s input was immediately included into the overall vision.

Fostering a Culture of Feedback:

  • Encourage feedback for your team on a regular basis, showing that it is a natural and valued part of your work process.

  • Act on the feedback received, which means that you take it seriously and care about improving.

An example of how it can be implemented: every month, organize a “town hall” stake, where employees can openly talk about problems and good practice, as well as the management’s responses and notes on the feedback received.

Be Clear and Concise

Possessing skill to communicate clearly without getting lost in words is vital for any workplace and benefits not only in better understanding but also in saving time which is critical in modern fast-paced environment. Studies prove that clear communication can save up to 20% of the project completion time . However, not only communication can be helpful in modern workplace conditions. For instance, feedback can substantially help employees improve performance. It is essential to provide constructive feedback if any in the workplace which will also make the task accomplishment much faster. To write clear messages we should:

  • Sort priorities. It is advised to put the message at the beginning if this is the most important information.

  • Use plain language. It is dangerous to use the industry jargon unless you are sure that the receiver knows the terms you are using. For example, instead of saying: “We need to optimize the bandwidth” it’d be: “We need to improve the speed of our internet.”

A real example would be to provide instructions on a software deployment at an IT manager meeting non-technical employees without mentioning the software and the software deployment process. If IT manager will omit the technical information about the software being deployed, the instructions will be: “We’ll first install the software on your computers, we’ll check if everything works, and then we’ll teach you how to use it.”

The proposition is one of the most crucial things to understand in the modern workplace. It is essential to give a suggestion if any. A constructive proposition can transform the feedback from a condemning message to a statement and from there, you can start the dialogue which is beneficial for both parties.

Adapt Communication to Your Audience

The extent to which you adapt your communication to your audience corresponds directly to how effective it is. In other words, you need to know who you are speaking with when choosing a message format and tone. Firstly, you should consider who your audience is, how much they understand, and what they are interested in. International Journal of Business Communication reports that subject adaptation is an effective strategy that can increase the overall message impression by up to 40% . In fact, people who adapt messages always see better results.

Taking into account technical knowledge. Before presenting something technical, consider your audience’s technical knowledge. Adjust accordingly ‒ if they are specialists in the given area, you can talk in the usual terms. If they are laymen, consult the experts and simplify. Also, do not take extra time without much need for additional information. Consider using some background information. Adaptation to your audience’s style of perception. Besides, you need to consider your communication style ‒ for example, whether your audience prefers reports or bullet points, details, or high-level summaries. Directing practical example: An American manager communicates with an employee in Japan. Japan respects the hierarchical culture of the organization and the principle of respect, so the manager, instead of presenting a direct critical response, sounds like: “It is definitely interesting ‒ how do you think everyone else will feel?” and starts with a formal greeting .

Encourage Active Engagement

Engagement benefits all parties. From the point of view of the speaker, if the audience is deeply engaged, your sales pitch or project idea may be accepted. However, from the point of view of the audience, active engagement is also beneficial. Team members are more productive when they feel included. A Gallup poll found that engagement leads to 21% productivity increases. To that end, consider asking open-ended questions. If you want a deep discussion, ask: “What is your opinion of the forensic approach?” rather than “Do you agree with our approach?” Focus conversation, ask: “Levon, can you comment on the presentation, please? What do you think?”

Real-life application: a group leader sees that on a team meeting some people are rarely voicing their opinions and asking, “Do you agree with this decision or do you have some recommendations?” .

Get a Team Communication App

Implementing a team communication app is a game-changer for increasing workplace efficiency and collaboration. As the McKinsey report shows, the use of social tech can boost the productivity of knowledge workers in companies by 20-25%.

Select the Right App

  1. Determine what your team needs are: what kind of communication you rely on the most frequently? Do you often need to share files or do you exchange brief messages more?

  2. Compare the features of different apps, e.g. file sharing, video conferencing, or security protocols, to align them with the nature of work your team conducts.

Set It up Properly

  1. Organize a training session for your team to explain how to use the app. Consider whether it should be a webinar, a video, or a live training session.

  2. Specify examples of good practices, define guidelines of use, e.g. when the team members should respond to messages or what types of messages they can post.

Real-Life Implementation . A tech startup with remote teams located across different time zones implements Slack. The company customizes channels for each project and daily stand-ups, so that every member of the team can work asynchronously but still effectively. Asana, a project management tool, is directly integrated into Slack, making the communication-tool even more efficient.

Host Regular Check-Ins

Having frequent check-ins via the app prevents taking off-task and ensures that all the team members are on the same page when it comes to goals and projects they are working on. However, these meetings should be interactive and ensure constant support of the teams from their managers.

5 Tips for Effective Check-Ins

  1. Have a definite time for the daily or weekly meeting using the app.

  2. Apart from CA, there should be problem-solving activities, not just updates.

  3. If all the team members present, try to make the check-in dynamic and effective.

  4. Start with a brief report on the ongoing status of all the projects.

  5. All the team members should present announcements and problems.

Structured Check-in . In a small digital marketing company, a manager of the sales teams hosts a bi-weekly check-in on Microsoft Teams. Each of the account managers reports on the progress of the campaign they manage and any issues they have faced when dealing with the clients.

Integrate Your App

  1. Identify and integrate other commonly used software, e.g. Trello for managing projects or Google Drive for storing files.

  2. Automate the routine processes, e.g. notifications on deadlines or updates, which can dramatically boost productivity.

Practical example . A company integrates a CRM system with their communication app. When salespeople update a customers’ file in a CRM, the up-to-date information will automatically appear on a corresponding channel created in the communication app where only the sales team is a member.

If Possible, Speak Face-to-Face

Face to face communication is, in fact, one of the most effective ways to communicate at the workplace. A study conducted at UCLA concluded that up to 93 percent of communication effectiveness is now determined by nonverbal cues . Thus, the optimally selected physical presence, ergo the visual component of communication, benefits all parties and even work teams. Indeed, going the extra mile with personal encounters seems to be one of the investments that pay the most in the workplace.

Best Ways to Utilize Face to Face

Several steps and tips can maximize face to face communication:

  • Right setting: It will set the mood of the conversion. Thus, a busy office or coffee shop is generally not recommended. Instead, a quiet meeting in a private surrounding will boost the likelihood of having a productive or sensitive conversation.

  • Right body language: Following the previously mentioned study on the effectiveness of nonverbal cues, the synchrony of spoken words and actual physical environment is crucial for an effective interaction.

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Time: Arrange the meeting at a convenient time for both parties, thus ensuring the highest level of presence and focus.

  2. Plan. Prepare to ensure that the goals and actions points are outlined in advance and not deviated from.

  3. Feedback. As an employer, remember to ask open-ended questions and then listen to the employee’s response. Thus, it can be possible to ensure an optimally open conversation and resolution of the issue.

Case Example. The case scenario in Southwest Airlines agreed that physical presence has led to the realization of the actual seriousness of the issue and clarification of the past misunderstandings. In other words, the project manager noticed that VPs seems tense during virtual calls, and the response was a physical meeting at the project site. Thus, they managed to clear some misunderstandings and finally address some project-related concerns.

Adding visuals to a conversation can make understanding easier

Additionally, when a conversation touches on more complex topics, Mecklenbrauck it is possible to ensure that all parties have the same understanding and do not deviate. The best ways to utilize visuals

  • Tools: slides, graphs, and charts are some of the best ways to clearly represent cultural and relevant differences.

Encourage Two-Way Communication

Two-way communication is vital to create a dynamic and responsive work atmosphere. It ensures that every pair of hands are heard and appreciated, providing better solutions and higher team and employee satisfaction. In accordance to a study conducted by the Salesforce, employees who believe that they are being heard are 4.6 times more disposed to be empowered to do ‘their best work’ . Below, you can find step-to-step strategies on how to facilitate such communication environment and effectively employ and teach the most important skills.

How to Facilitate an Open Communication Envirmonet and Real-Life Example

Create open-door policy in the organisation to make sure employees do not have fear to share ideas with managers. In addition, to promote two-way communication, organise regular team meetings, and make it a rule that everyone has to share their thoughts .

In the case of A software development company to encourage two-way communication, I would employ roundtable discussion twice a month, when every developer would present the most vital problem he or she has encountered with the project, and others will have one minute to present a possible solution. Following the implementation of this strategy, our team increased its efficiency to resolve problems by 30 %.

Use Available Technology to Promote Interaction

The contemporary world is virtually designed to promote free communication – especially given the ubiquity of technology. First of all, to accumulate the resources and allow for flow of ideas, it is essential to employ intelligent social gathering options. For instance, Slack and Microsoft Teams not only allow relatively free communication between their members, but also provide innumerable channels that can be accomplished for specific projects and to solve specific problems. Secondly, do not neglect to capitalise on the existing opportunities for a more personal communication.

Managers as Key Employees in Two-Way Communication – What to Train Them in

Managers are the people whose behaviour should be improved first, as then the trickle-down effect will ensure a free flow of information. First of all, they have to develop active listening skills. Then, they have to develop capabilities in open questioning, which will initiate the process. In the case of training, there are numerous situation-appropriate exercises that can be applied. For instance, in an active listening seminar, an experienced interculturalist such as me could ask managers to try and repeat what they have just learnt about the employee’s thinking on the question, and to ask something like “Can you tell me about how this approach has worked in the past?” instead of “Did you try that? Did it work?”.

Ask Questions

One of the powerful tools of communication is asking questions. At a workplace, questioning serves to both clarify and develop some piece of information, as well as signal to the other party in a conversation that someone is interested and engaged. According to the survey cited by Harvard Business Review, asking questions in an appropriate way was significantly correlated with establishing trust and respect as a leader .

To Develop the Art of Questioning:

  • Encourage curiosity by asking open-ended questions, which do not limit the other party’s response:

    • Instead of asking, “Did you finish the project?” ask, “Can you tell me more about the project you are working on now?”

  • Ask constructive questions which both justify their existence and drive the conversation forward:

    • Instead of asking, “How are you doing?” ask, “What did you learn from this experience?”

Steps to an Effective Questioning:

  • Prepare the questions in advance for meetings and discussions, in order to not blurt out the first thing you manage to think of.

  • Use follow up questions to learn more about a particular subject that was touched on during the conversation.

Example: during the review of the project completed during last week, the manager does not ask, “Did you do your task?” but says, “What particular examples of tasks did you complete last week?” Not only does it give the employee an opportunity to speak about the implemented solution, but allows the team to learn from one another.

Fostering Culture of Inquiry:

If the company and the leader make it easy and pleasant to ask questions – new knowledge is more likely to flow in the team and new solutions, to be found.

  • Do not forget to reward those who often ask interesting questions. This can be kind words in the next meeting or a bulletin across the team.

  • Schedule regular brainstorming meetings where employees can ask any questions and propose new solutions.

Example: every month a techgiant company has an “innovation day.” Any employee can visit and suggest a specific question that interests them or the team about a project or a new technology. All together, the participants brainstorm for an ideal solution. The pressure is off and the play is on.

What is possible to do is also to train the employees into question-based communication.

  • Train how to ask questions during the exercises at the workshop.

  • Train “Questioning Techniques” separately, so that the employee knows when to apply open and closed questions.

Manage Time Effectively

Time management is a key business skill due to its benefits in terms of productivity and ways to enhance communication in the workplace. The statistics indicate that 31 hours a month of an average employee’s time is spent on unproductive meetings. The given solution can be introduced by cutting times spent on meetings.

Solutions for Time Management:

Organize brief meetings. Keeping on the agenda and keeping it brief due to the short time provided will always allow you to stick to the pressing matters.

Encourage concise communication. The e-mails and presentation are easier to look at and read or present when it is full of bullet points to save time on going through the matters.

Applying Time Management Steps to Communications:

Prioritizing tasks is the first step and by categorizing your communications such as urgent/not urgent with important or not with important, also known as Eisenhower box, will allow you to organize the steps effectively.

Another decision is to decide specified times for your online activities to keep yourself from ringing the notifications all day.

Example: A project manager of a construction company requires to complete all of the white-collar tasks before 11 am to be allocated for the vocations and physical work tasks for the opposite period of the day. To be efficient, the manager adopts the rule of organizing a 15-minute long stand-up meeting for all of the party participants to check if everything is in order and reiterate the activities of the day. This policy has created a 20% speed up in projects’ work.

Optimal Meeting Times

Meeting times are of the essence and managing them effectively can provide a slot for the solutions for managing the time and the ways of communication of those meetings.

Meeting Management Strategies:

The timer should be running for each this agenda to make sure no valuable point is missed and no other draws the group into procrastinating talking. The assignments for the role of timekeeper and bookkeeper can also improve those factors.

Example: In a digital marketing company, the strategy discussion meeting is held every week briefly, up to 30 minutes. During this meeting, every piece has a predestined quantity of time for the updates that are presented to make the discussions brief and valuable.

Asynchronous Communications

Not all communuications require to be held in the peak of the usual working hours that can provide advantages.

Benefits:

Allow to give more thoughtful replies

Reduce the interruptions

Example: The software development team uses the tool Slock to upload assets and give feedback on the tasks and comments. They are not obligated to talk in the work hours or straight away; this can be checked and replied to all of the assets at once.

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