The Importance of Effective Workplace Communication [+ 13 Ways To Improve Your Efforts]
If you’re anything like the average U.S. employee, you’ll spend at least a quarter of your life working. Depending on how well your team communicates, that’s either a lot of time to form strong relationships and hit milestones together, or struggle through miscommunications, conflicts, and roadblocks.
Whether it’s day-to-day collaboration, team meetings, water cooler chat, or social events, effective workplace communication is paramount. It doesn’t just apply to in-person interactions anymore. Companies also need to loop remote workers into the conversation so they feel equally seen, heard, and valued.
We’re here to help. In this guide, we’ll talk about why it’s so important to nail workplace communication. Then, we’ll walk through 13 ways to amp up communication, engagement, and teamwork, whether you’re a HR or People Ops specialist, team leader, or entry-level employee.
What Is Effective Communication?
Communication in the workplace encompasses all the different ways that employees exchange information, including:
- Written communication (Emails, in-app messages, text messages, memos, flyers, etc.)
- Face-to-face communication (Virtual meetings, in-person meetings, conversations, phone calls, etc.)
- Non-verbal communication (Body language, facial expressions, gestures, etc.)
As many employees have experienced firsthand, communication isn’t inherently effective. Workplaces bring together a diverse range of communication styles, personalities, habits, and tools. What seems clear and friendly to one employee may confuse or even irritate another.
So, effective communication happens when an employee’s message — idea, info, question, request, feedback, or otherwise — is understood and addressed by their recipient. It’s a two-way street. The sender needs to deliver their message in a way that helps the recipient grasp what they’re saying. And the recipient needs to approach the interaction with their full attention and an open mind.
How Effective Workplace Communication Benefits Individuals and Teams
The cost of ineffective communication is high. It impedes people’s ability to work together, slowing productivity and making them feel disconnected from their team and the business. By contrast, businesses that practice effective communication from top to bottom are proven to enjoy higher productivity levels, lower turnover levels, and more. Check out these benefits:
Higher Productivity and Better Meetings
When leaders and employees are communicating well, everyone has the necessary clarity, direction, and resources they need to get things done. Your team understands what’s expected of them, which goals take priority, and how they can work through obstacles. That equals more progress on key objectives and fewer hours spent looking for information or people, which eats up 20% of employees’ time.
Increased Employee Engagement and Job Satisfaction
Want more engaged, satisfied, and loyal employees? How about a healthier company culture? It all starts with internal communication best practices. Many of the factors that influence employee engagement depend on open discussions between managers and employees, including:
- Feeling respected
- Connections with colleagues
- Trust in management
- Opportunities to learn new skills
An employee satisfaction survey remains one of the best tools to foster these conversations and improve happiness. Satisfaction doesn’t mean “always being happy.” Often, it simply means employees have avenues to propose changes and know their leaders will respond thoughtfully.
Better Staff and Client Relationships
Good communication fosters mutual understanding, respect, and trust, all of which are essential for strong working relationships. It also allows genuine friendships and mentor-mentee relationships to bloom.
These benefits aren’t just internal. Businesses that break down silos create better customer lifecycles. Every team member is on the same page about each client’s account and can present solutions in a way that resonates with them. The word on the block will be that your company truly puts clients first.
Prevents and Mediates Workplace Conflicts
There are many reasons that workplace conflicts arise: differing work styles, project management issues, personality clashes, or company changes.
Disagreement is inevitable, but employees who communicate often and effectively are less likely to criticize each other and more likely to work toward resolution. They’re primed to use respectful language, embrace different viewpoints, and push through communication barriers.
Increased Willingness for Cross-Functional Collaboration
New collaboration efforts are often plagued by an absence of trust, accountability, and goal alignment. Employees tend to work with the same group day after day, and it can be difficult to find common ground with people from other departments or locations. By investing in communication tools, tactics, and activities, you’re facilitating better cross-functional collaboration and fueling innovation company-wide.
Creates Transparency and Gives Everyone a Voice
The call for transparency, honesty, and visibility in the workplace is louder than ever. Teams are growing more diverse, and with the push for remote-work and hybrid-work models, workplaces are evolving quickly.
When you commit to open, two-way communication, employees feel empowered to speak up, try new things, and think outside the box throughout this shift. You’ll also give your business a lift. Half of employees say that their managers sharing data significantly improves their productivity and motivation.
13 Essential Tips To Improve Workplace Communication
Ready to get your team talking? We’ve rounded up 13 helpful tips, techniques, and exercises that foster better communication in the workplace.
1. Invest in Professional Development Focused on Communication Skills
Good communication isn’t something you are or aren’t born with — it’s a skill that can be honed and developed. Both leaders and employees can enroll in workplace communication workshops or courses (online or in-person). New-hire orientation and ongoing trainings are also great opportunities to clarify the company’s communication expectations and share educational resources.
2. Practice Active Listening
The best way to be a great communicator is to be a good listener. With the rise of remote work environments and video conferencing, it’s all too easy to multitask online or tune out while someone is talking. You can practice and encourage active listening techniques to combat distractions. Here’s what it looks like:
- Make eye contact with whoever is speaking
- Before responding, paraphrase what the speaker has said
- Ask open-ended questions (“Why do you feel confident about that idea?”) not yes or no questions (“Do you think this idea will work?”)
- Conclude conversations by summarizing key details and decisions
3. Have Effective Workplace Communication Tools
In some cases, poor communication stems from a lack of user-friendly tools, especially if you have a distributed team. If people are constantly running into technical issues, or it takes too many steps to reach out, communication suffers. Simplify collaboration and team-building with the following tools:
Pingboard gives employees easy access to an employee directory, live org chart, peer recognition, and who’s out capabilities, making it easy for employees to get to know who’s who and who does what, start conversations, and dive into teamwork.
The Slack messaging app streamlines communications and allows for quick back-and-forths, unlike traditional email. You can also use Slack channels to organize chats and encourage fun non-work discussions, like #random, #motivation, or #weekend-update.
Google Workplace (formerly G Suite)
Google Workplace remains a go-to project management and collaboration tool for businesses of all sizes. Integrate its email, file, document, and calendar tools with apps like Slack to simplify your communication workflows even more.
If you’re part of a distributed workforce, Zoom video conferencing is a great replacement for face-to-face conversation. Utilize the chat or whiteboard features to enrich internal and external meetings.
Calendly allows anyone to pick a meeting date and time that’s convenient for them without a long chain of messages.
Discover more tools to improve employee communication and optimize all your HR tasks. Also, consider tracking these HR metrics to understand how your team members are using the software tools you’ve invested in.
4. Understand Which Communication Channel Is Appropriate
It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. The channel and language you use can be just as important as the message itself. Between emails, meetings, apps, phone calls, and social media, it’s all too easy for messages to get lost or come off the wrong way.
Get aligned on which platforms or mediums are best for each type of message. For example, send project status updates via your project management tool, and send an email and a Slack message to notify each other of vacation time.
5. Know Exactly What You Want Your Audience To Take Away
Before initiating a conversation, ask yourself: What information, action, or outcome are you looking for? In other words, what is your call to action for this internal audience? Whatever the answer is, make sure it’s clear. Use bullets or numbered lists, bold it, add a link, or repeat it at the end of your conversation so everyone walks away crystal clear.
6. Get to the Point Quickly
How many times have you opened an email, seen how long it was, and promptly decided to read it later? A fundamental piece of effective workplace communication is to be considerate of your recipient’s time. If you’re midway through writing a lengthy email or building a presentation that’s reaching 20+ slides, pause and think about how you could streamline your message. Could the email be a quick Zoom check-in? Could the presentation be broken up into smaller sessions?
7. Put Team Communication Building Activities On The Calendar
Interest in virtual team-building shot up 2500% worldwide in response to COVID-19, so it’s safe to say team-building is on every company’s radar. Although “team-building activity” may elicit some groans, forging bonds between team members is an essential part of strong communication. It promotes organizational harmony and increases employee productivity.
You aren’t stuck with lame icebreakers or trust falls. Virtual lunch-and-learns, trivia nights, puzzles, and more can all work well. Find ideas in this list of six best practices for building a connected team
8. Participate in a Company-Wide Personality Test
At Pingboard, we use our own product to list our personality types on our employee profiles. Why? Because seeing each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies results in better communication and collaboration. We can understand why our teammates might approach a problem a certain way or lean toward a certain communication style.
It’s a great relationship-builder, and even better, it’s easy to do. Your team can take a free personality test like 16personalities.com and dive into the results and insights together. With this context, it’s also easier to give more meaningful praise and feedback.
9. Take Advantage of Informal Time To Build Relationships
Although the increase in remote work has its advantages, it’s also meant the loss of random, unintentional connections, like bumping into someone new in the hallway or break room. Luckily, there are many tools to encourage community-building and casual chats.
For instance, Super Dispatch uses Pingboard to share and celebrate employee birthdays. Try hosting virtual happy hours or coffee chats. You can even set up a virtual break room using Slack or Zoom where employees can chat or play games together.
10. Give Honest and Sincere Appreciation
In any conversation about workplace communication, we’ve got to talk about employee recognition and appreciation. According to Globoforce, 89% of HR leaders say ongoing peer feedback and check-ins have a positive impact on their organizations. Here are some ways to incorporate praise into your work environment:
- Offer a peer-to-peer recognition tool and hand out peer recognition ideas so it’s a cinch for anyone to recognize their coworker.
- Avoid vague language (“Jasmine did a great job.”) Instead, call out specific achievements (“Jasmine answered client emails in under an hour throughout the entire project.”)
- Ask executives and managers to lead by example and give recognition to teams and individuals.
11. Invite Feedback To Deepen the Conversation
As we’ve discussed, effective communication is a two-way relationship. Utilize 1:1 meetings, team feedback sessions, and company-wide surveys so everyone can contribute and be an equal part of the conversation. This allows each employee to take an active role in building better processes going forward, and helps them feel committed to and invested in the outcome.
12. Be Aware Of Body Language and Facial Expressions
Nonverbal cues are a huge part of workplace communication. They help you detect feelings that your team members may not come out and say, like enthusiasm, confusion, hurt, boredom, or annoyance.
Of course, everyone expresses themselves differently. A coworker crossing their arms may mean they’re angry — or they’re just cold. Opt for face-to-face channels when you need to discuss something important, but take nonverbal signs with a grain of salt.
13. Respect Coworkers’ Communication Preferences
Whether you’re part of a 20-person team or 2,000-person team, you’ll encounter a range of communication styles. That might include the time of day someone checks their messages, the gender pronouns they use, and their preferred messaging channels.
The best way to craft a communication strategy with your peers — and create harmony company-wide — is to simply ask what each other prefers. You can check in with 1:1s or use surveys to get a broad consensus. For instance, IBM started allowing employees to select their gender pronouns in their HR system.
Discover How Pingboard Facilitates Effective Workplace Communication
At Pingboard, we make sure your employees stay connected, engaged, and satisfied. Our software solution plugs into your HR and People Ops teams to improve visibility across your organization, deliver effective employee communication, and enhance the software tools you already have. Sign-up today to try our free 14-day trial.
I am the Director of Growth at Pingboard. I consider myself an entrepreneur at heart. I love trying new things and taking educated risks on new ventures, both professionally and in my personal life. I bring that passion to work everyday where I enjoy helping others discover the power that Pingboard can unlock.