Boosting communication skills in the workplace involves teaching people how to actively listen and stay mindful of nonverbal cues and their audience.
You’ve probably heard that when it comes to relationships, communication is key. What people don’t tell you is that it’s vital in every relationship. It’s just as important to have communication skills in the workplace as it is to apply them to friendships and romances.
However, when we talk about communication, we’re not just talking about the words you speak. Employees need to excel at written communications, vocal tone, and body language as well as verbal communication. Read further to learn what the essential communication skills in the workplace are and how you can use them effectively.
The benefits of communication skills in the workplace
Does your business have an open door policy? Open door policies are designed to facilitate communication between managers and employees, but the open door is the easy part. What if the person inside displays hostile body language and poor eye contact? What if the door opens to a manager who has good intentions but inadequate communication skills?
The good news is that you can improve communication skills by using simple tools like videos, pamphlets, and online and in-person training courses. Developing strong communication skills involves teaching people how to actively listen while being mindful of their nonverbal cues and their audience.
Of course, you may be wondering how you can determine the success of your communication initiatives. After all, communicating and listening are soft skills and can’t be as easily measured as hard skills. However, if you can improve communication in the workplace, you’ll notice marked improvements in your business and with the morale of your employees that include:
- Better conflict resolution
- Engaged employees
- Improved company culture
- Improved productivity
- Improved customer satisfaction and repeat customers
- Reduced employee turnover
- Employees developing and displaying leadership skills
- Workplace success when it comes to meeting goals and objectives
- The implementation of better constructive feedback for improved performance
- Employees displaying positive attitudes and responding positively to new and established initiatives
Top 10 communication skills
When it comes to teaching and improving workplace communication, there are 10 areas where you should focus your efforts. Make sure to be inclusive toward neurodivergent candidates and employees when focusing on communication.
1. Active listening
Active listening means not only hearing the individual who is speaking but paying attention to their words and nonverbal communication cues.
Effective communication starts with active listening. Active listening means not only hearing the individual who is speaking but paying attention to their words and nonverbal communication cues. It also means asking questions to make sure you thoroughly understand what is being said so that you can get the task completed, provide clarity or improve workflow processes.
Brevity is the ability to concisely communicate. In other words, keep it short. And that goes for all communication methods, including in-person, phone calls and via online communication methods. Tips to keeping communication short include not repeating information, not providing irrelevant details and staying on topic.
It’s important to keep communication clear to be an effective communicator; this means knowing your audience. It can take a lot of work to reach clear communication. For example, if you are getting ready to release a new piece of software, you must have the advertising department develop a clear, motivating message. You might want your lead programmer to explain that software to the advertising department so they can target the right demographic. You need your programmer to explain the software in terms the advertising team can relate to.
If the programmer can’t communicate clearly, you might have to moderate a few rounds of discussion. Or you might need to find someone who speaks both languages. You must find internal clarity, because the advertising message cannot be muddled.
Teach your employees and managers to display confidence. People respond positively when the speaker appears to be confident in what they are saying. This means eliminating verbal pauses, like “uh,” “um,” “well,” and “you know.” These vocalizations of thinking can distract the listener. It’s much better to say, “Hang on. Let me think about this for a minute,” rather than hemming and hawing for 10 minutes.
Confidence is also displayed through nonverbal cues, including standing or sitting up straight, making and maintaining eye contact, and not using any hostile body language or facial expressions — like crossing your arms and scowling.
Empathy is emotional understanding and awareness. Some people have this ability inherently. Others do not. The trick is to teach employees and managers to recognize, understand, and show they understand how someone else feels. This means teaching facial expressions and what they mean. It also means listening to vocal tone and looking at the individual’s nonverbal communication.
For example, if someone is throwing their arms around and speaking loudly in a harsh tone, they’re probably angry. A manager who can quickly identify the employee’s emotional state can diffuse the situation faster than a manager who can’t or won’t recognize the cues.
6. Provide productive feedback
Feedback is more than constructive criticism and performance reviews. It includes praising and recognizing employees for a job well done. It requires listening to employee feedback, advice, and suggestions. It also involves doing all that in a way that is healthy and productive. Feedback within a company should be an ongoing dialogue that flows both ways, not just from the top down. Information dissemination needs to go in every direction.
If a new product or service is to be launched or a new workflow process developed, it’s best to get feedback from current employees first. When feedback is used productively, it can help a business grow and improve the company culture.
Feedback within a company should be an ongoing dialogue that flows both ways, not just from the top down. Information dissemination needs to go in every direction.
7. Knowing communication styles and choosing wisely
Ideally, a business will teach and explain all the various communication styles and when and how to use them. In today’s modern world, it’s never been more confusing to communicate. We’ve never had so many communication formats. People can communicate verbally, nonverbally — through video chats, emails, phone calls, text messages, and more. The trick to good communication is knowing which one to use.
If there needs to be a lot of back and forth, in-person or video chat may be best. If it’s a quick question that doesn’t need an immediate response, an email may suffice. If it is a question that needs a rather quick response, a text message may be best.
8. Open-mindedness and being mindful
Teach everyone in your company to listen objectively versus subjectively. Keeping an open mind and being mindful can help improve the flow of ideas throughout the workplace. This encourages employees to speak up and talk about their ideas for improvement, innovation and moving forward. It also improves the corporate culture and employee engagement while leading to improved employee productivity.
9. Respect in the workplace
Good communication skills go hand-in-hand with respect. In turn, knowing how to show respect is a critical skill when it comes to communicating effectively. When people respect one another, they don’t interrupt when someone else is speaking. They actively listen, and they stay on topic to make sure no one’s time is wasted. They ask and answer questions honestly and clearly.
Improving the level of respect and teaching everyone good manners can help your business achieve its goals and improve productivity and profitability.
10. Communication responsiveness
People identify fast responders as being more efficient and effective. When teaching responsiveness and when to respond to phone messages, emails and text messages, it’s best to give your employees a few questions to consider. Here are some examples:
- Is the answer to the question critical to the completion of a project?
- Is this something I can answer in 5 or fewer minutes?
- Do I need time to think about the question or communication before responding?
In the first 2 scenarios, if the answer is yes then it’s best to respond immediately. In the third case, it might be best to send a short message stating that you received the message, and you’ll need time to formulate a response.
To recap: When it comes to creating effective communicators in your company and eliminating poor communication, it’s important to teach nonverbal communication skills, including listening skills and identifying facial expressions, as well as verbal and written communication skills. When corporate communication is effective, it creates a company-wide positive attitude where ideas and innovation flow.
To learn more about how Zenefits can help you improve corporate communication and employee relations, check out our People Ops articles and Growth Essentials blog posts.