Increasing effective communication in the workplace can improve productivity and help businesses retain valued employees.
Communication is key in any relationship, and that includes the need for effective communication in the workplace. However, it can be especially challenging for those in small business environments. Unlike at major corporations, the atmosphere is likely to be intimate. Close relationships form and, just like in a family, members sometimes will not effectively communicate.
Misunderstandings, if not managed well, can lead to big blow ups. It’s the responsibility of the business’s leaders, owners, and managers to ensure effective communication in the workplace.
How can you measure your workplace communication capabilities? What are some concrete tools you can implement now, and how do you go about it? Prioritizing communication in a small business environment can improve every facet of business, from productivity to employee retention.
Communication in the workplace
All communication involves 5 major components:
- The individual initiating communication.
- The message context.
- The delivery.
- The recipient or recipients.
- The content itself.
In each of these components, there’s room for poor communication or miscommunication to occur. Look for problems with a faulty system, such as an outdated group email tool that doesn’t function consistently. And monitor for written communication that’s drafted so quickly there are errors, including issues with language barriers.
The standards for internal communication in the workplace should be detailed in the standard operating procedure (SOP) and regularly revisited. Every small business is unique. Maybe your employees, contractors, volunteers, and/or freelancers have varied backgrounds and different languages or cultural ties. While that can greatly enrich a small business, it comes with plenty of opportunities for miscommunication.
Having a written procedure for internal communication can help prevent miscommunication before it arises. In some cases, the SOP for communication will overlap with other laws and regulations, such as sexual harassment policies. The standards should make it clear what’s appropriate and inappropriate.
Having a written procedure for internal communication can help prevent miscommunication before it arises.
Importance of good communication in the work environment
Companies thrive on effective workplace communication. Lack of communication or poor communication in the workplace can lead to many problems, including:
If each person has a different communication style, there can be issues. Ineffective communication makes it much more likely that work will be done slower, more poorly, or more than once. Clear employee communication streamlines productivity because everyone knows who’s doing what, when, where, and how.
Friction among employees
Being able to communicate effectively within a team and across departments is essential to maintaining business success.
A breakdown in team communication can cause a variety of misunderstandings.
If left unaddressed, these can lead to disagreements, friction, and trouble. Low morale and employees who dread coming to work can quickly destroy a small business.
Poor company culture
Business leaders shape and define a company culture, but without clear communication, it can quickly get off track. A decrease in employee engagement can be harmful to the entire culture. You won’t attract or keep the best employees when lack of communication has led to a subpar culture.
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Verbal and nonverbal workplace communication in the workplace
Of the various communication methods in the digital era, nonverbal communication has become the primary (and sometimes sole) form. You may have remote teams who work virtually or travel frequently. Communication channels like phone calls, e-mails, texts, cloud-shared documents, and video conferencing can be the meat-and-potatoes of a company’s communication, but it comes with a risk. Visual communication and face-to-face communication include body language, maintaining eye contact, verbal cues, facial expressions, and tone. When you lose those, misunderstandings can skyrocket.
When creating communication SOPs, be careful to include both nonverbal and verbal best practices. This can include strategies for ensuring comprehension such as following up with phrases like, “What I understand from this email is …” and the basics in politeness such as friendly sign-offs on emails.
Fostering effective communication in the workplace
Company leaders can help improve communication and build communication skills in the workplace environment in several ways. A library of books is a great communication tool to help each team member become a more effective communicator.
Managers can provide face-to-face and online training, and team building exercises where participants practice active listening and two-way communication.
Perhaps the best way to hone effective communication skills is to lead by example. From the top down, leaders should practice open and honest communication in all workplace situations.
Measuring your workplace communication is helpful, so encourage feedback to get an idea of the employee’s perspective. There are several ways of doing this, like including anonymous surveys for employees, data analysis of projects that depend on digital communication, or hiring a third-party vendor specializing in small business communication to give you a new perspective or ideas to implement change.