When was the last time you felt like you truly understood what a work colleague was trying to say about a task?
Can you remember when the explanation of a function or duty was lost in translation?
Office communications can sometimes resemble the childhood game of “Telephone.” The message starts out one way, but as it is passed down through senior management to a manager, to employees and then to another colleague, the original message can change.
This may seem like a minor issue, but a project’s successful completion can rest on the correct explanation of a task. A client can receive the wrong deliverable, or a significant duty can be missed out on altogether. Effective workplace communication is crucial to successful business operations. Unfortunately, precise messages are not the norm.
Free online tools for work:
1. Fluxes.com — Free Project and Task Management Software
2. Status.net — Software for Effective Communication
- Challenges to Effective Communications Part 1
- 5 Methods of Workspace Communication Improvement Part 2
- Tips and Best Practices in Improving Workspace Communication Part 3
- Modern Online Communication Tools Part 4
Challenges to Effective Communications
Due to the sheer size of most workforces, it can be difficult to establish effective communication strategies that streamline clear discussions and dialogue. Below are the challenges leaders and workplaces face when it comes to developing communication methods.
It is so easy for organizations to establish acronyms and key terms that help them communicate more quickly. However, some employees may not understand what this information means and it could cause a lack of clarity in understanding the delegation of duties and tasks.
Language and Experience Barriers
In today’s society, most workplaces are diverse and could potentially have workers who have various grasps of the English language. This could also contribute to misinterpretations of messages. Also, different levels of experience among workers could make certain messages from superiors difficult to understand or carry out.
If companies are only participating in one-way discussions internally, then they are missing out on a host of information. Employees may hold the key to data concerning ineffective work procedures, out-of-date communication methods, and internal conflicts that employers need to know about. If managers do not facilitate ways to hear from workers, then they will miss out on valuable information that can help them create more favorable workplace environments.
The hiring process should be the first interaction that workers experience where they are introduced to the company’s communication practices. Employees should be trained on how they can expect to hear about relevant information from senior management and the tools they can use to interact with colleagues and managers. Employees should not only be trained on their jobs, but they should be aware of the company’s communication practices.
In a large company, it can be difficult to keep information accurate. Again, like the “telephone” illustration above, it is easy for information to become misconstrued for various reasons. Managers may want to alter messages to have employees do extra work; employees may change messages they convey to colleagues because they were initially unclear about what was said.
There could also be personal motives for why messages change as they are passed down to employees. Workers could have negative feelings toward each other and alter communications as a result of a personal conflict. Managers could engage in the same practices for similar reasons. This type of reasoning is difficult to identify since it can be subtle.
- Only 21 percent of managers keep their communications jargon-free and straightforward. This would directly impact how employees can understand essential messages that have to do with their workday. If they cannot understand what is being said, it makes sense that productivity would suffer.
- 60 percent of internal communicators are not measuring internal communications. Managers have no idea how messages are being interpreted or if they are being seen.
- 46 percent of employees rarely or never leave a meeting knowing what they are supposed to do next.
- Only 5.9 percent of companies communicate goals daily.
- 96 percent of executives cite a lack of collaboration of ineffective communications for workplace failures.
- Businesses with effective communications are 50 percent more likely to have lower employee turnover.
Communication has a direct link to turnover, productivity, and morale. Therefore, managers need to understand how necessary it is to enact strategies that support effective communications.
5 Methods of Workspace Communication Improvement
While there are a lot of issues that can make communication efforts difficult, it is still worth it for companies to improve workplace communication to increase performance and productivity. There are a variety of methods workers can implement that will help create a better environment for effective communication.
Find out Where Communication Is Lacking
It is unwise to begin adding communication initiatives without understanding where the problems are. There may be an excellent system for two-way communication, but employee and manager feedback could be lacking. Workers may have a way to share ideas, but they could be missing a mechanism for collaborating with co-workers on projects. Therefore, leaders need to survey workers to understand where they would like for communications to improve.
Leaders Should Set the Example
If there has not been a culture of communication established, then it will be difficult to have one take hold. The best way to start a culture of open discussion is for leaders to set the example. Something as simple as speaking to every employee at the beginning of the workday, asking them for their opinions, and keeping the door open for questions can begin to open up a work team to express themselves.
Establish Routine Meetings to Encourage Communication
Leaders should urge managers to meet with their staff at least once a month to hear their ideas, receive and give feedback, and establish healthy working relationships. In addition to this, leaders might want to create weekly town hall meetings where they can hear from employees about issues they should know about.
Facilitate Two-Way Communication
Leaders should remind managers during employee feedback sessions that they should carve out time for employees to also give their feedback. Leaders can also facilitate a system where employees can provide input anonymously for issues they do not feel comfortable discussing in public.
Install Tools That Can Help Employees Communicate with Each Other
Tools like Status.net and Google Hangouts can allow workers to talk with each other as they work on projects or collaborate on new ideas. This will facilitate a culture of communication and inspire colleagues to work together efficiently.
Tips and Best Practices for Improving Workplace Communication
While regular internal communication should be a goal for every workplace, boundaries need to be set as far as frequency and content. Senior management needs to keep from sending constant emails as employees may begin to ignore them after a while.
Correctly Target Messaging
If a message is meant for someone of a particular department or a person who participates in various duties, then it is not required to go to every single person. Managers need to be aware of who they are trying to reach and why so they can tailor messages to the person who is meant to see it. Employees can become annoyed at receiving messages that are not intended for them.
Have Content Other Than Procedures and Shout-Outs
Employees will be more apt to engage in internal communication and check intranet if there is a variety of content. Internal communications teams should have material that is of the benefit of employees. This could take some partnership with human resources. Events like in-house lunch and learns where field experts come in to share their experience, software training, professional development events, volunteer opportunities, and other happenings that benefit workers should be touted just as much as formal memos. This will let employees know senior management cares about more than procedures and policies.
Ask for Ideas
Many employees have not always worked at the same place during their career. They may have tips they can bring from previous workplaces. They could have used software that facilitated straightforward communication, or the company could have put together a policy that worked for the employee. It is not a bad idea to ask them what may have worked throughout their career and use ideas that make sense for the company.
How Modern Online Communication Tools are Helping Businesses
Some of the most common problems in today’s workplace is a lack of tools that can help with communication. In the past, the only option was email, and as shared drives like Microsoft Shared Drive and Google Drive emerged, workers were given more choices in collaboration.
Now, things have advanced even further with communication tools no longer depending on whether someone has an Outlook or Google email. Free tools like Status.net and Ryver allow workers to share messages and files on the go while creating various chat rooms/groups depending on departments or other criteria. Free task management tools such asFluxes let employees create and share to-do lists with colleagues. In addition to these, there are numerous options workplaces have to introduce cloud-based collaboration tools.
According to a survey by Clinked, a communication and information sharing portal, 97 percent of businesses that use collaboration software have reported being able to service more clients efficiently.
Another benefit found by this company’s study is that firms who use this software see a 12.5 percent increase in productivity.
Therefore, online collaboration tools do have advantages for businesses that use them efficiently.
Status.net is a cloud solution for effective workplace communication. It brings a more light-hearted tone to messaging making it easily digestible, and makes it easy for leaders to provide and receive updates regularly.
How to use status.net to improve workplace communication:
- Downward communication:
a) Build trust and improve leadership communication by sharing regular updates and reasoning behind your decisions.
b) Share information about company announcements, branch news, new hires, etc.
c) Share company goals and objectives regularly.
- Upward communication:
a) Easily implement daily or weekly status updates for your team members by creating a status feed “How did you contribute to the team’s goals this week?”.
b) Create automated scheduled questionnaires with questions like “How can we improve?”, “Do you have any obstacles?”, etc.
Status.net allows you to configure granular access permissions to set up who can view the answers (optional).
- For recurrent questionnaires: no one forgets to answer because status.net sends automated reminders according to the recurrence schedule you chose.
- Increase workplace satisfaction by improving transparency:
Each status update has a separate section for comments, which is used by team members to clarify information, including future goals, and by leaders to provide feedback and coordinate better without micromanagement.
- Use status updates for future reference and decrease time and efforts spent on monthly, quarterly, and yearly reporting thanks to powerful filtering and export features.
- Optionally, enrich reports with the latest updates automatically added from web apps your team uses (such as project management tools, version control systems, support systems, financial applications, CRM, etc.) by connecting these apps to your status feed.
- Spend less time on meetings by making them more productive because everyone is on the same page at all times.
- Sharing: Status updates can be either— exported to files and printed, or sent by email;
— shared with manager online; or
— shared online as company-wide or team-wide status reports, i.e., all team members share their progress with each other.
How to configure status updates:
- Create a “Status Update” feed and set up a recurrence.
- Configure who will write and read status updates by choosing the “Participants” tab and then clicking the “Cog” button near “Feed Participants” title.
- Set the status feed as “Team-wide” if you want all team members to view each other’s status updates.
- Alternatively, you can allow access to status updates for certain participants only (such as yourself if you’re a team lead). In this case, turn “Team-wide” mode OFF and restrict viewing by unchecking “View” properties for other participants. Team members with the “View” checkbox unchecked will only be able to view their own status updates.
- If you’re a manager and you don’t plan to share your status updates with your team, uncheck “Update” for yourself – in this case, you won’t receive reminders.
- The Recurrence setting configures how often participants receive email reminders to fill in their status updates. This feature is optional and can be turned off.
- You can add, remove, and assign new team members at any time.
Step 2: The text of the status update should be added to the “Update” field of status feed.
As soon as a new status update is added, participants with “View” rights can view it in real time when they log in to their accounts. They will also automatically receive emails with the full text of status updates.