In nearly every aspect of life (both professional and personal), effective communication is crucial to success and happiness.
Relationships cannot thrive without open communication, and the same goes for businesses both large and small.
The quality of a business's internal communication often says a lot about the company itself. When poor communication goes unchecked, your organization's days may be numbered.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can improve communication in the workplace, many of which can be achieved through your internal communications software.
Checking in with employees is essential for effective communication in the workplace. Plan in-person or online meetings every few weeks or months, to discuss projects, issues, and the organization as a whole. Does staff have recommendations? Complaints? General thoughts? Employees want to share their thoughts and opinions. By respecting and valuing your staff, you will improve communication in the workplace.
For newer employees, it can be difficult to learn the ropes of an organization and how it truly operates. Since most companies work from a specific set of internal knowledge, there's usually a built-in training program at your disposal. Make internal knowledge easily available via documentation and training videos on your company intranet. Also, make sure staff have updated employee profiles and Q&A forums are packed with information. This way, new members can easily find people and answers, and you’ll keep effective communication flowing.
It's not easy to improve something if you don't know what's holding you back. Communication methods such as email, telephone, messaging, and in-person communication can all serve valuable purposes with their unique benefits. However, some may be more useful than others. Email, for instance, is probably not the best way to have a conversation with someone. Many organizations are replacing email with social intranet software and collaboration tools. Make a list of your current internal communication methods to determine what’s effective and what isn't. This way, you can figure out where to make some changes.
When attempting to improve workplace communication, social intranet software is a top solution. Comprised with tools that streamline daily business processes, an intranet also features a robust employee communications platform with easy-to-use collaboration and conversation tools. It empowers employees to connect and share ideas in a judgement-free environment. The popularity of social intranet software is growing at an exponential rate and is only becoming more intuitive to support every aspect of a business.
Having real dialogue with managers and CEOs is one of the biggest communication obstacles employees face. They may feel apprehensive about sharing important thoughts with the boss, and as a result, block the flow of effective communication. Having an "open door" policy where your employees feel comfortable bringing anything to your attention, at any time, can be immensely beneficial to your business's internal communication and make you more approachable. It is also a great way of motivating employees in your organization. But if they're not approaching you, always remember #1 above ... check in with employees on a regular basis.
Communication isn’t always person-to-person or individual-to-people. It’s also information. No matter the job, document management and knowledge sharing are vital to everyday tasks and you need your employees to find files, photos, answers, etc. easily. Your company intranet will centralize all this information and put it on the fingertips for your entire organization. If you’re trying to improve communication, start with how staff finds what they need to do their jobs.
Social media is a powerful aid for businesses to communicate with customers ... but it can also improve communication in the workplace. Encourage employees to like, comment, and share interesting posts that relate to your organization. You can also use social tools within your intranet to reap the benefits of social media within everyday activity of your business.
Allow employees to share their interests with each other to create meaningful, work-related conversations. This is a great way to combine relationship-building with your business's goals and philosophies.
If finding department information is a jumbled mess, you can’t expect to have effective communication in the workplace. Use your intranet to organize divisions, and the people and information within that branch, into a livable place for employees to find and access. Department heads can also instantly communicate with members by sharing documents and sending updates through a notification system. You want a system that is direct – management should easily be able to contact members, and members should easily access documents, information and higher-ups within a department.
Sometimes, the best way to improve workplace communication and your employee engagement strategy is to create an internal language. This could include acronyms/monikers that are used every day to describe aspects of business, to a host of made-up slang words inspired by your company’s inside jokes or principles. It's a fun way to keep things interesting throughout the week and can no doubt improve the flow of effective communication in the workplace.
Within every organization, there’s a common goal that drives your business. By identifying, clarifying, and reinforcing this objective, you’ll strengthen your staff’s productivity by eliminating confusion with cohesion. After all, there's nothing more important for a team than for everyone to be on the same page.
When expectations are set, people can deliver. Recognize your employees’ efforts when they go above and beyond in a task or excel in a project. The impacts are twofold. First, it acknowledges and rewards good behavior. Humans like to receive recognition, especially when they work hard towards a goal. Secondly, it sets an example for other employees, or in other words, it communicates expectations through action. There are a couple ways you can do this... if your intranet has gamification tools, you can reward points when members complete tasks or send "badges" when they spearhead projects successfully. Of course, there’s also the good old-fashioned in-person chat.
When work picks up, it's difficult for employees to keep tabs on what's happening in your organization. An internal newsletter is an excellent method for sharing company news and communications, whether it’s small or monumental in nature. Typically, weekly internal newsletters are most effective, but you can experiment with how often you push them out. Avoid overloading inboxes with emails and house the newsletter in your intranet.
If you're working in a physical office, one of the best ways you can improve communication in the workplace is by rearranging the design. You’ll want to avoid the typical cubicle or partition setup, which can isolate employees and put a damper on effective communication. Rearranging your office to an open floor plan will invite employee communication and collaboration, not to mention make the space more enjoyable to work in.
Effective communication in the workplace is nearly impossible if staff do not know who’s who. Employee profiles will solve that problem. Encourage employees to thoroughly fill out their employee profiles in your intranet. This goes beyond providing a name and email. Staff should also upload a photo, add personal interests, and list teams they are part of. Whether your business is large, small, or entirely remote, thoughtfully completed profiles will guide conversations and connections.
Company culture should be present in your organization. This is how you connect employees with each other and align them to your organization’s goals. You can do this by brainstorming employee engagement ideas or creating a catchy motto. Also consider branding your social intranet, office decor, and business documentation, among other collateral. If there are any core philosophies that your business embodies, don't hesitate to reiterate them on a regular basis.
Spending hours and weeks on end in the office can have negative psychological effects on everyone – especially during the colder months. Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery to perk people back up. Getting outside the office doesn't mean wasting valuable work time. Suggest a vibrant coffee shop for your team to work or introduce periodic work-from-home Fridays.
Speaking of leaving the office, there are times when you should pause work-related activity and schedule a fun team outing with your employees. Work retreats, such as picnics, hiking trips, or mini golf, are excellent options. These activities relieve members of stress and improve internal communication in the workplace by letting members relax. It's important to remember that retreats and employee engagement activities don't have to revolve around work. Casual activities can rejuvenate your office and form closer bonds.
Working long hours can be exhausting, physically and mentally. Everyone has experienced it... when you're feeling burnt out, it can be difficult to communicate effectively with others. Give your employees the opportunity to take needed breaks. Whether this means longer lunches or occasional personal days, you'll get better results when you loosen a stagnant environment and allow employees to reboot.
In many organizations, managers and employees work closely with each other. This isn't the case for every business, however, and it's not uncommon for employees to have quick interactions with managerial staff. By encouraging stronger collaboration between employees and managers, you'll quite literally guide stronger communication in the workplace.
Some companies have a challenging time making their HR departments a place staff wants to turn to. It’s incredibly ironic because a human resource department exists to support the humans who work for you. Communication in the workplace will greatly improve if your department that handles internal concerns and policies is trusted by everyone. Make sure HR personnel are approachable, attentive, and easily accessible. (Your intranet is the perfect place to centralize HR for your entire company.)
For some managers and CEOs, water cooler chat seems like wasted time and money. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Employee mingling is an essential aspect of relationship-building and you can't expect people to get to know each other if they're only discussing work. If your employees feel like mingling and having an off-topic conversation or debate, let them.
Many businesses take a top-down approach to communication, which has been a classic method for decades. One-way communication controls your message, but it's not going to serve you or your employees in the long-run. Instead, create an open line of communication for employees – you'll see a number of benefits by taking this approach. Remember, communication is a two-way street.
If you want strong communication, you need to communicate when it matters most, i.e. organizational change. Whether the news is pleasant or difficult, it’s important you articulate the information honestly, sincerely, and as soon as you can. Sometimes this message is best delivered by a CEO, other times, another leadership person. These are decisions you need to make beforehand. Always have a plan and be open to dialogue from staff.
Creating blogs and wikis will strengthen knowledge sharing for internal and external groups in your organization. By encouraging your employees to create and publish quality content, you'll be empowering them to have a voice in the company, which in and of itself is a form of improved employee communication. Plus, employees can "like" and comment on their coworkers' posts — another effective tool for facilitating productive discussions.
If your office has monitors in the building, use them to share information from your intranet. This is an easy and subtle way to engage employees with news and immerse them in your company culture. You can broadcast upcoming events, employees of the month, or announcements. Sometimes displaying information in a different place or format gets more traction.
More than ever, people are using smartphones and tablets for everything. Since many employees find themselves outside of the office on a regular basis, you need work accessible on mobile devices. A mobile intranet will solve all your problems. No matter where employees are, they’ll be able to access documents, people, and information.
Just about every industry has its own set of conferences throughout the year. Attending conferences as a team is an excellent way to open up communication and learn together how your organization can move forward in your industry. As with any type of retreat, conferences are great for team-building, and can be financially sound if planned in advance.
Whenever customers are involved, make sure your employees have the most effective business communication tools to communicate with them. Using a CRM platform is a great way to track tickets or inquiries, which will accelerate turnaround time for customer support. Without strong tools, efforts could be duplicated, customer inquiries could go ignored, and your customer retention will suffer.
A written record of tasks, due dates, and priority levels make sure everyone understands what they should be doing. This is particularly helpful when managing many employees. Use your track manager tool in your intranet to easily assign and record projects. Always live by the philosophy that if it's not written down, it doesn't exist.
The more you can check in on teams about their tasks and current projects, the better. You can host daily or weekly status meetings in person, through teleconferences, or on the web... and they don't have to exceed 10 minutes. If everyone’s located in the same time zone, try to schedule a meeting for the same time every morning. These meetings will remove pettiness and improve communication in the workplace.
You might be wondering... what is a stay interview? Stay interviews are one-on-one meetings where managers, or others in a leadership position, chat with employees to figure out what’s working or not working in their jobs and the company as a whole. The goal is to prevent unwanted turnover, improve communication in the workplace, and discover what needs fixing. Sometimes a stay interview can be the solution to your problems.
No matter how you cut it, some people are shy. Introverts are by no means a plague, in fact, they're just as valuable and adept at what they do as aggressive employees. Reach out to introverted members and have comfortable conversations where they can share their ideas. You cannot improve communication in the workplace if you are missing a group of employees. Don't forget: this can be a lengthy process and shyness doesn't dissipate overnight.
When you're managing remote employees, relationship-building can be difficult. One solution to this all-too-common issue is video conferencing. It’s as in-person as you can get. Schedule weekly video meetings to discuss work-related topics or enjoy team-building activities. (Instant messenger, employee profiles, and activity streams are also some social intranet tools that shortens the distance.) This is a great way to get to know the freelancers you work with, especially if you plan on enlisting their services long-term.
It may sound old-school, but suggestion boxes are another way to improve communication at work. Go the virtual route and set up a forum in your intranet where employees can share concerns, whether it’s a trivial topic or major concern. People aren't always comfortable being vocal but are more likely to do so if they can take an anonymous approach.
Many employees like to work on projects individually because they don't feel comfortable collaborating with other people. This is the barrier you're trying to eliminate. Stress the importance of teamwork at all times. Asking your employees to take team-based (rather than solo) approaches may cause initial discomfort, but a few minds are always better than one.
Every CEO wants their employees to communicate effectively, but what about your own skills? There’s always room for improvement and especially in leadership roles, you need to balance opinions and take criticism. The best way to serve as a model leader and improve communication is by constantly taking self-inventory and re-assessing your own internal communication strategy.
Rigid environments do not benefit anyone. Of course you want a goal-oriented company that excels in your industry. But to truly have effective communication, you need to be personable... you need to be human. Open door policies, stay interviews, and company outings are great tactics to improve communication, but if your energy is cold, these efforts might fall flat. Try cracking a couple jokes, smiling occasionally, and making sure conversations are two-way streets. The last thing you want are unhealthy environments where employees dread coming to work.
We’ve discussed how comfortable environments improve communication. The key is to treat employees like people. Announcing birthdays or work anniversaries are small gestures that builds a people-oriented community and makes staff feel valued and appreciated. Post a small announcement on your intranet or host a company lunch-in. You’ll find people will open up when you take an interest in their lives.
Regardless of the type of organization you run, every employee is different. Send a survey asking your employees how they like to receive information (through the social intranet, email, in-person meetings, etc.) to help implement the most effective communication plan. This is an easy way to ask direct questions and all the information will be logged automatically. In addition, your staff will appreciate that you care about them, which bodes well for employee morale.
We have a saying here at Axero Solutions: "If you have a question, ask. If you think it’s silly, ask. If you think you know the answer, ask." Questions are one of the most fundamental components of effective communication in the workplace. Just as you should be asking questions, so should your employees. Instill that mindset in your organization. Make sure employees are comfortable to reach out with questions to you, managers, or each other... especially when mistakes occur.
Improved employee communication benefits your entire business. Take a moment to celebrate what you've achieved after you've put in the work. Compile data about increased performance and productivity so you can share with the company and set new goals.
Improving communication in the workplace is a constant work in progress. It is a give-and-take relationship that requires patience, care, and the ability to listen. There are many approaches you can take but when you take them, you’ll notice a boost in employee engagement and productivity. Use the above tips to create a community within your organization that grows and succeeds, together.
Tim is president and co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.
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One thing I would add, always have an "Open Door Policy". This is necessary because it will create a culture of transparency and openness in the workplace. Thanks for the article.
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