Effective communication is an essential part of modern society, let alone business, making effective workplace communication one of the absolute essentials in the success of a business.
The rate at which communications technology has developed over the past 100 or so years says it all.
We’ve been through written letters, telegraphs, a huge variety of telephones, fax machines, emails, online forums, social media, and smart phones. Not to mention the transition from written words, to typewriters and mass print, to computers and the endless document and publication options they deliver.
All this technology has provided us with progressively easier and varied options for businesses to communicate not only with their target audience, but within their own organisation. Just look at the capabilities and presence of virtual businesses these days!
Surely, workplace communication is a no brainer.
Does Effective Workplace Communication Really Matter THAT Much?
You bet it does. I’d go so far as to say that your business can’t properly run without good communication. Your business is a machine and communication is what keeps that machine greased and running smoothly.
You need to assess who needs to know what and the most efficient and effective way to disseminate that information to keep that machine chugging along and the customers happy.
The Australian Institute of Management (AIM) outlined the importance of effective communication perfectly:
- It provides purpose;
- It eliminates confusion;
- It builds a positive workplace culture; and
- It creates accountability.
But don’t think I’m only pointing fingers at SME’s when it comes to poor communication. It’s a process that should be audited regularly in any organisation.
Case Study: Communication Fails Do Happen in Big Business
Late last year, I posted on my Facebook page about an experience I had with a very large company. Their product just wasn’t working and, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out a solution.
I gave in and called tech support … and was then passed around from one baffled techie to the next. No luck and an entire morning lost. I dealt with 4 or 5 different people within the one company that morning and not one could explain why I couldn’t get the product working.
As it happened, I chatted to an IT friend and lamented the woes of my lost morning. He showed me where to check the company’s ‘status’. It was as simple as going to a website to see a brief outage message.
And yet, not a single technical representative of the company that I had dealt with that morning had mentioned or been aware of that outage. None.
What’s wrong with this picture?
So, How Do I Communicate Effectively in the Workplace?
Below are some key tips to help you assess and restructure your business’s effective communication practices:
1. Be Confident. Be Cautious. Be Concise.
I’m referencing emailing because it is arguably the most common communication method in a workplace, however these same principles apply to all forms of workplace communication.
Like most people, I’ve been guilty on occasion of sending out an email without putting proper thought into it. Sometimes you’re just so busy, you need that email out there FAST so you can move onto a competing deadline.
Unfortunately, there’s also that embarrassing moment where you realise details were missed or wrong. Confusion and questions bombard you as you slump behind your computer, sigh heavily, and send an updated email.
That’s when confusion can make an absolute mess of what was probably a very simple message and when rushing does NOT save you time at all. Before you send a communication:
- Be Confident: Make sure you know the topic well, and how it will affect the team.
- Be Cautious: Take the time to proofread and edit the message before you hit send.
- Be Concise: Include the important details, but don’t overload the core message. If there is a lot of information to disseminate, you’re better off attaching a formal document or linking to information on the company intranet.
2. Don’t Overuse Email
Remember I mentioned that email is arguably the most common communication method in the workplace?
That’s not always a great thing. There’s a difference between EFFECTIVE workplace communication and OVER-communicating.
Heck yes, it’s absolutely my preferred method! BUT it’s also pretty much everyone else’s preferred method, too. That’s why we all spend such huge chunks of what should be a productive day sifting through emails. In any organisation, there will always be those who simply can’t keep up, facing thousands of unread emails, trying to desperately decide what looks important.
A lot gets missed. And the longer the email, the less likely they are to read it properly (if at all).
When assessing effective workplace communication practices, consider ways to streamline internal electronic communications:
- Noticeboards – Have a noticeboard on your intranet for crucial communications that people can check daily or twice daily.
- Simplify the emails – To make people more likely to read and absorb, send out the vital dot points with a link to a full document. If you’re worried that they won’t read it, you can have them digitally sign the online document as confirmation.
- Meetings – Yes, we all cringe a bit when a meeting is announced. No, you don’t need to have a meeting for EVERY email sent out. Information about your message could be included in your next staff meeting.
- Info Sessions – If there are a high volume of questions or replies, it’s best not to get involved in a million separate email tennis matches. It achieves little and confuses many. When a topic requires a wider discussion, start organising information sessions instead!
- Is it even necessary?? – Do you need to send that email? Can it be included in a newsletter, on a noticeboard, or be held until a meeting? Not that I’m suggesting there be a withholding of information. After all, I’m advocating better communication … but I’m also advocating WISE communication.
3. Open Channels and Transparency
Effective workplace communications starts with keeping communication channels open in the first place! Communication isn’t just about dissemination, it’s about the EXCHANGE of information and ideas.
Open door policies, positive team rapport, and constructive feedback all contribute to healthy workplace communication.
Let’s be honest for a moment – over the years, how many emails have you avoided, ignored, or skimmed because the author was someone you didn’t really get along with?
4. Team Participation
I know it’s not strictly always possible, but ideally if you want everyone to be ‘in the know’ then get them involved! An open exchange of ideas means everyone is on the same page, it creates a more positive work culture, can bring about innovations, and leads to improved team communications in future.
Just don’t turn team participation into an over-saturation of meetings! Remember, the keyword in effective workplace communication is EFFECTIVE.
Keep those channels open and always be open to ideas for streamlining workplace communication!