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As the old adage says, ‘communication is key.’ This is especially true in the workplace, which is often a bustling hive of productivity across many different departments and among many different personalities.
It’s communication that keeps such a busy workplace cohesive. Without an effective communication plan built into the heart of an organisation, everything else in a company’s ecosystem eventually falters, which can negatively impact employee morale and overarching business outcomes.
Communication touches everything within an organisation and ensures high-level efficacy that keeps momentum moving forward and sees goals realized again and again. A comprehensive communication plan, therefore, is a must for organisations that wish to thrive and release the full potential of its human capital.
So, what exactly serves as the foundation of effective communication in the workplace, and how can companies improve their communication strategies to achieve greater results?
What is Workplace Communication?
When the majority of people think about communication, what comes to mind first and foremost is perhaps an image of two individuals communicating through conversation. Verbal communication is, of course, one of the most popular means of communicating in the workplace, but it certainly isn’t the only means.
Organisations interested in implementing effective and comprehensive communication plans in the workplace must be aware of all the communication channels that are utilised on a day-to-day basis among their team members.
A good start is to define communication to begin with.
Workplace Communication is simply the exchange of ideas and information between people within an organisation.
Here are just some of the channels individuals use to communicate within a typical workday:
This communication channel is popular in office settings (especially agency settings) where co-workers are regularly sharing ideas with their workplace neighbors in order to move a project forward. Verbal communication is also what’s at play during team meetings when employees share progress updates on projects and work together to address any challenges that threaten to hold a project back.
However, verbal communication isn’t relegated to spoken language alone.
In the digital age that we live in, and with more people working remotely than ever, technology has allowed employees to exchange ideas and information quicker than ever.
Email, for instance, is often a vital component of workplace communication. Many working environments, particularly remote ones, also make use of instant messaging platforms such as Slack, which allow employees to stay connected to each other no matter the distance between them, even if they’re in completely different time zones. Project management tools such as Asana and Trello are also more popular than ever, as teams continue to explore ways to keep communication lines open so that all team members are on the same page.
There are many mediums by which communication can be disseminated, of course, and this is by no means an exhaustive list. However, verbal communication isn’t the only way that managers, leaders, and employees within an organisation interact with each other.
How you deliver information is just as important as the information itself. This is why non-verbal communication plays an equally important role in an effective organisation-wide communication strategy.
Non-verbal communication encompasses elements such as body language, tone of voice, hand gestures, and eye contact.
The cues and signals that individuals give off when communicating non-verbally can have a significant effect on the recipient of the communication. For example, not maintaining eye contact with someone when they’re speaking can convey the sense that the listener is distracted or disinterested in the information the speaker is imparting. The same holds true in meetings when others may be checking their watch or phone while someone is speaking. Needless to say, this can lead to workplace tensions and conflict between team members that can often get in the way of progress within the office.
Why is Workplace Communication Important?
As aforementioned, effective workplace communication is crucial to an organisation’s success, as communication is at the heart of a company’s operations. Without effective communication measures in place, a company’s ability to succeed is severely crippled. However, in the presence of effective communication strategies, organisations often thrive and continue reaching new levels of success.
There are also other benefits to effective workplace communication that managers and leaders should be mindful of.
When so many different personalities and communication styles are put together in one mix, it’s not unusual for conflict to sometimes arise. Conflict is usually the result of misunderstandings, feelings of disregard/disrespect, or a clash in communication styles. Comprehensive, company-wide communication training can help put all team members on the same page so that information is shared in ways that best mitigate conflict.
Poor communication often leads to conflicts, but effective communication can lead to improved relationships between team members, and between managers and the employees they oversee. Considering a great number of employees experience stress as a result of poor relationships in the workplace, investing in communication training can improve interactions between-coworkers, which can lead to better relationships and a better organisational culture.
When employees clearly understand the responsibilities expected of them, higher productivity can be achieved. It’s also vital that it’s communicated to team members how their work fits into an organisation’s overall mission, as this taps into a purpose-driven part of individuals that helps them feel that their work is meaningful and needed. When this is achieved, employees are better engaged, and increased employee engagement often leads to higher productivity.
Employees are engaged with their work when they’re able to establish an emotional connection with an organisation’s mission, values, and goals. How those elements are communicated, however, will often make the difference as to whether or not that emotional connection is made. This is yet another reason why communication skills among leadership and management are absolutely essential, as they can be the deciding factor in whether or not employees ‘buy in’ to a company’s vision.
A workplace where healthy communication is a staple of everyday working life results in a positive culture, and a positive culture is crucial for ensuring job satisfaction and retention. Individuals want to work in an environment where they’re seen, heard, validated, and treated with respect. When management invests time, energy, and resources into developing a positive culture where employees can thrive and experience healthy, positive relationships with others, the results are significant: better work productivity, improved work quality, and better cohesion among coworkers.
Communication exists in order to disseminate information. Often, that information serves the purpose of clarifying issues—whether that issue is the revised scope of a project, a rehaul of a company’s mission, or shifts in an organisation’s goals. Whatever the case, effective communication can increase clarity, improve focus, and help a company’s human capital become more effective at what they do.
It’s also not unusual to see the following benefits follow improves to a workplace’s communication strategies:
- Improved retention rates
- Increased efficiency
- More streamlined processes
- Better decision making
- Better problem-solving skills
Needless to say, effective communication is a key component of a thriving company, and one leadership should actively work toward developing and then regularly improving.
How to Improve Communication in the Workplace
It goes without saying: developing a robust and effective communication plan for the workplace comes with incredible advantages. While ineffective communication leaves the door wide open for communication gaps, which can weaken a company’s output due to misunderstandings and wasted time, when communication is healthy and operating at its highest potential, organisations can see higher productivity, improved work performance, a more positive workplace culture, better efficiency, and increased engagement.
Implementing a communication strategy that will serve as the foundation for an organisation is a multi-layered and multi-step process. A change management and organisational culture consultant is a great asset to have on hand to help your company navigate such a comprehensive undertaking.
It’s also helpful to identify essential communication skills that will serve as the hallmark of your organisation’s communication culture. Below are some examples of communication skills commonly adopted in the workplace.
Workers can’t enjoy a positive workplace culture if a positive attitude isn’t at the foundation of it all. A positive attitude makes for a welcoming environment where team members feel excited to come to work and eager to share their ideas. If leadership and management shoots down ideas, ridicules employees, or constantly criticises team members, this creates an environment that is toxic, which can significantly decrease employee morale and make coming into the office a dreaded experience. Again, communication plays a role. How are the ideas and suggestions put forth by employees received? How are employees treated when they make contributions? Are accomplishments recognised, celebrated? All of these will define whether or not a working environment is a positive one or not.
Active listening is an essential component of effective communication. When an individual is actively listening, they demonstrate attentiveness, respect, and understanding. Active listening is a great tool to have in your workplace’s toolkit and can reap significant rewards when all team members are brought through a comprehensive active listening training. This skill, when utilised correctly, can reduce the number of misunderstandings in the workplace and lead to clearer communication.
Communication is only at its most efficient when it’s paired with clarity. Whether management is communicating project expectations such as deadlines and objectives or the company at-large is communicating shifts in its mission, all communication must maintain clarity at all times. This helps to avoid communication gaps, which often lead to confusion and misunderstanding among employees, which in turn can negatively impact employee morale or productivity. Clarity, therefore, serves as a helpful support that keeps all communication strong.
It should go without saying that respect in the workplace is crucial to a positive culture. Toxic environments where management is hostile, demeaning, and unkind is the fastest way to negatively impact retention rates in the office. People want to feel respected and valued in their place of employment. Further, team members want to feel that their opinions matter, that their ideas are heard, and that they’re making a meaningful difference in the company’s overall mission. By treating employees and co-workers with respect through all means of communication, organisations can achieve a high-level of positivity in the workplace that can boost overall wellbeing and thus impact productivity and job satisfaction.
Communication isn’t a one-way street. An organisation that thrives is one that takes into account the ideas, opinions, and suggestions of its human capital. Employees are more engaged when they feel their feedback is respected and valued, and so companies must develop ways to solicit the feedback of their team members and incorporate it into the organisation’s overall communication plan. In doing so, employees will feel a deeper connection to the work they do and feel more compelled to look for further areas where they can suggest improvements and ways to maximise the company’s potential.
Communication will always be key to a highly efficient organisation. When an effective communication strategy serves as the foundation of business operations, engagement is at its best, team members are clear on their responsibilities and roles, and the overall workplace culture is one in which individuals thrive: problem-solving together, vision-casting together, and working toward common goals as a united team.
Investing in a communication strategy is one of the greatest uses of time, energy, and resources that an organisation can make. The returns on investment are significant, and can allow the company to grow like never before.
"I have participated in numerous training sessions and seminars provided by Ros in her capacity as Organisational Development Manager and as an accredited Specialist Trainer and Assessor. Her ability to quickly develop rapport and trust and anticipate the needs of her students always ensures a successful conclusion for her course participants and attest to her organisational and leadership skills. Ros has also provided subject matter expertise on business-related Human Resource matters, and guidance and support during Aurora's recent organisational restructure and redundancy situation to me. I would recommend Ros as an effective and inspirational leader to any organisation."
"Ros is an excellent facilitator who has demonstrated excellent communication skills while at Aurora. As I understand, she played a key role in developing and facilitating Aurora’s Cultural programs (Will to Grow and Leading the Culture) and has the ability to communicate with all types of people by tailoring her communication style, adapting to her audience and understanding people’s key concerns. Her dedication is second to none and has an outstanding grasp of culture and employee engagement with a proven ability to coach and develop people."
"I have witnessed Ros' development, coordination and delivery of various organisational development programs for various workgroups at Aurora. As a fellow Will To Grow program facilitator, I had the pleasure of co-faciliating many sessions to a vast array of employees from blue collar, office based, to senior managment. Ros possesses an impressive knowledge of organisational and personal development practices in additional to the facilitation skills to effectively engage and bring out the best in program participants."
Rosalind Cardinal is the Managing Director of Shaping Change, a consultancy specialising in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams and organisations.
Ros is an outstanding facilitator whose passion is evident in her work. She is able to engage and empathise with her audience, while providing challenging insight that encourages people to think outside parameters. She has a unique skill set that combines an incredible depth of facilitation and training capability with strategic understanding. With this she becomes instrumental in both shaping a strategy and also then translating that strategy into creative, engaging and high impact organisational initiatives
Ros’ many certifications include LSI/GSI/LI and OCI/OEI (Human Synergistics), Mayer Salovey Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (ebpsych), Myers Briggs Type Indicator Step 1 and 2 (APP), 4Mat Learning Type Measure/Hemispheric Mode Indicator/Leadership Behaviour Indicator (4Mat Aust.), Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, The Leadership Practices Inventory, Benchmarks and Skillscope (CCL), Political Intelligence and Conversational Intelligence®. Ros is also a certified Change Management Practitioner, an accredited practitioner in Human Instincts, an accredited Appreciation at Work facilitator and a certified Neurocoach and Neuroleader. Ros is a Certified Member of the Australian Human Resources Institute (CAHRI), a member of the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD) a Professional Member of the Australian Association for Psychological Type (AusAPT), a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) and a member of the Neuroleadership Institute. She holds a Graduate Diploma in Human Resources from Deakin University, an Australian Human Resources Institute Professional Diploma in Human Resources and has completed the Australian Graduate School of Management Executive Program, Strategic Human Resource Management.
In addition to Ros’ own blog, she is a regular contributing writer for Leaders in Heels, The Huffington Post, “Thrive Global”, and “People Development” Magazine. Ros’ business story is showcased in the 2014 book “Australian Entrepreneur”. In 2016 Ros released her bestselling and award nominated book “The Resilient Employee: The essential guide to coping with change and thriving in today’s workplace”.
Shaping Change has been a finalist in the Australian Small Business Champions Awards every year since 2015, and in 2015 Ros was a winner in the Australian Edupreneur Awards (Business Consulting category). In 2016, 2017, and again in 2018, Ros was awarded Leadership Coach of the Year – Australia by Corporate LiveWire in their global Innovation and Excellence Awards. In 2020 Ros was a finalist in the prestigious Telstra Business Women’s Awards. In 2021 Shaping Change was a finalist in the Australian Institute of Training and Development Training Awards for the best Diversity and Inclusion program. In 2022 Corporate LiveWire awarded Shaping Change Executive Coaching Service of the Year – Australia and Ros was a finalist in the inaugural Australian Women’s Small Business Champions Awards. In 2022, in a career highlight, Ros was a recipient of a World of Difference Award from The International Alliance for Women (TIAW). These awards recognise extraordinary women and men from around the world who have contributed to the economic empowerment of women.