When considering strategies for improving communication in the workplace, it pays to focus on that specific word — communication. Improving your communication skills helps you and your teammates feel understood and heard, and is an underrated aspect of success at your job.
With good workplace communication, employees know their specific goals at the individual level, as well as at the team level. When there is effective communication, the result is an upbeat, positive, and successful working environment that advocates for good employee morale and engagement among team members.
But what are some strategies for improving communication in the workplace? Read on.
Eliminate Distractions When Communicating
There are a myriad of distractions that can keep you from focusing and communicating well in the workplace, especially in this hyperconnected world of social media, smartphones, and smartwatches. One of the most obvious strategies for improving communication, therefore, is to eliminate distractions when communicating.
And at the workplace, there is one place where distraction-free communication is paramount: during meetings, regardless of whether they are done remotely or face-to-face.
When communicating directly with your peers in meetings, cut out distractions. This is an obvious addition when trying to come up with strategies for improving communication. Leave your smartphone in your pocket or desk drawer, and remove your smartwatch. With these gadgets on hand, it will be easier for you to start fidgeting and toying with them — and scrolling through social media — instead of focusing on the meeting at hand and communicating well.
If it’s an on-site meeting, make sure you book a conference room, especially if you have an open-plan office. Colleagues milling around can be a huge distraction during a meeting, especially those coworkers who are always looking for water-cooler talk. If it’s a remote meeting, make sure your home office is distraction-free as well: Ensure that outside noise that can distract you, like kids playing in the background or dogs barking, is at a minimum. Make your coworkers or housemates understand that you are thinking about strategies for improving communication, and that their cooperation would be greatly appreciated.
But practicing effective communication during meetings doesn’t stop there. It’s also a good idea to follow up after meetings, as it’s perfectly normal for people to remember only part of what was said. It’s better to have someone take note of key points discussed during the meeting, which should then be emailed to all concerned.
And eliminating distractions shouldn’t be limited to meetings — just another one of those obvious strategies for improving communication. If you’re writing emails or other communications — like a simple chat conversation — tune out the noise and distractions, and focus on your writing until the message is completed and sent out.
Learn the Underrated Art of Listening
Without a doubt, writing and talking clearly are vital for proper communication in the workplace, but communicating is a two-way street: Employees — especially managers — should also know how to listen, and listen well. When thinking about strategies for improving communication, this is a good thing to keep in mind.
Listening well can have a twofold impact: One, your colleagues will see that you are invested in communicating with them, which in turn makes you approachable and open to suggestions. Two, you absorb important information, and you learn by listening attentively, which triggers thoughtful follow-up questions that can lead to uncovering more valuable information and further improve communication. Actively listening to your colleagues is one of the great strategies for improving communication in the workplace.
On the other hand, poor listening weakens two-way communication and defeats the purpose of effective collaboration among teams. When colleagues lack the right listening skills, messages are more likely to be misunderstood and lost in the ether. There’s also this common habit of people interrupting a speaker to get their opinions across, which is a bad look — you don’t really want to list this down as one of the strategies for improving communication, far from it. In fact, American author and businessman Stephen Covey once said, “Most of us listen with the intent to respond, not to understand.”
So what is true listening? It’s called active listening. It means that when someone else is talking, you should listen for the following:
- The actual words they are saying
- What their tone of voice and body language are conveying
- What they may be implying but not saying outright
Cultivating a habit of active listening among colleagues is one of the most underrated strategies for improving communication, so encourage peers and teammates to practice active listening when someone is talking.
Be Consistent in Your Communication
When it comes to strategies for improving communication, remember that workplace communication — regardless of whether it’s verbal or written, and internal or external — should essentially have consistent messaging throughout.
What does this mean? Basically, both internal and external communication should seamlessly convey your company’s brand and workplace culture — and this is where the company’s Brand and Marketing or Corporate Communications departments should come in.
An article by business magazine Forbes sums up why being consistent is one of the better strategies for improving communication that you can implement: “It is essential in any business process, not just communication methods, to have a predictable workflow that is consistent throughout your business. This predictability is vital on an internal level with your employees, as well as how you present your business externally for your customers and clients. The consistency creates a pattern everyone can come to expect, and they develop a subconscious comfort level when you meet their business needs.”
Aim to have a single, consistent voice in your corporate communications that reduces any chance of ambiguity. This is important because such a voice will likewise encourage you to not only communicate your company’s brand and values to both internal stakeholders and clients, but will also help avoid conflicts and misunderstandings in the future — add this as one of your strategies for improving communication in your organization.
But one challenge, especially for a global company with several worldwide locations, is that the more colleagues participate and contribute to the organization’s communication — especially from different locations and time zones — the more difficult it gets to keep a consistent communication voice going, both internally and externally.
What can be done in this case is to come up with shared guidelines, formats, and best practices — with the help of the Brand and Marketing or Corporate Communications departments, of course — that everyone in the company can refer to when creating content. A communication style guide for any form of internal or external communication would be a great idea, and is a great addition to your strategies for improving communication.
Leverage the Communication Tools and Technology of Today
This goes back to the global nature of a lot of companies, which we already touched on briefly. A global company’s greatest strength, which is its international presence in various locations around the world, can also be its greatest weakness — but it need not be.
Companies can leverage the communication tools available today as one of its strategies to improve communication, regardless of the location of employees.
We’re not only talking about teams dispersed globally, but also the phenomenon of local remote work, which exploded when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. And because some companies have permanently embraced a work-from-home setup even with the pandemic dying down, communication tools are now more essential than ever. This is one of the challenges when coming up with strategies for improving communication: taking into account the type of work, and preferred locations, of employees.
Indeed, advancements in technology are shaping the new reality of work, remote or dispersed — or even a combined hybrid setup. Organizations can make it easier to streamline internal communication and include every employee in the process, with the help of tools. Communication channels available nowadays include email, instant messaging, videoconferencing applications, and even project-management software.
These tools — in addition to smartphones and mobile apps for out-of-office communication — should form a crucial part of an organization’s ongoing communication. Investing in the right tools and technology can undoubtedly take a company’s communication to the next level, and should be added to your organization’s strategies for improving communication.
Know Your Audience
Knowing your audience is one of the underrated strategies for improving communication. This is especially true when you’re giving a presentation to people in your company or business, who are of a different field than you. For instance, you might be in HR and are tasked to present to the sales team, or perhaps you are from the Marketing Department preparing a presentation for IT people.
Before even firing up your PowerPoint, you need to think about your audience and consider what they likely want to learn from your presentation. Think about it: You already know this information — you know it like the back of your hand — but they don’t. Present in a way that will answer your audience’s questions, without boring them to death with details they don’t care about.
Understand that this will look different for everyone; this is another one of those underrated strategies for improving communication in the workplace. People from sales, for instance, probably wouldn’t want to hear endless data analytics; and on the flip side, the analytics team wouldn’t want to hear a bunch of detailed stories — no matter how you, personally, might find it interesting — about landing clients. But both teams need to know the sales numbers and the data, so it’s up to you to make it interesting for either of them — some tweaking for each team will be required.
Bottom line? Whoever you’re communicating with in your presentation, consider their wants and needs more than your own as the presenter — chalk this up as one of your personal strategies for improving communication.
Give Positive Feedback
If you are fortunate enough to be in charge of others in your organization, make sure you go out of your way to give positive feedback when it is earned. Being in management means you won’t have a choice but to confront bad behavior and provide feedback — mostly negative.
There’s no way of getting around this; it comes with the territory. But do try to temper negative feedback with the positive kind instead. By doing this, you will encourage others to communicate openly with you, and actually give them the much-needed confidence rather than discouraging them and pushing them away. Additionally, you can boost their confidence by saying that sharing positive feedback is one of the company’s strateges for improving communcation.
Giving positive feedback shouldn’t be limited to the management level as well; the same goes on the team level. Giving positive feedback to peers who communicate well with you will encourage them to find more ways to improve even more on their communication skills.
Offer Constructive Feedback Properly
This is a good way to restate negative feedback — calling it constructive criticism. Constructive feedback is important to improve a coworker’s performance and output, but you also have to be careful when giving this out, especially when it’s unsolicited.
The first thing to consider when giving out constructive criticism — no matter how well-intentioned you are — is to do it in private whenever possible. For example, don’t criticize someone in the middle of a presentation. Wait until the presentation has ended before pulling your colleague aside and providing feedback.
Knowing your role while trying to add on strategies for improving communication is essential here, too. While some organizations encourage immediate feedback on any idea if there’s a better solution, even from newcomers, other companies might frown on this, especially if it’s not part of their culture. If it’s your first month on the job, openly criticizing a new initiative from a colleague — or worse, from a higher-up — might not be a good idea.
Communicating well with your colleagues, especially in this day and age of dispersed teams and the phenomenon of remote work, is definitely not a walk in the park. But with these strategies for improving communication in the workplace — both remotely and face-to-face, both with internal stakeholders and external clients — you are well on your way to becoming not only a good speaker, but also a good listener. In other words, a good communicator.
After all, good communication is always a two-way street. And who knows? Improving your communication skills might just open better career opportunities for you in the future.