Good, open communication can help improve productivity and keep organizations and teams running smoothly. Even when employees work from the office, sit near each other, and interact face-to-face, good communication is not a given. With the rise of remote and hybrid work, developing good communication skills is even more critical.
Managers set the tone for how teams communicate, but HR is in the perfect position to empower managers to be better listeners and communicators and to facilitate a smooth workflow. Here are five tips for how to improve communication in the workplace.
1. Actively listen and ask the right questions
Too often, we don’t pay attention to what our coworkers are saying, especially in a group setting. One thought pops into our head, and suddenly we’re off on a tangent thinking about what to eat for lunch, what’s happening outside the window, or why the word “synchronize” sounds so funny when you keep repeating it. Or maybe you have a point to make, and all you can think of while your coworker is speaking is when you’ll get the chance to jump in and share your thoughts.
Active listening requires total concentration and focus. Instead of passively ‘hearing’ what someone is saying but not absorbing the intent or the message, active listening ensures that nothing gets lost in the shuffle. Active listening makes other feel heard and respected and creates a stronger team unit.
2. Use your body language
The correct body language can help put everyone at ease and facilitate a more open and honest conversation. When speaking with coworkers one on one, use your body language to show respect and interest by facing the speaker head-on instead of turning off to the side. Maintain eye contact to let the person know you’re absorbing what they’re saying and paying attention. Verbal and non-verbal cues like nodding your head and smiling, agreeing by saying “yes” or “mmhmm” are all a part of good communication.
If you’re in the office, speaking to a colleague face-to-face is the best way to get your message across and make sure the other person understands what you’re communicating. If you’re working remotely, and face-to-face interactions aren’t possible, you can always ask someone to hop on a quick video call.
During meetings, pay attention to your body language; crossing your arms, texting or emailing, and slouching indicates that you are uninterested and not open to speaking. Be present, pay attention, and convey to your coworkers that you’re engaged and ready to tackle the agenda.
3. Make sure you’re crystal clear
Good communication needs to be clear and understood. Something that makes complete sense to you might sound confusing to someone else. HR Magazine cited that in “a study of 4,000 employees, almost half (46%) were unsure of what was being asked of them by their line manager when given tasks, and over a third (37%) experienced this uncertainty between one and three times a day.” According to the research, this resulted in up to 40 minutes of wasted time per day—the equivalent of 83 employees in a company of 1,000 people doing absolutely nothing every single day.
Make sure you are very clear and specific when you delegate a task or project. If you’re unsure if you’re coming across clearly, let everyone know that you’re here to answer questions and available to meet (whether that’s in-person or on a video call) to go over the details and make sure everyone is aligned.
4. Schedule daily stand-ups
Stand-up meetings are a great way to keep team members aligned, push past any silos, and build connections within the team. The daily stand-up used to be reserved for the R&D department, but more and more teams are getting into the practice of holding brief meetings every day. Especially with the shift to remote work, everyone must stay up to date on what’s going on around them, which tasks are urgent, and where projects stand.
Additionally, projects tend to have lots of steps and stakeholders, and everyone needs to know their contribution to the process to get things done. Even if your team uses a project management platform to stay aligned, stand-up meetings give teammates a chance to discuss projects, ask questions, and offer extra help.
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5. Start measuring
Take the time to gain a better understanding of how your employees feel about communication at work. Surveys and performance management tools allow you to measure how teams communicate and to locate areas for improvement. If you find out that your employees are satisfied with workplace communication, you can use this as a way to attract talent. If you find a lack of communication at your company, you can start taking steps to improve it. Maybe you’ll find that one department is excellent at communication, super productive, and consistently puts out quality work. Study any teams or departments that are getting communication right to understand how to adapt that success company-wide.
When communication is clear and effective, everyone wins
It’s no secret that having good communication skills is key to succeeding at work, maintaining healthy relationships, and connecting with people. If you can master good communication skills at your company, the sky’s the limit. Like any other workplace skill, communication will get better over time. It’s up to HR to empower managers to be better communicators, facilitate better team conversations, and make sure that nothing gets lost in translation.