5 Ways to Improve Workplace Communication
In this post, we share 5 actionable tips that will help you improve overall employee communication in your organization. These tips will help you improve workplace conversations and stave off revenue loss that often comes hand in hand with poor internal comms.
“The alarming cost of poor employee communications…”
“Businesses bleeding money due to ineffective workplace comms…”
“Billions down the drain because companies don’t teach employees how to communicate…”
When you type in “workplace communication” into Google, these are the types of headlines that pop right up.
Now, you probably were already aware that this is costing you money — to you and your organization — but what you most likely didn’t know is that we’re talking serious money here. As in “the-GDP-of-a-small-nation” serious.
According to research done by The Holmes Report1, the price that companies globally pay for poor workplace communication is a mind-boggling $37 billion every year. To put things in perspective, Latvia’s GDP is $35 billion.
Is it possible that an occasional missed email or a delay on a project can end up costing that much money?
Well, it turns out that it is.
Ultimately, poor workplace communication is not at all about that one email you forgot to send to your coworker. It’s not even about a handful of employees who missed the memo about using Slack and are now out of the loop on everything.
Poor communication in business organizations is about disorganization, duplicating workloads, and everybody not pulling in the same direction. Inevitably, what it all leads to is:
- Decreased productivity — you’ll have employees spending a crazy amount of time during their workday, if not most of their workday, hunting down information and coworkers.
- Lack of motivation — I’m talking about employees who come to work aware that they’re not giving it their 100% because they don’t understand strategic company goals or their role in achieving them.
- Reduced employee buy-in into advocacy initiatives — when employees are kept in the dark, they’re less than willing to go the extra mile to promote the brand on social media, which means that companies are not tapping into new revenue streams.
Design your onboarding process with comms in mind
If you’re serious about improving employee communication in your company, you have to start at the beginning, which means reevaluating and improving your onboarding process.
Without a firm handle on this, you could be wasting both the time and money you’ve invested in weeding the proverbial chaff from the wheat.
Great Hire + Poor Onboarding = Failed Employee
If you design this process correctly, not only will you set the employee up for success, but you will also show them that your core company values are open communication, transparency, and working towards a common goal.
And if you communicate your goals clearly to everyone in the organization, you’ll also be putting your money where your mouth is.
Here are a couple of things you can do to get your new employees off to a good start.
✔ Assign a mentor to all new hires — this is someone who knows the ropes and can answer questions and provide on-the-job training if/when needed. Mentors should have some free time built into their workday to devote enough attention to the new hire.
✔ Require managers and supervisors to spend time with new employees — for the first couple of weeks, make sure that direct supervisors have weekly sit-downs with the new hire. That way, they can quickly notice if the employee is adjusting well, and they can start forming a more profound connection that will contribute to better work outcomes.
✔ Make internal documentation & knowledge easily accessible — don’t let new hires drown in mountains of documentation that they need to absorb. Create learning modules that tackle specific policies and aspects of the job, and gamify the experience so that new employees are excited to participate and don’t feel overwhelmed.
✔ Encourage bonding activities with coworkers — stepping into a new role is difficult enough without feeling like strangers surround you. Make sure that your managers do everything they can to help new employees meet and bond with their colleagues — things like organizing a “welcome to the team” meeting and team drinks after work will do the trick.
Train your Managers to communicate openly, effectively, and consistently
Take a moment and observe the various manager-employee communication styles in your organization.
You will notice that some managers talk with their employees more, connect better on a level that goes beyond the professional, and express genuine interest in people. Those managers tend to run better-performing teams, so, naturally, you’d want everyone in your organization operating on that high level.
Unfortunately, you don’t get there by simply tweaking your managerial policies. You will need to train your managers in the art of honestly communicating with their direct reports.
Those conversations revolve around:
✔ Establishing a trusting relationship — connecting on a more personal level and creating an atmosphere where everyone can safely share ideas, beliefs, and values.
✔ Agreeing on mutual expectations — talking about long-term goals and how they can both support one another in achieving them. Involves managers clearly communicating company strategy, and employees actively buying into it.
✔ Showing genuine appreciation — sitting down with employees to let them know where and how their contribution is helping the company achieve its goals.
✔ Challenging unhelpful behavior — figuring out which employee behaviors are unhelpful for the team and the organization, finding out why they are persistently surfacing, and having an open conversation with an employee to help them change.
✔ Building for the future — identifying where the employee wants to be in five years and creating a workable plan that will get them there.
These conversations all require managers to be excellent communicators — a skill that can be learned and then transferred to all employees through careful and tailored training. But they also require a certain degree of organizational transparency. Managers need to know strategic information to pass it on to employees so that they can work on expectations and goal-setting together.
Collect employee feedback anonymously
Let’s face it — not all communication is positive, and that’s okay.
While some employees don’t have a problem with difficult conversations with managers and colleagues, most of us are still uncomfortable with those, and we'd rather keep quiet than risk a conflict.
However, these conversations are usually the most helpful when it comes to collecting actual, honest feedback.
Instead of forcing these awkward conversations on your employees, consider investing in a tool that lets you collect feedback anonymously. This can be a specialized feedback tool, but it can also be something that you’re already using to survey your employees (provided there’s an option to hide respondents).
When it makes sense, we’re all for transparency, but your employees need to feel comfortable and secure enough to criticize the company without fearing any repercussions. Collecting feedback anonymously will give you valuable (if sometimes painful) insights that you can use to learn and grow.
Simplify and encourage employee communication with online tools
While email still reigns supreme in the workplace, it’s rigid and doesn’t support the type of open employee communication you’re aiming for.
That’s why you should start introducing other online communication tools into the mix, such as Slack for organizational and team communication and Asana, Monday, or another similar project management tool for keeping tabs on projects and progress.
The idea here is to slowly move away from email as a primary communications tool and focus on those channels that invite and encourage participation.
For example, Slack allows you to create different communication rooms for different employees — each department can have its own or each team. The focus in some of these groups will be professional. Others will serve a more social purpose, such as chat rooms where employees can discuss movies, books, or completely random stuff.
When employees get comfortable communicating on these platforms, the knowledge gap in the company shrinks, and people no longer spend a ridiculous amount of time searching for colleagues and/or information.
Publicize your strategic goals
Imagine if one day you woke up only to realize that you have no control over your limbs.
Your left leg wants to stay in bed, while your right one is already halfway to the bathroom; your left arm is putting on a sweater, and the right one is trying on a coat.
That would result in chaos, right?
Something very similar happens in a company that chooses not to publicize and communicate strategic goals. Employees spend hours every day pulling in one direction, only to realize after six months that they’re headed the wrong way.
This results in low motivation, loss of productivity, and a disengaged workforce.
Effective communication starts at the top with your senior management team. They set the example that’s then followed by other managers and, ultimately, by all employees.
At the start of every year, create a document that outlines your OKRs — Objectives and Key Results — and what each department and team needs to do for the company to reach them.
These OKRs need to be specific, measurable, and achievable.
The benefits you’ll get from implementing this framework are very tangible:
✔ Focus and alignment — everyone in the company is on the same page and knows what’s expected of them.
✔ Organizational transparency — it lays the foundation for building an open and honest company culture in which employees trust their senior managers.
✔ Increased employee engagement — when employees know how and where their work is making an impact, it increases their sense of ownership in the company, which contributes to higher overall engagement levels.
You want and need these conversations to happen because they’re the only way you’ll get accurate information from the trenches of your company. If you’ve missed the mark with OKRs, you will reassess and adjust, and your employees will feel empowered because they know that they have the power to influence policy-making.
Those new, manageable goals will be met much more efficiently by a workforce that’s now engaged and productive.
Effective company communication requires effort
Here’s the cold hard truth — you’re spending thousands, if not millions, every year trying to communicate and bond with your potential customers, but you are doing very little in comparison when it comes to talking to your actual employees.
No one is saying that sales are not important, but the equation is simple:
Profit = Revenue - Cost.
A disengaged workforce is unproductive and unmotivated. This is an actual cost your company is struggling to offset through marketing and sales, but you probably realize that this is difficult to do when your salespeople don’t feel like giving it their 100 percent.
Suppose you instead focus on implementing an effective employee communication strategy. In that case, you might increase your cost temporarily as you invest in tools and training, but you’ll more than recoup that in just a few short months.
Let’s work together on keeping your organization out of those grim workplace communication statistics we’ve mentioned.