Without strong communication, your workplace may be vulnerable to misinterpretations, assumptions, damaged relationships, broken trust, and other communication barriers. To avoid these outcomes, you need effective workplace communication practices.
Below we offer tips and a checklist for achieving effective workplace communication. First, though, let’s explore the benefits of effective communication, the importance of a formal communication strategy, and what to put in the strategy.
The benefits of effective workplace communication
Effective communication can contribute to business success in the following ways:
- Helps employees understand their job expectations and employment conditions
- Keeps employees informed on what they need to do in order to thrive at work
- Gives leaders a platform for driving employee engagement, satisfaction, and morale
- Reduces the likelihood of communication barriers that often lead to employee complaints and lawsuits
- Encourages employees to provide their own input on workplace issues
- Improves business policies, procedures, and processes
Effective communication helps to improve productivity, employee satisfaction, and business processes.
The importance of a formal communication strategy
Communication impacts virtually all aspects of business, including:
- People operations
- Customer interactions
- Process implementation
- Change management
To minimize mishaps across the board, it’s important to implement a comprehensive, formal communication strategy.
A formal workplace communication strategy allows you to:
- Develop a unique employment brand
- Convey consistent information to management, employees, and stakeholders
- Communicate messages that align with your vision, mission, values, and culture
What to put in your workplace communication strategy
Your company or departmental communication strategy may include the following:
- How and when leaders or teams share information with employees
- Who is included in company communications. And do contractors, interns, and/or vendors receive updates?
- The company’s position on style, tone, and content. Are you formal or informal?
- Which communication channels will be used (e.g., Zoom, Slack, phone, email, text, digital signage)
- Guidelines regarding key business activities, such as:
- Benefit programs
- Fiscal events
- Product rollouts
Include examples in your communication strategy, so there's no ambiguity or confusion.
You can also use your communication strategy to reinforce how your people should communicate with each other. For example:
- Value openness, honesty, a solution mindset, and kindness.
- Use language that is inclusive.
- Prohibit verbally-aggressive and abusive language.
- Respond to customer and employee inquiries within 24 hours.
- Listen and refrain from jumping to conclusions.
- Bring up concerns early, to stay ahead of issues.
- Embrace diversity and inclusion by challenging preconceived notions and asking questions instead of forming assumptions.
Be sure to include examples where necessary, so there’s no ambiguity about what you mean or expect.
A checklist for effective workplace communication
The following checklist can be used for various communication purposes, including when conducting employee meetings and preparing internal correspondence.
- Be authentic. Show genuine interest in both your verbal and non-verbal communication.
- Be confident. Know your stuff. Bring an approachable, optimistic, and open-minded demeanor.
- Be clear. Speak in a transparent way that the average person can understand, and be specific. Avoid overwhelming the recipient with too much information. Deliver your message in digestible formats.
- Be credible. Stick to the facts when sharing information. Acknowledge what you don’t know when people ask you questions that go beyond your knowledge base.
- Be engaging. Don’t make the dialogue all about you. Keep your audience interested by discussing issues that matter to them.
- Be curious. Ask questions, solicit feedback, and objectively consider the information you receive.
- Be trustworthy. Honor people’s requests for confidence, be true to your word, and apologize when you make mistakes.
Think about what you want to say, and how to say it
If you communicate without forethought, your message is more likely to be taken the wrong way.
To increase the odds of a positive delivery:
- Verify that what you want to say needs to be said.
- Lead with the important stuff — people have limited attention spans.
- Carefully draft your message.
- Be tactful and diplomatic, especially when dealing with sensitive issues.
- Choose your communication channel.
- Have someone else review your message for clarity.
- Remove non-essential information or fluff.
- Check written communications for punctuation and grammar.
- Practice giving your message. For example, read it out loud, as though you’re speaking to your audience.
- Make the required changes.
- Send your message.
Your communication delivery can include any combination of tone, pacing, context, emojis, facial expressions, body language, and pitch. These things impact how your audience responds to your message, and whether or not they even hear it. For critical messages, it’s important to keep in mind, in the words of Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
The words you choose, and how you deliver them are vital to success in People Operations. They are also essential to building trust and maintaining a safe and inclusive working environment. Pausing to think about the delivery can assuage frustrating situations, de-escalate conflict, and help create a foundation for employees to feel safe to provide critical feedback.
Choosing the best communication channel
There are many workplace communication channels, including:
- Face to face
- Company website
- Corporate stories
- Social media
- Messaging apps
- Employee self-service
- Virtual team meetings
However, not every channel is appropriate for every situation. The wrong channel can cause your message to be delayed, blocked, or even sent to the wrong people.
When choosing your communication channel, consider these 3 factors:
- The timing. How urgent is your message?
- The recipient’s location. For example, do your employees work remotely, onsite, or a mix of both?
- The type of message. For example, is the information general, employee-specific, sensitive, or confidential?
These 3 factors can point you in the right direction when it comes to selecting your communication channel.
Note that you can include your communication norms in your employee handbook, which should be distributed to all existing employees and new hires.
HR technology to accelerate communication
It can take a lot of time for HR to answer one-off questions from managers or attend to routine requests from employees. You can minimize the HR team’s workload by utilizing HR technology — which streamlines communications and empowers employees with self-service options.
Cloud-based HR technology speedily delivers important documentation to employees in web-based formats. It also lets employees manage their timekeeping, payroll, and benefits information online, 24/7.