What we will cover:
- The Definition of Workplace Communication
- What Do We Mean by Effective Workplace Communication?
- How Do You Quantify and Qualify Effective Workplace Communication?
- How Important is Workplace Communication?
- Improving Communication in the Workplace
- The Return on Investment of Excellent Workplace Communication
Workplace communication is much more than conversations. It is about the exchange of information through multiple different mediums. Employees share ideas and businesses communicate strategies and goals through communication, both formal and informal.
According to a Workforce poll, approximately 60% of companies do not have a long-term strategy for their internal communications. Reviewing and updating a business’s communications strategy will define the direction and emphasis for idea creation and sharing that will drive the future of the business.
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What is workplace communication?
Workplace communication is the means by which employees exchange information and ideas. Communicating effectively is a critical aspect of getting any job done, whether it occurs in-person or virtually and is part of the internal communications efforts within an organization.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a significant disruptor to everyday business and global communications. At one point in time, approximately half of the United States workforce was working from home according to US Labor Department statistics. Although vaccine availability is allowing some areas and industries to get back to in-person activities the trend of a more hybrid workforce seems like it will be staying around for a while. More than ever, businesses need to focus on managing virtual workplace communications.
What do we mean by effective workplace communication?
Organizations share information and ideas differently. New communication tools like Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Jell, and Twist streamline messaging across organizations, amongst teams, and between individuals. But what makes the messages sent on these platforms effective or not?
Effective communication is a two-way street. Establishing context as the sender, and choosing the proper medium or channel can be critical. Effective communication should always have a context that forms the setting and necessity for the statement, idea, or question being shared. Setting includes any external circumstances like urgency, opinions, or culture.
A clear context leads to a clear message. Quantified Communications, a business communications advisory firm, found that businesses with approximately 100 employees spend on average 17 hours a week clarifying unclear messages. This translates to an annual cost of approximately $525,000 in lost productivity.
The sender is another important aspect of effective communications. Messages are written based primarily on the medium that they travel through. It’s the sender’s responsibility to encode the information or idea that they are trying to share so that it can be received.
The medium, or channel, is how the message is communicated, for example verbally, electronically, or on paper. Technology has drastically improved the mediums that we have to communicate across the workplace. Communication channels in this day and age enable us to be constantly connected to each other. Within reason, you can get ahold of just about anyone at any time.
Maximizing connectivity is one of the primary goals of any communication medium. According to the McKinsey Company advisory firm, employee productivity increases 20-25% in organizations where employees are highly connected. Connectivity requires high-performing platforms to facilitate idea sharing and conversations.
The final element to effective communication is the receiver. Receivers decode messages using context and observation to interpret information and create their own thoughts. Receivers provide feedback when they receive information, to confirm both receipt and understanding.
Sifting through data and information can be one of the most difficult aspects of being a receiver. Workplace communication studies by SaneBox have shown that 62% of the emails received by employees are not important. When software company Adobe surveyed over 1,000 Americans working in offices, they found that workers on average spent more than five hours a day checking and answering emails.
Luckily, there are numerous technology solutions that offer stronger communication platforms than email-based communications.
How do you quantify and qualify effective workplace communication?
Once business leaders realize the importance of effective workplace communication, the next natural question that they typically ask is: How do we determine if we are communicating effectively across our organization?
Quantifying and qualifying workplace communication can be difficult for businesses with employees working virtually. Without a physical representation of communication channels and networks, employees often forget who they are supposed to be communicating with on a daily basis.
Virtual communication tools and applications bring a workforce together by facilitating the number of connections. Every workplace is different, but across a business functional area or an organization, everyone should be able to connect with each other.
Communication between two or more people happens across a channel. The Communications Management section of the Project Management Book of Knowledge, written by the Project Management Institute, defines communication management as, “the key to project control, communications management provides the vital project integrity required to provide an information lifeline among all members of the project team”.
Over the last 20 years, time spent on workplace collaboration and communication has increased by 50% or more. The increase in the quantity of communication must be paired with quality communication in order to be effective. This key tradeoff between information quantity and quality is critical to developing a communication platform in which employees are better off from the information and messaging that they receive from their employer.
How important is communication for your company?
Data has shown that employees with functioning communication networks in a work-from-home setting are more productive, have greater work-life balance, and have overall better mental health. Proper workplace communication increases productivity and creativity, and there are multiple reasons why a comprehensive communications management plan should be a part of corporate and business strategy.
First and foremost, effective workplace communication builds and maintains relationships across an organization. Relationships are managed by the key interactions that take place every day. Virtual, work-from-home models have created a significant challenge for businesses in managing and building the relationships between their employees.
The first few weeks at a business are critical for building a new employee’s expectations and understandings of the work environment and goals of an organization. Even businesses that had perfected the in-person employee onboarding experience struggled to bring new hires into the culture and organization virtually.
Effective workplace communication systems and models are key to solving the difficulties of virtual onboarding by creating an immersive platform and tiered engagement plan to onboard employees in a welcoming and gradual nature.
Innovation also strives for effective communication. According to a Salesforce poll, 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration due to ineffective communication as the main cause for project and product failures across industries. There are numerous collaboration tools that a company can utilize to improve innovation.
The very first thing that companies have to ensure that they get right is providing employees with an information-rich environment to develop their ideas and innovations. Collaboration takes place across business organizations and also between individuals. According to the HR Technologist site, 39% of surveyed employees believed that people in their own organization don’t collaborate enough.
Collaboration, and effective communication in general, helps businesses solve problems and survive the difficult times within the business. During times of hardship, effective workplace environments help employees rally around their business leaders.
Improving communication in the workplace
Businesses must identify the cultural and environmental needs of their employees in order to improve workplace communication and to better achieve strategic goals. Effective workplace communication often starts with company leadership. As discovered in an HR Technologist study, 57% of employees surveyed reported not being given clear direction and 69% of managers reported not being comfortable communicating with their employees in general.
Establishing formal and informal communication channels is one of the best ways for a business to improve its workplace communication. Businesses can improve the quality of their communications by empowering managers to communicate effectively and upfront. Formal workplace communication channels are often the best route for managers to convey important company goals and initiatives.
Informal workplace communication channels are also vitally important for daily business operations. Senior management often ignores informal channels in their communications. management plans, but these channels are how 90% of business communication is conducted. Communication platforms are highly effective solutions for facilitating effective informal communication between employees and management.
Informal communication channels are also where businesses need to ensure that there is proper adherence to the company’s ethics and values. General principles of ethical communication are truthfulness, accuracy, honesty, and reason. Every company should have its own specific guidelines for what constitutes acceptable behavior and communication in the workplace.
The return on investment for your company
Return on investment is a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or its ability to create qualified positive returns. Management should look at workplace communication as a performance investment, and consistently assess whether their investments into it are paying off. Learn how to measure internal communications.
The cost of poor workplace communication is well documented. David Grossman reported in “The Cost of Poor Communications” that a survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees each cited an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year because of inadequate communication to and between employees.
Businesses that invest in workplace communication effectively often see dividends in their bottom line. According to a report by global risk-management and advisory company Willis Tower Watson, companies with effective communication practices generate 47% higher total returns to shareholders compared to organizations with poor communication.
The intangible benefits of investing in and establishing effective workplace communication can even outweigh the tangible benefits for the long-term strength of a business. Effective communication leads to healthier work culture and satisfied employees who deliver their best level of work and stick around longer with a business. Employees spend 40% of their lives at work, so it is important that they can effectively communicate while they are there.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated for many businesses, within 24 hours the entire nature and physical location of the workforce could go through a drastic change, like transitioning to work-from-home employment. Businesses with strong communication networks and engaged management will be the best suited to react to future challenges.
How to get your leaders to care about employee engagement
We all know how critical employee experience is but how can you prove to the c-suite that the results will be worth the investment? We’ve compiled real-world advice from business leaders who transformed their digital employee experience (DEX) by gaining executive buy-in at every step. Learn how they leveraged employee data and built support across the company to achieve their goal.