In the rush that happens around the office, often effective communication gets pushed aside for the more immediate tasks. However, good communication streamlines business solutions. Succinctness between departments, and fostering creativity, are two important products of good communication. Developing these company abilities leads to stronger business practices. Don’t brush aside tips on how to improve communication skills at work. Participation in effective communication can cut overhead and support your bottom line.
In fact, when communication strategies are improved in the workplace shareholders receive a 47% higher return, according to a Holmes report. From the same report, of the 400 corporations surveyed over a year, an estimated $37 billion was lost as a byproduct of poor communication.
When employees are communicating it leads to stronger employee engagement, drive business results, and promotes innovation. Good communication should be integral to company culture. When employees feel encouraged to speak, they feel encouraged to think. This encouragement drives success. Even the most fluid of workflow systems can learn how to improve communication skills at work.
How to Improve Communication Skills at Work
1. Active Listening Vs. Passive Listening
Medical research shows that most humans speak between 120 and 150 words per minute, compared with the 600-800 rate at which we think. Many times, when someone is speaking, we are thinking of other things than what that person is saying. What am I going to eat for dinner tonight? When is this meeting over? Etc. What this means for improving communication is actively suppressing the inner monologue so that we can engage with the speaker. When one takes the time to stay present in the conversation everyone involved feels rewarded. There are a few active ways to do this:
Never talk over people. This demonstrates disrespect and a lack of regard for the speaker’s viewpoint. Let people finish their point before chiming in or giving feedback.
Refrain from finishing other’s sentences. Some do this to show active listening, but this can be misconstrued as dis-empowering behavior. Instead, paraphrase what the speaker has just said before you comment. Ok, good point Michelle, your idea is to embrace native marketing this quarter. Now….
Maintain eye contact. In the days of smartphones, and employees being engrossed in their monitors it’s difficult to set aside the time to look someone in the eyes. This shows a person you are not distracted and are not focusing on what they’re saying. Eye contact is important.
Following these guidelines can deter passive listening. If you are consciously exhibiting behavior that promotes active listening your listening skills will improve greatly.
2. Mindful Communication
Being more conscientious of your body language and tone are divisions of active listening. Displaying open body language makes others feel more comfortable and encouraged to speak. If you cross your arms during meetings, others interpret this as a defensive posture. Instead, rest your arms by your side. Nodding while others speak is another non-verbal way to show others you are actively listening. Try not monopolize the conversation. State your comments, then let others speak. The longer you speak the more people are disengaging. Even smiling—when appropriate—can help encourage others. Showing relaxed and open posture is key.
Also, think about the space in which you are having your meetings. Are meetings in a conference room? What is the arrangement of the furniture? Where are people facing?The arrangement of furniture and use of office space can influence communication greatly. Some progressive companies like to use couches to host meetings. Consider your employees’ needs, and the objective of the meeting, before calling a meeting, considering the best placement for this meeting.
Of course, not every meeting needs to be a ‘roundtable’ discussion—if you are doing a mass training or making announcements this is more effectively done with people facing forward—but if the meeting’s goal is to brainstorm, a ’roundtable’ space may be more conducive to planning.
3. Practical Meetings and Foregoing Unnecessary Ones
Most employees will never learn how to improve communication skills at work by attending dozens of meetings on a single subject. Adversely, employee productivity will never improve when employees are hung up in meetings instead of getting to the tasks at hand.
Meetings are the formal structure of information exchange. When meetings become an impediment, instead of a tool, you might consider curtailing both the time spent in meetings and the number of meetings. One thoughtful meeting can replace the time of four unproductive meetings. Maintaining a person’s attention is easier in short spans when objectives are completed.
Avoid the corporate paradox of calling meetings to discuss issues when the issue could be solved with fewer meetings. No employee wants to sit and listen to dilemmas that don’t pertain to them, just to get to the end of the meeting, and hear that nothing is solved.
Having notes kept during meetings is also a good practice. The human mind cannot naturally retain every issue discussed during a meeting. Designating a record keeper to write down important highlights of the meeting to synthesize into a bulleted-point a memo can keep dialogue cohesive. This will cut back discrepancies and keep information fresh on everyone’s mind.
4. Leading by Example
Regardless of your position, or type of organization, good communication requires acknowledging employees’ thoughts and message. When management and executive employees exercise good communication skills the practice will be reciprocated. If you lead by example, you can change the dynamic of a meeting or conversation.
First-time entrepreneurs are most likely still developing their communication habits. Strong leaders and veteran entrepreneurs have refined these skills. Active listening, providing constructive feedback, and answering questions are good habits to maintain in daily conversations with everyone in your organization.
Having a good communication skill-set written into your company culture will help positive communication to endure.
5. Inspiration & Enrichment
Many sales teams have formal enrichment ‘pep talks.’ Some software developers have recurring discussions to generate team building. Retailers meet to display new products and where they will be placed on the sales floor. No matter the industry, for many tasks it takes a team mentality for everyone to be involved to complete objectives. Not only is your team going to need to be informed through an effective exchange of information they will need inspiration.
Inspiration can come from showing how improvements due to employee diligence and has made quantifiable improvements. What key metrics have improved because of the marketing department?
Recognizing employees’ hard work also goes a long way. This is a sign of a good leader. Blending together the educational information you need to relay to your team combined with some inspiring sentiments is the most impactful way to communicate.
Improved communication is not going happen overnight. Like most things in the workplace, it needs to happen from the top down. Being consistent with how you present yourself displays to other how to improve communication skills at work. Over time, this will lead to others picking up on the traits and an improved company culture.
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