by Julia Gain
Communication is one of the most important soft skills in the workplace. Soft skills are all the non-technical skills we use to interact with each other, like emotional intelligence, enthusiasm or empathy. While technical skills, consisting of experience and specific work-related knowledge are important, soft skills are essential to actually work as a team.
What does communication mean and why is it so important?
According to Mark Sanborn, author, thought leader and entrepreneur:
Communication is complex and has many aspects. It affects the way we write and how we interact with each other. It starts before people are even hired, in job ads and interviews. It consists in instructions, emails and even small talk during lunch breaks. It can be top-down, if the only person talking is you, or two-way, if employees feel free to answer and share their ideas. Communicational skills include empathy and listening skills.
In a communication-friendly workplace communication is flowing, horizontally among employees, from employees to management and vice-versa. This is the case if everyone is on the same page and shares the same level of information. It means there’s no confusion. It is a fundamental part of work culture and all the values, traditions, attitudes, mindsets and interactions that define your workplace. A positive work culture encourages people to share ideas, be honest, take risks and and connect. It encourages commitment and motivation.
On the other hand, lack of communication can have a huge impact on your workplace. One of its first effects is creating confusion around who does what and how to do it, wasting precious time and energy and thus decreasing productivity. Confusion also causes stress, which bottles up if there is no space to talk about it. In the long run, workplace-related stress affects mental health and motivation. It also impedes innovation: If good ideas aren’t flowing, your workplace is not going to benefit from them.
To sum it up, communication is a key factor regarding motivation and productivity. It may be complex, but it’s a skill and there are very tangible ways to improve it! By improving communication, you’ll transform your workplace into an innovative and friendly environment.
5 tips to improve communication
#1 Make time: Dedicate specific moments to communicating with your team. Be creative! The point of these moments is to foster communication among the team, to ask for their ideas, for input. Having a team breakfast or coffee on a weekly basis is the perfect opportunity to ask people how they are feeling, how their week was or if they have had to overcome any obstacles.
#2 Give feedback: Feedback is an essential part of communication in the workplace. Feedback consists in information related to people’s performance. It’s a way to let your employees know what they are doing right and wrong and keep improving. Regular feedback will enable your company to move forward and be more productive. Feedback also fosters motivation. On a personal level, everyone needs feedback to be committed – and know what to do!
#3 Listen: Communication isn’t only about talking. As a manager, one of the biggest things you can do to foster communication is work on your listening skills. Improving communication means improving it both ways, not only top down. Employees will feel free to come to you with new ideas or problems if they know you can listen. Making it clear that your team will be heard means actively taking what they say into account by trying out their ideas or working on things they would like to change. Creating a positive environment will foster innovation and productivity.
#4 Be clear: Clarity is key on many levels and it starts when you hire people. Be clear and precise when describing their jobs: what are their tasks, what are their responsibilities, how should they be working with others? Use tangible and concrete expressions. Once on the team, be transparent regarding processes, deadlines and everyone’s role. Prefer writing to oral instructions and get used to regular check ups to make sure everyone is on the same page. Unclear instructions break motivation and create stress.
#5 Explain: Learn how to give details and be explicit about instructions. Why do you prefer doing things in a certain way rather than another? People tend to commit more to instructions they understand and that they can relate to. Explaining also fosters a sense of inclusion that is important to creating team-spirit.