Do you ever feel as though your team is just not clicking?
Whether key messages just seem to keep getting lost or the general tone of workplace conversation just feels a bit off, it might be that the organisational culture of communication is not where it needs to be.
This is a big problem.
Not only does poor communication lead directly to inefficiency, but it can also contribute to poor working relationships and low levels of wellbeing. The upshot is that productivity can take a big hit.
Let’s have a look at how communication can be improved.
It’s possible to reduce the word communication to a nice little buzzword within business jargon—a sort of catch-all term for a whole range of ideas about why exchanging information at work is a good idea. Sure, we can talk about communication in that way.
It’s good. It’s great. Let’s do more of it.
But if our aim is an increase our organisational performance, we need to be focusing on real-life communication practices. To do this, we are going to look at some essential communication techniques that workplaces should be adopting, as well as survey some of the ways that technology can help or get in the way of proper organisational communication.
Whether we are team leaders or team members (in fact, we should all consider ourselves as team members in one way or another), we need to take personal responsibility for how we communicate with our colleagues.
Off the top, we need to be kind and civil in the workplace. According to Safe Work Australia, 37% of workers report being sworn at or yelled at in their workplace. That’s not a good start.
On top of that, you’ve got the ugly prevalence of bullying in the workplace. Workplace bullying has been linked to anxiety, depression, low team morale, absenteeism, and low productivity—it’s estimated that bullying costs Australian businesses between $6 billion and $36 billion per year.
So, if we’re looking to reach a baseline of communication standards, we need to but cutting out workplace bullying, harassment, and abusive language. Everyone needs to take responsibility for this, but employers are particularly responsible.
Beyond this baseline, though, there are a lot of further values and practices we should be looking to pursue.
What is active listening? Active listening—as opposed to passive listening—is the practice of attentively absorbing what another person is saying, often by checking that you have understood what has been said or by seeking further clarification or elaboration.
There are two main benefits of active listening.
One, you understand everything that is said the first time. This means that you can spend less time holding follow-up discussions, sending emails, or having meetings. Research suggests that employees spend around two-thirds of their workday collaborating, but that around 15% of total work time is wasted because of inefficient communication. Listening properly can save us from repeating the same information five times in a week.
Two, you make the person you are talking to feel as though you are understanding them and also that you care what they have to say. In turn, this can give coworkers more confidence to speak up and share their insights in the future. But it can also contribute to higher levels of organisational trust, which leads to greater workplace morale, wellbeing, and productivity.
Assertive communication is often a quality that we associate with leaders. True, it’s important that leaders in the workplace have the confidence to deliver their messages with strength and clarity. Doing so leads to information not falling through the cracks and team members better understanding what’s expected of them.
But a more underrated idea is that all team members should communicate assertively throughout the course of their work. Doing so can help to:
Of course, it’s important to remember that assertiveness does not equate to aggression, and it always needs to be balanced out by listening to others.
Participatory management is an organisational principle that focuses on getting people at all levels of an organisation’s hierarchy to contribute to decision-making. Just like encouraging team members to be assertive, participatory management strategies have the effect of making people feel empowered and valued within an organisation.
But it’s not all about making employees feel positive. Participatory management, when done right, should also have a positive impact on business performance.
Organisational research keeps coming out to suggest that diversity and inclusion in the workplace are leading to better decision-making and stronger business performance.
It’s important to realise, too, that participatory management doesn’t just mean handing the reins over to each team member, one by one. There are a number of different participatory management strategies. Organisations need to be implementing participatory management practices that suit their own operations, as well as the specific development needs of the employees who are being engaged to lead.
As has now become very clear, the global pandemic has reshaped our approach to work in a number of fundamental ways. In particular, the large shift to remote work has necessitated that many companies introduce or increase their use of a range of communication technologies.
You’ve got the common videoconferencing technologies like Zoom and Teams. But then you’ve also got sharing and messaging platforms like Slack becoming indispensable.
Part of the reason that companies needed to turn to these technologies in such a big way was that they needed to ensure that basic communicative functions could still be carried out remotely: work allocation, resource sharing, collaboration, etc.
But what’s also become apparent through the shift to remote work is that these technologies play a fundamental role in bringing team members together on a more social level. For this reason, for example, Slack has been massively investing in upgrading its chat functions.
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that implementing social messaging platforms for work can improve employee morale, with 81% of workers reporting that they help with team building and 31% saying they helped break down rigid hierarchies.
Of course, it’s not a simple equation of more communication technology resulting in better productivity. Too much communication can be harmful. In particular, messaging apps like Slack have come in for some rough criticisms that suggest that the constant stream of messages that they afford can be distracting and hurt productivity.
It’s a tricky situation for firms to navigate. They don’t want to be clamping down on social messaging and telling employees that work is the only topic of conversation. In fact, workers already have the feeling that technology is not usually introduced for their benefit (PWC research has shown, for example, that while 90% of executives say they adopt new technologies with the needs of their team members in mind, only 53% of staff agree).
To improve workplace communication, businesses certainly need to be facilitating social interaction via technology. But they also need to be moderating it to a degree.
Although all the focus of late has been on how communications can continue within organisations while people are working remotely from home, it’s important not to lose sight of the need for face-to-face communications.
The numbers suggest that people prefer face-to-face meetings—even the younger crowd. Research suggests that 78% of Gen X and 80% of millennials say they prefer communicating with their colleagues in person. Further research suggests that people feel that meeting in person leads to stronger and more meaningful business relationships—to the tune of 85%.
One of the essential ways that organisations can fulfil the demand for face-to-face communications is by using conference venues. This is particularly important if an organisation is working mostly from home and they don’t keep a permanent office space. Conference venues give them the opportunity to get everyone in a room together so that they can communicate on a more personal level and build that interpersonal understanding that’s critical for good communication and good business.
Conference venues can be used to do things like announce new projects, introduce new members of management, or offer training to employees. Whatever the official reason for the conference is, though, one major element is always going to be the opportunity to build organisational trust and improve ongoing communications.
At Christie Spaces, our conference rooms and venues come fully kitted out so that you can maximise the engagement of participants without any hiccups. We offer:
If you are interested in getting your people together at one of our conference venues, get in touch with a member of our dedicated community team today.