How Effective Workplace Communication Increases Business Value

CoachHub · 9 December 2022 · 7 min read

Effective workplace communication is a must. It results in reduced stress, increased engagement and reduced turnover. It builds trust, motivates employees and prevents toxic work environments. And it creates a satisfactory customer service experience.

Although we all understand why communication is important in the office, we don’t all do it well. While we may assume our message is clear, we often convolute things by overexplaining. We try to be concise but end up oversimplifying and leave important details out. We make assumptions. We use jargon and acronyms. We’re unaware of the knowledge gap. We commit microaggressions and cultural and generational faux pas. To top it off, we tend to overlook one of the most important elements of communication: listening.

Remote work communication challenges

Communication at work becomes even more of a challenge in the modern age of remote work. We’re speaking with colleagues and clients all over the world, which has its own difficulties. Successful interaction means knowing how to read a room. It’s easy to see then, how we misinterpret written messages, such as memos, emails, and text messages. Video meetings can make that difficult as well, especially when attendees turn off video cameras or are distracted.

workplace communication

What causes communication barriers?

A survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) reveals that the biggest barrier in conversation is communication style. This barrier is widened by cultural, generational, and functional differences in communication. These fit into – and are exacerbated by – the knowledge gap.

The laughable exclamation from Friends, “They don’t know we know they know we know,” explains the knowledge gap to a minor degree. But often it’s the other way around. We’re all familiar with the quote from Socrates, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” This means that not only are there gaps in our knowledge, but we don’t even know what those gaps are. And if we don’t know what they are, we can’t investigate them.

As communicators, when we know something, we often make the mistake of assuming everyone else does too. Especially in the workplace. We confuse the message with jargon and acronyms that our audience hasn’t We use business speak that may exclude listeners.

Along the same lines, variances in how different cultures speak emphasise the importance of effective communication. For example, in some countries, you would never say, “I broke my arm,” which would indicate that you did so intentionally. But in America, you wouldn’t say, “My arm broke,” which sounds like it happened randomly.

Slang, idioms, sarcasm, exaggeration and other elements of speech can create communication barriers across cultures or neurodiverse groups. Some people speak and understand in absolutes. If you say, “get out of here,” some may think you mean for them to leave. Neurodivergent individuals may struggle with non-verbal communication, such as facial cues, verbal tone and body language.

Generational gaps can also make interaction difficult. For example, many Millennials and Gen Z consider end stops (periods) in text messaging to be aggressive and may see thumbs up or heart icons as sarcastic.

And then there’s microaggressions, which are subtle – often unintentional – insults to marginalised groups. They may include compliments that are perceived as backhanded. For example: “You’re well spoken.” Comments on a colleague’s attire or background may be understood as disparaging. Often, what we intend to say doesn’t match the impact of our words.

It all comes back to not knowing what we don’t know. How can we know what someone else perceives? And yet, disregarding potential gaps can lead both parties down a dangerous path: assumption. We all know what happens when we assume.

 

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Why effective communication in the workplace is important

The risks of workplace miscommunication

Research by David Grossman and the EIU survey and Lexicon reveal that unclear instructions, pointless meetings and other communication barriers have real repercussions for businesses and their workers.

  • Incomplete projects: 44% of respondents feel poor communication has impacted the successful completion of a project.
  • Low morale: 31% of respondents reveal that misunderstandings have affected team confidence, optimism and satisfaction.
  • Missed performance goals: 25% of respondents view ineffective communication as a reason for missing their performance goals.
  • Lost sales: 18% of respondents believe miscommunication has lost their company hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales revenue.
  • Lost money: Grossman’s study of 400 enterprise businesses reveals that conversational barriers cost up to $62.4 million per company. Lexicon reports that businesses with 100 employees spend an average of 17 hours each week clarifying messages, which amounts to an annual loss of $528,443.

 

The benefits of effective communication

On the flip side, effective communicators can add real value to a business. It impacts company culture and helps teams feel connected and engaged. Research conducted by CMSWire, McKinsey, Forbes and Lexicon and compiled by Pumble shows that communication, engagement and connection results in employees who are more:

  • Effective: 97% of employees believe communication impacts their efficacy.
  • Productive: Well-connected teams are up to 25% more productive and engaged employees are 17% more productive.
  • Trusting: 80% of Americans feel that communication is key to establishing trust in their employers.
  • Valuable: Moving employees from disengaged to engaged adds $13,000 in annual value per employee.
  • Likely to stay: Effective communication increases employee retention by 4.5X.

 

How to effectively communicate with different styles of communicators

There are four styles of workplace communication: analytical, functional, intuitive and personal. According to the study by EUI, survey respondents identified as:

  • 32% Personal. Personal communicators emphasise human relationships and establish personal connections.
  • 27% Analytical. Analytical communicators use precise language and support what they say with data and facts.
  • 23% Intuitive. Intuitive communicators prefer to grasp the bigger picture and get to the point without too much detail.
  • 17% Functional. Functional communicators focus on the process and plan step by step, so they don’t miss a detail.

Let’s look how each communicates and how to communicate effectively with the different styles of communicators:

Personal

  • Form an emotional connection by letting them share their feelings and communicating yours.
  • Allow them to connect with their coworkers on an emotional level.
  • Provide opportunities for them to excel.
  • Summarise the details of a project, meeting or conversation in a follow up message.

Analytical

  • Lead them to the data so they can do their best work.
  • Clearly outline the project and your expectations.
  • Trust them to know what they’re doing.

Intuitive

  • Allow them to brainstorm and develop big ideas.
  • Provide a broad overview of a project that is quick and simple.
  • Demonstrate with visual aids, flow charts and real-life examples.

Functional

  • Provide a timeline with clear project deadlines.
  • Meet their need to seek clarity and detail.
  • Provide consistent feedback.

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How to develop effective workplace communication skills

Effective communication skills are key to leadership, but there are tips and strategies to improve your internal communication.

Listening is key to internal interactions. Attentive listening helps you to retain and interpret the message while respecting and validating the speaker.

Read the room. Whether you’re listening or speaking, learn to read the room and pick up on non-verbal cues. This will help you to tailor your message to address any issues.

Practice self-awareness and mindfulness when speaking. When you listen attentively and learn the room, you become more aware of barriers and different styles of communicating. This can help prevent unintentional faux pas.

Be present for remote communication. Improve remote video meetings with active listening and an on-screen video presence. Follow up with email, chat or text apps. Don’t be afraid to jump on an impromptu video call or phone call to provide or receive clarity.

Be open and honest. Transparency can help bridge a communication gap, encourage engagement and facilitate connection. It can help alleviate anxiety, especially during times of business transition. Hold yourself accountable for what you say and how it’s interpreted. Be open to understanding your impact.

Use the right tools. Understanding what tools your team, colleagues, or clients use is essential to effective messaging. For example, if your email or text message goes unread by a coworker, you may be reaching out over the wrong platform. We can generalise by age group, but keep in mind that preferences are personal to each individual, so don’t assume.

  • Baby Boomers may prefer face-to-face interaction and phone conversations.
  • Generation X may prefer email messages.
  • Millennials and Gen Z may prefer to chat via text and apps.

Have a coaching mindset. Effective communication is a soft skill that everyone can learn. Digital coaching helps employees and leaders to develop an internal communication strategy, resulting in teams that are more engaged and better connected. Moreover, when goals or projects are clear, employees can follow through on objectives.

Explore our website to discover how CoachHub’s coaching programs can help your human resources departments, leadership team and workforce improve communication in the workplace.

Call us on +44 (0) 20 3608 3083 email us (mail@coachhub.com) or contact us below for a demo.

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