Communication in the workplace consists of the exchange or flow of information between employees. When communication is effective, that flow contributes to the company’s goals and the well-being of its employees.
Let’s take a closer look at what effective communication strategies actually mean.
Effective communication strategies in the workplace guide the exchange of information to help companies reach their goals while keeping employees engaged.
Communication strategies encompass a range of tools and forms, including verbal communication, digital tools, emails, etc. On their own, tools won’t necessarily make a communication strategy effective. How well a company can choose and implement tools that suit their needs will determine the effectiveness of your overall strategy.
Here’s what effective communication strategies look like in action:
- Management can convey business goals in a way that reaches all employees
- Employees feel connected to and engaged in the company’s goals
- Departments and teams aren’t siloed but collaborate freely
- Employees know exactly where to find the information they need to do their jobs
- Miscommunication is kept at a minimum
- Time and location aren’t obstacles for a seamless exchange of information
Best Strategies for Effective Communication
On an individual level, we can do a lot to improve our communication skills: listen more, pay attention to body language, and understand different communication styles.
But on a more macro level, what strategies can companies implement to make communication more effective for larger workforces?
Effective communication doesn’t just happen organically.
A study found that 69% of managers said that they weren’t comfortable communicating with employees. On the flip side, 72% of employees said they didn’t have a complete understanding of their company’s strategy.
Clearly, there is a communication gap between employees with different levels of responsibility within a company. To bridge that gap, let’s identify strategies for effective team communication and leadership.
Strategies for Effective Team Communication
1. Allow Open, Real-time Communication
As 2020 saw more workers transition to working remotely or working from home, companies have relied more heavily on real-time communication tools. Collaborating on projects and conducting meetings virtually became the norm for office-based workers.
But 80% of the world’s workforce is made up of frontline employees who don’t work behind a desk. For remote or frontline workers, real-time communication means they can:
- Get important health and safety information in real time
- Stay informed about changes in shift schedules and policy updates
- Contact management about risks before they become hazards
Mobile tools maintain an open line of communication between managers and employees to improve collaboration. Frequent collaboration is one way to bridge the gap between managers who don’t feel comfortable communicating and employees who don’t feel invested in company goals.
2. Gather Feedback
How do you know if team communication truly is effective? The best way to know if a communication strategy is working – and to continue improving it – is to ask team members for feedback.
For remote workers and distributed teams, regular feedback can help managers catch any communication issues before they become serious and cause employees to become dissatisfied or leave altogether. This is especially true if managers and employees aren’t always in the same location. With regular feedback, managers can adjust the team’s communication strategy by adopting different tools or establishing guidelines to make it more effective.
Instead of asking employees if they think the team’s communication strategy is effective, managers can create surveys or polls that ask more targeted questions like:
- Do you feel comfortable communicating with your team?
- Are the team’s (or company’s) goals clear to you?
- Do you have access to the resources you need to stay informed about updates?
3. Consider the Reality of How Team Members Work
Implementing new tools into an already existing communication strategy may seem daunting. Will it slow down operations while team members get used to it? Will employees embrace it?
While teams might be more comfortable communicating using familiar tools, re-thinking a communication strategy might reveal that those tools don’t match up with reality. One of the best ways to predict whether a new tool will work for employees is to consider the context and constraints of their day-to-day communication.
For example, email may be effective in certain contexts, it is by far the most ideal form of daily communication for most teams. It might be what team members and managers are used to, but it simply doesn’t offer the functionality needed to sustain distributed teams.
Frontline workers who often don’t have access to company email might not receive important updates and be able to contact managers to solve an urgent issue. A mobile app like Beekeeper might be more suitable, as it’s designed for frontline workers to get real-time updates about safety information and shift schedules. Beekeeper also offers survey features that allow managers to get feedback and analyze the results.
Communication Strategies for Effective Leadership
Effective leadership involves not just communicating with employees but connecting with them in a meaningful way. While those in leadership positions would definitely benefit from the strategies above, there are a few additional tips that can help leaders with company-wide communication.
1. Early Buy-in For Adopting New Tools
Changing how employees communicate on a company-wide level can be difficult. When employees are presented with a new tool they have to integrate within their workday, they might be wondering if investing their time will be worth it.
If leadership doesn’t adopt the new tools themselves, it sends a signal to other employees that these tools aren’t a priority. Half-hearted buy-in for new communication tools and strategies isn’t just ineffective. It’s a waste of time.
By making sure leadership is informed about new tools and invested in their implementation, companies can set the integration process up for success. When leadership models using new tools and executing new strategies, employees are more likely to embrace these changes.
2. Bottom-up Communication
Before making changes to a company communication strategy, take stock of how information flows right now. Does it flow top-down, with employees receiving information from management while management receives little feedback from employees?
If that’s the case, consider embracing a bottom-up communication approach, which focuses on making sure all employees have their voice heard. Instead of widening the gap between company interests and employee satisfaction, bottom-up communication breaks down hierarchies.
Pro tip: Avoid platforms meant for the general public when choosing an employee communication tool. Look for enterprise-level tools with robust data security features.
3. Build Employee Engagement
When companies build a communication strategy based on employee engagement, they create a work environment where employees enjoy their job and seek opportunities to benefit the company. This not only leads to a more productive workforce but also improves retention rates and customer satisfaction. It’s a win-win for employees, companies, and customers.
For a communication strategy to build employee engagement, it has to improve the relationship between a company and its employees. In practice that means:
- Frequent and visible recognition of how employees give value to the company
- Continual training to develop new skills and grow within a role
- Access to tools that make communication convenient and intuitive
Effective Communication Strategies in Action
While the strategies above apply to most companies, let’s take a look at what effective communication looks like in different industries.
Communication in healthcare can be challenging as employees travel between facilities, make home visits, and spend their days on the go as they work with patients.
While pagers may be the norm in many healthcare facilities, they’re more suited to relaying basic information and responding in a crisis. For more sustained and meaningful conversations about how to improve conditions for patients and workers, a mobile communication app might be one of the more effective communication strategies in healthcare.
Another benefit of a mobile-first approach to communication in healthcare is that it respects the fact that work is often time-sensitive. When healthcare employees can communicate in real-time, it makes solving both urgent and long-term issues easier.
Improving communication on the factory floor isn’t a priority for many manufacturing companies. When the focus is on production and efficiency, changing communication tactics can seem like it would slow down output.
But giving manufacturing workers the tools they need to communicate with co-workers and supervisors can improve efficiency and output in the long run. More frequent communication:
- Gives workers a chance to voice concerns about safety practices
- Boosts engagement to help retain skilled laborers and reduce turnover
- Gives manufacturing supervisors insight into the factory floor
The hospitality industry took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, putting pressure on companies to innovate their business practices in order to stay afloat. Part of that effort involved re-thinking communication strategies in a way that ensured the health and safety of employees and guests.
Moving forward, effective communication strategies in hospitality will involve giving workers and guests tools they need to create a safer workplace and guest experience. As communication itself is such a large part of hospitality, we’ll likely see companies innovate in the way they can deliver the same level of service while still adhering to safety protocols.
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is already on that path of innovation by implementing Beekeeper as their internal communication tool. With Beekeeper, workers have access to digital documents and checklists, as well as an Innovation Stream for submitting new ideas.