What does “good” communication look like? And why do people want it for their organization?
Sir Richard Branson, CEO and founder of the Virgin Group, which controls more than 400 companies across a wide range of fields, believes that “communication is the most important skill any leader can possess.”
Effective communication improves job satisfaction, lowers absenteeism rates, and creates a greater sense of camaraderie and personal ownership.
Great leaders know that developing their team’s strengths and weaknesses creates a stronger company. Thankfully, communication is something you can learn, and you can enable it in the workplace with the right processes, tools, and atmosphere.
Here are five ways you can improve communication in the workplace:
1. Encourage Social Interaction
Truly great communication stems from comfort. If your team members don’t know each other outside of work or fear judgment from saying the wrong thing, then they’ll often keep their thoughts to themselves.
That sort of environment doesn’t do anyone any good. It creates rigid conversations without any depth or risk. The best way to make your staff more comfortable with each other is to encourage social interactions that are fun and lighthearted.
You could take the pressure off with some work-friendly icebreaker games. They’ll lower defenses, boost camaraderie, challenge people’s assumptions, and, most importantly, make people laugh. Icebreaker games aren’t just for new teams either. You can play them weekly or monthly to shake things up a bit.
Encourage them to sync up weekly or bi-weekly to play games, have a happy hour, or work on a project that’s not related to work. Take it a step further and encourage meetings without leadership so they can get to know each other without the pressure of a boss in the room.
2. Make Room For Anonymous Feedback
Too often, a lack of communication in the workplace comes from fear. People are afraid to ruffle feathers, look stupid, or come off as incompetent or uneducated.
Sharing your feelings, thoughts, and ideas takes courage, and sometimes the best way to break through communication barriers is to implement an anonymous feedback loop. To kickstart such a feedback loop, try creating and sharing an anonymous survey so people can share their opinions free of judgment.
It’ll also prevent groupthink, which is the practice of making decisions that discourage individual responsibility or creativity. The last thing you want is a team that follows the crowd and doesn’t take a stand when they believe in something. Plus, deploying a system will give you excellent feedback you can use to better your workplace and clear up misunderstandings.
3. Create Both Formal & Informal Communication Channels
The best way to get people talking is to give them a platform. Let them know exactly when and how you’ll solicit their feedback. Tell them ahead of time when you’ll expect feedback from them and on what topics. That extra time to prepare can quell anxiety and give them the opportunity to give thoughtful feedback.
Take it a step further with your new hires and clearly discuss during the onboarding process what communication channels and tools exist, and go over their intended uses.
Maybe your organization uses email internally for project updates and instant messaging for the daily back-and-forth. It would be helpful for them to know that up front in case their previous employer was a heavy email user.
It’s also highly advisable to get into a regular cadence of one-on-one meetings between leaders and staff. That ongoing conversation keeps things light and prevents problems or misunderstandings from piling up.
Beyond a weekly pulse check, try implementing an “open door” policy and make it known throughout the company. It’s not a huge step by any means, but it does make leaders feel more approachable, which is essential to improving communication in the workplace.
4. Learn From Your Mistakes
Exit interviews are a great way to identify your company’s shortcomings and how you can make improvements to encourage retention in the future. It may be too late to save the employees heading out the door, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it better for the rest of your staff.
For example, if you discouraged socialization in the past, then perhaps it’s time to turn over a new leaf. Refrain from chastising any mingling and socializing during work hours. Open up to the fact that we’re social creatures with social needs and desires.
Plus, it’s important to let employees take mental breaks for off-topic conversation. It boosts morale and takes the edge off of the tough days.
Some companies have gone so far as conducting “stay interviews” where you have one-on-one meetings between leaders and employees to figure out what you’re doing right and what areas you can improve upon.
5. Deploy The Right Software
It’s not enough to build a culture that values communication. You have to make it easy for your team to communicate effectively. One such way is by deploying employee-centric software like ZoomShift. At its core, ZoomShift is employee scheduling software that helps streamline your employee scheduling process, but beyond the surface, it’s a robust communication tool.
ZoomShift keeps everyone on the same page with event scheduling, direct messaging, and group chats. It also automates many facets of day-to-day communication, like reminding people of upcoming shifts, schedule changes, and shift cover requests.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to improving communication in the workplace, there are plenty of ways to turn the tides in your favor. If you clearly communicate your desire to improve communication in the workplace, learn from your mistakes, and deploy the right policies and software, then you’re on the right track.
Take the first step now with a 14-day free trial of ZoomShift.