Effective Verbal Communication at the Workplace: Expectations vs. Reality
Updated: Dec 21, 2022
Failure to meet deadlines. Lengthy and disorganized email threads. No idea who will be working on what. Disagreements between team members. Insufficiently planned projects. Files are scattered and missing. Waiting hours for responses. Delayed feedback. Does not sound like effective communication, does it?
Does your company struggle with similar issues?
Is communication a problem on your team?
Does inadequate communication pose a significant business obstacle for you?
If the answer to any of these questions is a resounding yes, it's time to streamline your team's communications.
According to a study conducted across 400 companies (with more than 100,000 employees in the United States and the United Kingdom), communication obstacles cost a company an average of $62.4 million per year in lost productivity.
For a long time, ineffective communication was the number one problem that even successful companies struggled with.
So how can you develop your team's communication skills?
How can you put an end to rampant productivity losses?
What behaviors are making communication ineffective?
Let us try to answer these simple yet perplexing questions one by one.
First, let us understand what effective communication means in the workplace.
Communication is the foundation of every aspect of a business. Effective communication is the exchange of information between two or more people to successfully deliver, receive and understand the message.
What does "successful communication in the workplace" mean?
Businesses communicate and share information and ideas in unique ways. Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Jell and Twist are just a few of the new oral communication technologies that facilitate messaging between companies, teams and individuals.
But what determines the effectiveness of oral communication conveyed through these platforms?
Effective oral communication requires two-way communication. It can be critical for the sender to establish context and choose the right medium or channel.
Effective communication requires establishing the context and usefulness of the comment, idea, or request being made. Any external factors such as urgency, opinions, or culture are considered part of the environment.
Effective verbal communication in the workplace leads to higher productivity
When workplace communication works well, employees know exactly what is expected of them, what their position is on a particular project, what areas they excel in, and what areas they can improve in.
Effective communication can help ensure that deadlines are met, goals are achieved, ideas are shared, feedback is given, and systems are continuously improved throughout a project.
With effective communication, weaknesses in business strategy and processes become visible. Communication enables solutions to problems to be developed and processes to be refined so that they run as efficiently as possible.
Conversations are constructive and focused, and the likelihood of misunderstandings is minimal.
When employees are encouraged to speak openly, they will ask questions, make suggestions, seek clarification, and develop innovative solutions. Effective verbal communication in a variety of open ways can enable high performance in any team.
Effective verbal communication leads to happier employees and lower turnover rates
Effective communication shows employees that their opinions, ideas and thoughts are respected and heard. Employees, managers and leaders who communicate openly can build strong bonds. Leaders who care about the well-being of their employees, both inside and outside the office, create a positive work environment with engaged employees.
Employees report higher job satisfaction and loyalty when communication is good. Team members who feel their opinions are not valued are more likely to seek another workplace.
Five strategies for effective verbal communication in the workplace
1. Pay attention to body language.
Body language can be more sincere and informative than verbal or written communication. Our physical signals and reactions can express a range of emotions, including confusion, joy, worry, nervousness, excitement, discouragement and confidence.
Employees may communicate unconsciously or intentionally through body language. That's why this type of communication is so beneficial to work.
Small subtleties in body language, facial expressions and tone of voice can convey information that words cannot. Pay attention not only to verbal and written communication, but also to a team member's body language to get a complete picture of the message being sent or received.
Making eye contact, avoiding eye contact, standing up straight and leaning forward are all examples of communication and body language cues that are common in the workplace and should be observed.
2. Keep communication open during training/onboarding.
During onboarding, open communication between employee and employer is critical to set the tone for what's to come and future communication between employees and their team.
Every company has its own communication strategy depending on the size of the company, work culture and company goals. Communicate with new employees and make sure they understand what communication technologies will be used, how they will be integrated into the company culture, and what communication policies are in place (e.g., virtual meetings, in-person meetings, check-ins, etc.).
Give new employees a comprehensive overview of all communication channels used in the company.
Encourage new employees to communicate openly with their teammates and supervisors during the onboarding process. Open communication can lead to new ideas, as employees are more creative and confident when their peers are not restricted or hindered.
Open communication can also contribute to employee retention, as employees feel respected and heard by their teammates and supervisors. Establishing a communication standard when onboarding employees can save many hours of future miscommunication.
3. Introduce communication-related software or apps.
Regardless of a company's size, communication software applications can help streamline and improve productivity. Numerous companies use customized communications software to achieve specific goals.
Employee communication channels are used to provide guided, tailored communication about health benefits, compensation and wellness.
Similarly, talent management software improves the employee experience by creating tailored communication channels that increase employee engagement and the success of talent and performance management activities.
For constant, thorough communication, software that streamlines messaging to team members and employees across all departments is essential. With the multitude of communication tools and social media platforms available today, it's more important than ever to make communication as simple as possible.
Confusion has no place in the workplace. Using multiple channels, different websites and programs for communication can lead to confusion, missed communications, missed deadlines and missed milestones, among other things.
4. Create a schedule for frequent feedback to team members.
Encourage open communication to develop an appropriate understanding of the experiences of other employees, departments, and managers. Encourage open discussions without critical or oppressive comments.
Negative comments or apathy can discourage team members from speaking up again. So make sure your communication approach includes compassion and tolerance. Each company's communication processes are unique, as is the work culture and size of the workforce.
According to a study by Globoforce, 89 percent of leaders at HR believe that continuous feedback from colleagues and check-ins are important to success.
Check-ins allow employees to address any issues.
Regular meetings can take the form of employee satisfaction surveys, informal lunch conversations or scheduled one-on-one sessions. They demonstrate that their satisfaction and progress are important and valued, which increases employee engagement and productivity.
5. Make sure that verbal communication is followed by written communication.
We have all been there: after an hour-long meeting, we have soaked up all the information our brains can process and are left with unanswered questions.
You may realize a day later that you did not retain as many details as you previously thought. This is perfectly normal! After all, our brain can only absorb a limited amount of data at once.
Research by Learning Solutions has shown that people forget about 50% of the information they hear within an hour. Within 24 hours, we forget about 70% of what we heard, and after a week, we have forgotten an astonishing 90% of new information.
A summary can jog our memory and summarize newly learned knowledge or facts in a few words or lines. Team members should practice writing down verbal communications they receive to have an accurate record they can skim to refresh their memory. Leaders should also practice writing down the messages they relay to their teams to ensure maximum consistency.
Now let us discuss what behaviors cause communication to be ineffective. What are the main reasons for inadequate or poor communication in the workplace?
Reasons for ineffective communication
Ineffective communication can result from process deficiencies.
Example: If you speak a language that the receiver does not fully understand, the communication fails. This is the case when information is relayed in an incorrect, rushed, or convoluted manner.
Messages get mixed up and assumptions are made. There is no particular type of person who cannot communicate in an organization. It can happen at any level of the organization.
Another reason is remote work. Remote work is becoming more common, which reduces face-to-face contact. This also makes communication more difficult.
Poor leadership, confusing organization, and employee skills can all contribute to poor communication. Misunderstandings are not uncommon when the workforce lacks communication skills.
In addition, a lack of emotional intelligence in the workplace is another major cause of poor communication. Workers with high emotional intelligence form strong bonds. They work as a team, which means they communicate well.
Leaders also need to improve their emotional intelligence to create a corporate culture that always strives for better communication. Emotional intelligence increases social awareness by helping people understand others.
In addition, toxic workplace cultures can hinder communication. If leaders do not create an environment conducive to open communication, employees are likely to choose not to communicate at all.
An employee who has a brilliant idea to increase productivity may be reluctant to share it with management because management never listens to employees. Or an employee may refrain from bringing a potential problem to his or her employer's attention if the supervisor only pretends to listen but does nothing.
Without effective communication, team members can be left in the dark about their personal and overall goals. Inadequately formulated goals and milestones lead to lower productivity, missed deadlines, declining employee motivation, lost earnings and high staff turnover.
Any company that develops a solid internal communications strategy will undoubtedly see a positive return on its investment in profits and employee retention.
The benefits of effective workplace communication can be many: increased productivity, happier employees, and conducive, straightforward dialogs that boost overall productivity and employee engagement.
"Communication is your ticket to success if you pay attention and learn to do it effectively."