Many businesses already know the benefits of proper communication. Unfortunately, not a lot of executives/leaders/managers walk the talk, with many of them failing to do enough to promote positive interactions within their companies. Others think that workplace communication is just another business buzzword that will eventually lose its relevance. Corporations that adopt this line of thinking risk burning out their employees and developing toxic company cultures. Maybe if more people knew how workplace communication could improve worker productivity, they would work harder to implement good practices within their organizations.
So, how does workplace communication improve worker productivity? Its many advantages benefit companies at the individual, team, and organizational levels. The best way to better understand how communication can help your organization is to start applying best practices.
In this article, we'll delve deeper into exactly how good communication helps employees become more efficient at work. We'll examine these benefits on three levels: effects on individuals, impact on teams and groups, and, finally, effects on the entire organization. However, the impact of excellent communication can vary slightly depending on factors like the prevailing organizational culture. Hence, the article ends by suggesting ways that leaders can experiment with applying proper communication techniques to see how they affect the business.
A significant part behind the effectiveness of an organization is that they rely on the output of many people. Even the most talented people can accomplish so much for their organizations. However, having hundreds or thousands of people working towards common goals enables organizations to thrive and to perform.
Hence, leaders should investigate the different factors that influence the productivity of their workers. We have a detailed article entitled "25 Workplace Productivity Principles (Boost Employee Effectiveness)" that takes a deep dive into how productivity is affected by many factors. It turns out that communication can have a significant effect on how quickly and efficiently workers accomplish tasks assigned to them.
1. Ownership and Accountability
4. Time Management
Positive interactions with other people do more than keep employees happy. By being surrounded by good communicators, workers become better at their jobs based on several criteria.
Communication ties to power. In some traditional companies, seniority determines the flow of information. Bosses expect their direct reports to listen to what they have to say, with little opportunity to react or give input. Some leaders argue that this system enhances efficiency. If bosses know the bigger picture, their opinions should have higher credence than those from people lower on the corporate ladder.
However, what usually happens is that workers become less engaged with their work. If they don’t have a voice, why should they spend effort in promoting their ideas? Workers who become more detached from their work are less likely to work as hard.
Positive communication practices that encourage active participation have the opposite effect. By giving employees a voice, they feel a greater sense of accountability. They get to own a piece of their work, so they are more likely to work harder to get better results. These workers are also more likely to go out of their way to suggest improvements or raise points of concern. With ownership acting as a powerful motivator, workers will ultimately do more tasks with better quality.
Another related effect of workplace communication is engagement. Employees need to be engaged with the company and with their role within it so that they can become effective.
Bad communication undermines engagement by making people feel that what they think or do is of little consequence. Furthermore, since only leaders get to have influence, people are less likely to speak their minds. The lower diversity of ideas leads to more errors and less creativity.
Excellent communication can raise levels of engagement significantly. Ever felt being ignored during a conversation? Now imagine a time where you felt that people were taking your ideas seriously. If you can sense the vastly different moods you felt during those two scenarios, then you already know why communication leads to engagement.
Engaged employees tend to have higher levels of motivation. They work harder and persist for longer during hard times. They also believe in the relevance and impact of their voice and their actions.
If your boss tells you to do something without giving enough instructions, how would you feel? The lack of clarity doesn’t only result in higher chances of making a mistake, but it can also demotivate people.
Admittedly, people prefer to take the path of least resistance, especially if there are no consequences involved. In this case, the lack of clarity makes it harder for people to take actions since they need to spend more time and effort in trying to decipher what others want from them. The lack of clarity adds to their burden, which is already high at the start. In many cases, workers respond by deprioritizing the unclear tasks, leading to overall lower levels of productivity.
An immediate effect of positive communication is that it leads to clarity. Excellent communication involves informing workers precisely what the company expects of them. Giving explicit and detailed instructions leaves no room for ambiguity. If you provide clear instructions to your employees, you're assisting them in getting started, which is usually the hardest part of any task.
No one likes to waste time, and yet we all do it anyway. In many instances, we lose time due to external factors. One common culprit is communication that is unclear and confusing.
Have you ever worked on a difficult task, only to find out that what you did was wrong? It can be frustrating to find out that you wasted effort on providing an output that no one will use. Poor communication only encourages events like this since misunderstandings are more likely in this setup.
Another form of wasting time due to poor communication happens during meetings. In many meetings, people have no set agenda, so the discussion goes nowhere. In other times, everyone pushes their own goals and fails to listen to each other. What happens is that arguments arise and the meeting reaches no conclusion before the session ends. Worse, people harbor feelings of hatred against each other after the meeting.
In this case, excellent communication can improve time management by revamping one of the most hated parts of the job: meetings. With positive interactions, people are less likely to waste their time during these sessions. Hence, they become more productive.
The way that people communicate can affect how workers perceive themselves. If bosses talk down to their subordinates, their workers will internalize what they are saying. Repeatedly saying that someone is lazy causes that person to start thinking that they are lazy. Bad communication can weaken one's self-efficacy or inherent belief in their abilities.
Proper communication can help people act with more autonomy. The main reason that this works is that independence ties to self-efficacy. If you believe in your abilities, you are more likely to take on challenging tasks and take charge of your career.
High levels of autonomy can be a big help for companies. Employees actively seek out ways to improve their performance. They require minimal supervision but will seek advice when needed. Leaders can be confident that their workers will finish tasks, no matter what happens.
Communication has two ways of influencing empowerment. First, people respond depending on the tone you use to talk to them. Using language that derides them and makes them feel worthless is the fastest way to demotivate employees.
A similar case happens in parenthood. Often, parents who abuse their children make them apathetic and withdrawn from the world. By repeatedly telling them that they are useless, children internalize this belief start to think that anything they do is worthless.
If you frequently shout at employees or make them feel bad, you need to stop. Some bosses argue that forceful language cements their power over their employees, who become motivated due to fear. In reality, employees who feel that they have no control over their situation disengage from work, possibly leaving the workplace.
The paired concepts of communication and empowerment also apply when employees are the ones talking. Allowing employees to speak their mind works wonders. They become empowered to take action that benefits them and the company. They are more likely to assert themselves, take up more opportunities for development, and push through despite obstacles.
Since communication is tied to power, giving employees more freedom to talk helps distribute power more evenly across the entire workforce. This effect is especially relevant for people from minority groups since they are typically underrepresented both inside the company and in the outside world. By giving them power through communication, the power dynamics change to benefit them more and provide them with higher levels of influence and prestige. Positive communication leads to a more equitable distribution of power and a more empowered workforce.
Information is powerful. Entire industries, such as information technology or consulting, use data as a means of livelihood. Communication, when used appropriately, can open doors to opportunity. An excellent example of this phenomenon is the effect of communication on self-development.
Mentorships are one of the most significant benefits of working. Some argue that having a good mentor brings more significant tangible and intangible rewards than a high salary. Mentors help shape employees to become the best they can be, increasing their performance and elevating their career prospects.
However, mentorships are dependent on communication skills. Even the most talented leaders may not be good mentors if they communicate poorly with their mentees. Mentors need a positive relationship with their employees, one that benefits them both and allows them to learn from each other.
Another way that communication fosters self-development is in the context of language skills. Employees continually expose themselves to their bosses and fellow workers. They will tend to gain the skills that others have around them. If they are surrounded by people who can persuade anyone or use words to inspire action, the chances are that they will adopt some of these skills.
From the previous discussion, it’s already evident that positive communication improves individual productivity. We also wrote a detailed article entitled “25 Factors That Affect Workers Productivity (How do YOU Compete?)” that discusses other ways to improve worker efficiency. For many companies, these effects are a strong enough reason to invest in developing good communication practices. However, the best impacts of positive interaction happen in the context of interpersonal relations, such as those found in teams.
Teams are the lifeblood of any business. Based on the concept of synergy, teams work because the collective output of their members is more significant than their contributions. To simplify, groups allow employees to perform feats that they cannot accomplish alone.
Since most organization roles revolve around teams, focusing on ways to improve teamwork is essential for optimizing performance. Communication influences many aspects of team performance that executives should consider.
Since teams usually handle complex tasks, they need to work together to accomplish their goals. In most setups, large projects are broken up into sections. Each section then gets distributed to each member. Leaders ensure that the workload is assigned based on the competencies of each person. They monitor progress and find ways to improve performance if necessary.
Communication is essential for each step of this process. First, members need to decide how to split up tasks. Each member must understand their role and the expected output that they need to bring. They also need access to the resources they require to finish the job. Any problems in communication can confuse workers, causing redundancies and delays that prolong project completion.
Next, the process of assigning workers to roles assumes that each member has a good understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. These employees should be able to communicate this information to everyone so that they get assigned the parts of the project that they can excel in the most. Otherwise, they may end up with tasks that they aren’t ready to do.
Finally, members should be able to communicate their progress with fellow members. They should be able to raise concerns and notify the team of any problems. Otherwise, the organization becomes vulnerable to setbacks and obstacles that inevitably happen from time to time. The workgroup might be unable to detect a problem until it's too late.
Since communication plays a role in all phases of how a team works, it affects the efficiency of organizations. In the best-performing teams, members regularly communicate with each other. Everyone participates actively in discussions, and they are willing to share ideas, even those that may be critical or otherwise not be received positively.
It used to be the case that communication only occurred in one of two ways: verbally or through written means. Nowadays, technology allows for communication using several types of media, including text messaging, emails, phone calls, or teleconferencing. Each channel has specific use cases, but when considered collectively, they allow communication at almost any time and place.
The advances in communication technology allow teams to try out work schemes that seemed impossible a few decades ago. The rise of virtual offices is a perfect example. Teams may have members who work in different continents. Members might have different time zones. Regardless of these constraints, these teams can still deliver quality output. Hence, an increasing number of companies embrace this work model.
Good communication practices can help increase the flexibility of teams. They allow teams to employ a more diverse group of people since time and location are no longer significant constraints. That said, reduced application of these technologies can severely hamper the performance of these remote teams.
High-performing teams have members that are sufficiently close to each other. They don't have to be best friends with each other; they sometimes don't even have to be friends. However, these members hold a certain level of respect for each other. They recognize that they are all working towards the same set of goals. Hence, they try their best to cooperate for the benefit of the team.
Such high levels of cohesion can take time to develop and may not be achievable for some teams. Communication is a significant factor that dictates whether a team will become cohesive or not. By talking with each other, members get to express their personalities, skills, and goals. Excellent communication allows each member to gain a deeper understanding of each other, increasing the chances of achieving team cohesion.
People are not robots. They need emotional support to perform at their best. Problems in the workplace or struggles at home can impose significant stress on employees. Excessive stress makes workers less efficient at work. Stress also hurts people mentally and physically, and it can result in both physical diseases and mental illnesses.
Workers need support, and most of the support they receive comes from communicating with each other. Perhaps they have a peer who understands what they're going through. Maybe they have an understanding boss who is concerned about their welfare. Communication plays a role in whatever method they use to get support.
Employees need to describe their needs and concerns to others accurately. Their coworkers need to be able to give them support, helping them seek help if necessary. These two needs may be unfulfilled when they are unable to communicate appropriately with each other. Only by being able to express themselves can members give and receive the support they need.
In the corporate world, conflict is inevitable. Even the most agreeable people will undeniably become involved in one form of conflict or another. To manage conflict, corporations rely on two approaches: reducing the frequency and severity of conflict or providing ways to deal with conflict when it does occur.
Conflict is deeply rooted in misunderstanding. When parties fail to see eye to eye, they can have disagreements that can evolve into conflict. Communication can help in this regard by allowing parties to gain a deeper understanding of each other. In many cases, this effect is enough to prevent conflicts from happening and helps deescalate conflict.
The effects of positive communication apply for both individuals and groups. However, limiting the analysis here is incomplete. Good communication practices have effects that apply to corporations themselves. These effects can encompass entire departments and have tangible results on the bottom line.
These organizational effects are strong evidence that communication can be an overwhelmingly positive influence on businesses.
Work culture is a tenuous concept that can be hard to define correctly. An excellent way to measure work culture is to experience it yourself. When you ask an employee about how their work day went, the way they respond tells a lot about the prevailing culture of any organization.
Work culture heavily depends on communication and vice versa. Many organizations impose substantial limitations on the ways that employees can exchange information. For example, companies may actively prevent employees from chatting about topics unrelated to work.
Other organizations have favorable company policies. Some actively encourage employees to spend time getting to know each other. Others provide mechanisms for employees to reach out to anyone in the organization or to submit grievances anonymously.
Organizations that have good policies on communication tend to have better work cultures. The openness fosters an environment of collaboration and creativity. People are more likely to put forward ideas. When they give criticism, they do so in a firm but constructive manner.
Companies perform at their best when they have diverse employees. We wrote an article, "How to Determine Employee Work Styles," which discusses the individual differences present among employees. That said, all the diversity should not be a reason for employees to act in contrary to the organization. Ideally, employees should have the same goals as the company. Only when you have the entire organization pursuing the same goals does productivity happen.
Several factors influence solidarity. For example, hiring practices serve as gatekeepers by filtering the types of people who get to enter the organization. More commonly, the prevailing organization culture shapes employees, hopefully making them more in line with the rest of the company.
Communication serves a vital role in ensuring solidarity. The way that leaders communicate can help inform their subordinates as to what the organization expects of them. Proper communication notifies employees about expectations that others set for them. Hence, positive interactions can help make the organization more cohesive.
The earlier discussions already established the effects of communication on company culture. The organizational culture can make or break the interest of some employees. In the worst-case scenario, employees may leave the company when their personalities don’t match the culture imposed by the organization.
Communication helps reduce this problem in two ways. First, it acts as a signaling mechanism by giving people a glimpse of the organization culture. If people find that they can mesh well with the culture, they will become more motivated to work for the company. If they feel that some minor differences exist, they can take steps to become better aligned with the surrounding culture.
Another way that communication increases employee retention is by facilitating support mechanisms. Communication is a form of bonding that can help people cope with stress. People can deal with stressors if they feel that they are not alone in their struggles. Additionally, people get to receive advice that can help solve their problems or at least reduce their impact.
An advantage of modern communication methods is that they allow for nearly instantaneous transfer of information. As discussed before, communication tools such as teleconferencing enable people to interact with anyone virtually anywhere in the world.
Technology gives companies untold levels of agility, but only for those who know how to use it properly. Incredibly, entire companies work well, even without having a single physical office. To compensate, they use tools that allow teams to work collaboratively, manage projects, and share files easily.
These companies can employ workers who can't be physically present, vastly increasing the number of people they can hire. They have a distinct advantage over their competition that makes them stand out. All this is possible, thanks to excellent workplace communication.
The list of benefits that result from excellent workplace communication can go on and on. Improving the way employees interact is one of the best ways to improve the performance of almost any business. However, the final effect will still vary depending on the particular social dynamics of any corporation.
Hence, leaders should be careful when implementing changes to promote positive communication. Policies that haven't been well-thought-out may do more damage than good. Here are some ways by which you can test out the waters while minimizing any risks.
Make sure that everyone embraces the communication policies that you implement. Most importantly, you should be consistent in how you manage interactions within the company.
Everyone, especially the leaders, should apply changes consistently, allowing the changes to take root in the company culture slowly.
Leaders should apply changes that affect all communication channels, not just the ones that they know the most. To take things to the next level, leaders should even introduce new methods of communication.
Properly utilizing communication options gives people flexibility. They know that no matter what, they will always have a tool that they can use. Applying changes to multiple options also increases consistently, which helps convince more people of their authenticity.
Providing communication options is useless if people don’t even use them. Some employees might be unaware of these options, or they might not understand how to use them. For example, a hotline for anonymous whistle-blowing might remain unused if people don’t even know that such a tool exists.
Executives should publicly announce any planned changes, as well as the presence of existing options. They need to make sure that everyone knows their options. In short, they should encourage all workers to communicate.
Despite the abundance of various communication mediums, some remain superior to others when it comes to information-sharing. Many electronic channels are not information-rich since they are unable to transmit one crucial aspect of communication: non-verbal interactions. Bodily movements, facial expressions, and even language tone are harder to gauge when using electronic mediums.
When it comes to information richness, the best channel is still face-to-face interaction. Make sure to include this channel whenever you want to improve communication in the workplace.
All of the advice in this article will amount to nothing if people do not listen. Unfortunately, many people refuse to do that.
In many cases, silence and reflection are more important than talking all the time. If you can only take away one thing from this article, it's that you should cultivate the skill of listening.
If you want to know how to improve communication practices in your business, listen to other employees. The chances are that they already know what needs to change in the way the company treats communication.
Why do executives often ignore proper communication? Like many soft skills, communication has effects that people may not immediately recognize. Executives prefer specific policies that are easier to understand and have an impact that people feel more immediately. However, this line of thinking is why many organizations neglect communication and other soft skills.
Is there something as too much communication? Definitely. Oversharing information is a waste of resources such as time and energy. People may focus too much on tools like teleconferencing while accomplishing little real work. Additionally, the spread of disinformation is another form of excessive communication that can damage relationships and lead to worse conflict.
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