If communication feels a bit like this at work sometimes then you are not alone!
Hearing others accurately and in turn getting your meaning across can sometimes feel like you’re running in circles. Yet, good communication is so important as it is a sign of a high-performing workplace. Meaning, that if employers and employees don’t know what each other are saying or aren’t speaking up, then workplace performance is suffering. Take, for example, the US$125 million Mars Orbiter that was launched and never seen again… purely because the two engineering teams didn’t communicate well enough, so one of them used the metric system of measurement, and the other used imperial. Because of this, the spacecraft ended up burning up in Mars’ atmosphere after it departed from its intended course...
What a muck upright? Yet miscommunication in the workplace is often seen in the form of misunderstandings, unproductive conflict, disengaged employees, and low team collaboration, all of which are costly to the company both in the short and long term (albeit usually less than US$125 million, thank goodness!). On the other hand, a workplace that is communicating can develop trust, team spirit, and achieve company goals together. There is also higher job satisfaction and lower employee turnover, both of which help to save you money and grow your company.
So, we all know that excellent communication is essential, but how can you improve communication in your workplace? Our best advice is to communicate in a variety of ways continuously and to remember that communication is a two-way street.
Because people learn in different ways, communicating in ways that they can hear and learn best is vital. If you know most of your employees learn best by reading, having an hour-long meeting where you verbally tell them isn’t going to sink in as well. If your interested in learning more about communication styles, one we find interesting is Dot Communication.
Its also vitally important to remember that communication is a two-way street; feedback from your employees is as important as you giving feedback to them (if not more so!). The biggest tip here…Listen. When employees don’t feel heard, after a while, they stop sharing their ideas. When this happens, you end up with group-think as well as disengagement, which is usually followed by resentment and slacking off. Be quiet, be present, give them your full attention, and then repeat back to them what you understood (sometimes what we hear and what was said aren’t the same thing!). “What I’m hearing is… is that right?”. Listening well helps to minimise misunderstandings and gives space for employees to have their say.
There are lots of ways to make sure your employees are heard, and the use of a variety of these works best to make sure you don’t miss anyone (like the people who need some time to think before they give you an answer!).
One of our favourites are here at Livewire HR is regular check-ins which are schedules in sessions with your employees to discuss their progress, hear their ideas, and open a two-way conversation between you. These don’t have to be long, and they can be formal (like a performance review) or informal (like a quick catch up over coffee).
Another of our favourites is an engagement survey, which is a specially designed group of questions answered anonymously that give employees the space to provide their employer feedback on their experience of the workplace. It allows you to see where your workplace strengths and weaknesses are, as well as how engaged your staff are at work. For example, you will be able to see if your staff are aware of your organisational goals, how they view health and safety, if they are happy with their work environment, or if they feel management is clearly communicating with them. It allows you to see what areas need to be improved and what you are succeeding at; information that is even more impacting when gathered yearly to see your growth!
Let your team know when they have done well and give constructive feedback when something needs improving. My biggest tip for providing constructive feedback is to ask what happened. “I noticed that the invoices were done a couple days late this month, what happened there?” Then listen. Listening and understanding go a long way to building trust and having a productive outcome. By giving feedback in this way, you are also role-modelling how you would like your employees to provide feedback to you: in an understanding and constructive way.
If you are interested in improving communication in your workplace, then why not give us a call to talk over your ideas? Our team love supporting people to become better employers and helping businesses to become great places to work. We also offer free consultations, so why not? 0800 HR LIVE. Or, check out our website: www.livewirehr.co.nz.