Miscommunication or lack of communication is often a big problem at work. But with a hybrid plan that uses social technology and in-person interaction, improving communication in the workplace can be much easier than you think.
Technology has been a game changer in the business world, and its prevalence in our personal lives has made it near essential. The pros and cons of technology can be argued ad nauseam, but the reality is that it’s here to stay, no matter how you feel about it. This applies especially to social technology, which is essentially any type of technology that facilitates social interactions and communications.
Most businesses have jumped on the bandwagon. A McKinsey Global Institute study reports 72% of companies are using it. And even if they aren’t, it’s likely their employees are. Whether it’s instant messaging, Facebook groups, or other technology, employees find ways to communicate with one another on their own. If the company isn’t involved in this communication, it creates a gap between the company and its employees.
When it comes to improving communication in the workplace, how do you ensure employees are receiving important information and building connections while navigating the complexities that come with using technology? The answer: Acknowledge technology’s place in your business and implement a plan to blend social technology with in-person interactions.
Areas for Improving Communication in the Workplace
To successfully improve workplace communications, employers must assess their strengths and weaknesses in the following four areas. From there, they must decide how to carry out new changes for improvement, whether they be tech-based or focused on collaborative face-to-face connections.
1. Boost internal communications.
Your internal communications are your company’s primary way of sharing information with employees. For that reason, a review of your company’s internal communications is the best place to start when determining their effectiveness.
Take a moment to measure. Determine how often you’re communicating and what kind of information you’re communicating. Look through the relevant metrics for an overall glimpse at how employees are engaging with your internal communications. If you find your measurements are low, try using a content strategy to refresh your communications and make them more engaging.
2. Encourage collaboration.
We’re not just talking about meetings when we talk about collaboration. Employers should be facilitating an environment where collaboration is authentic and built around trust and respect.
Social technology comes in handy again in this aspect. The McKinsey study emphasizes that two-thirds of the value of social technology “lies in improving collaboration and communication within and across enterprises,” with added benefits coming from social technology’s ability to provide ”faster, more efficient, more effective collaboration.”
With social technology, employers can create groups for employees to connect and chat. Employees are much more likely to have stronger relationships with one another if they can bond over a shared interest or hobby, a similar career position, and so forth.
However, even with all the useful features social technology provides, the strongest connections are formed by in-person interactions. Team-building activities that give employees a time and place to socialize help build familiarity and camaraderie.
And, yes, meetings are important. Social technology can facilitate meetings by allowing remote workers to join through video chat tools, giving them literal “face time” with their colleagues. Additionally, surveys can be sent out through these tools before and after meetings to collect feedback.
Ultimately, however, the value of collaboration depends on participation. Both employees, leaders, and even executives should be part of the conversation.
3. Insert leaders in the conversation.
We’ve talked about how building trust is essential to communication. But where does trust come from? For an employee, it means feeling like a valued member of the team. If a company is committed to improving communication, they should demonstrate this by ensuring that those at the C-suite levels are actively communicating their views and goals.
While it may not be feasible for executives and top leaders to meet with every employee or attend every company meeting, they should still be expected to attend monthly or quarterly meetings. And just attending isn’t enough—they need to be giving their insight and feedback, and it needs to be honest and open.
If employees feel that those at the top are both sharing opinions and listening to feedback, then they are more likely to feel confident, valued, and respected.
On the tier below, managers need to examine the ways they can improve communications with their employees. You may assume employees are more worried about communicating with their supervisors, but the anxiety is actually a shared one. An Interact survey conducted online by Harris Poll reported that 69% of managers say they’re uncomfortable communicating with employees.
This anxiety can be alleviated by scheduling one-on-one meetings with employees, ideally on a weekly basis. Even if it makes managers nervous, they need to be able to talk about work issues that arise, give and receive feedback, and take time to connect personally with their employees. While managers and employees may never be best friends, it is possible for both parties to relax and find common ground to build a better relationship and better communication.
4. Prioritize (and use!) employee feedback.
The real bread and butter of communicating is feedback. A one-sided conversation goes nowhere and produces nothing. For communication to work, everyone needs to have a voice.
Here’s where collecting feedback becomes a priority. It’s another place where you can blend your methods. Social technology can be used to send out surveys and ask questions, allowing for confidentiality and more honest opinions. In-person meetings where everyone participates and provides feedback are also useful for finding out employees’ wants, needs, and experiences.
But just collecting information isn’t enough. All employee feedback has value and should be given appropriate consideration. If an idea seems worthwhile, especially if multiple employees bring it up, then leaders need to evaluate how to actually put it into action.
Improving communication means that it must be reciprocal. Just as employees have their own evaluations and listen to feedback on their work, leaders and executives should not only be prepared but open to feedback themselves.
Open is the key word here. Successful workplace communication is based on everyone–from employees to executives–having the knowledge, confidence, and opportunity to share information.