Here’s an idea we can all get behind: in an ideal workplace, communication between employees would be open, friendly, and professional. Projects would get completed successfully and on time since all key players would be fully informed of their roles and responsibilities. Questions would be asked freely and answered clearly in a timely manner. All of the cogs would run smoothly like impeccable clockwork.
Unfortunately, the majority of workplaces do not operate quite that smoothly. Misunderstandings, arguments, and missed deadlines all add up to quite a bit of stress for everyone involved. But the ideal is worth striving for, right? So how can you improve communication and get your team to act like… well, a team?
Though we can’t promise too much, this post will help your team reach that magical communication nirvana. Take a look at these 15 communication strategies that you can begin using now.
1. Have An Open-Door Policy. It Builds Trust.
An open-door policy in place sets the precedent that anyone can ask questions, voice concerns, and pitch ideas at any time. This is an important part of building trust within your team. Making management inaccessible sends the message to lower-level employees that they are not as valuable. Keeping the doors of communication open is crucial.
While you’re opening figurative doors, open literal ones as well. Removing physical obstacles between employees creates a sense of mutual trust and encourages the open exchange of ideas. Problems can be presented and resolved as they arise instead of waiting for the weekly company meeting.
2. Be Open to Reciprocal Feedback
Constructive criticism is meant to be just that – constructive. In order to get the most out of feedback, it is important that it be clear to all parties involved. A simple “fix this” in response to a submitted project isn’t helpful to anyone. To be effective, feedback needs to be clear and detailed. Bonus points if it’s documented publicly (and respectfully) so that everyone else can learn from it as well. And don’t forget to accept feedback, too! No one is perfect, so we all need a little constructive criticism now and again.
3. Be Clear about Tasks So Everyone’s Knows Their Responsibility
No one can effectively complete an assignment if they are unsure what tasks they are responsible for. Make sure that the entire team knows the scope of the project and that each team member is clear about exactly what is expected of them. Getting the team together regularly to check progress, ask questions, and address any issues is another good way to keep everyone on track and assure that all team members are aware of their responsibilities in the project.
4. Do Fun Stuff To Boost Morale
Team-building exercises have long been used to improve communication among team members. But rather than role-playing or any of those other workplace activities that no one actually likes, get the group together and play cards (without gambling, of course). Host an after-work pizza party once a month. Put a few board games in the break room.
One activity that is fun, informal, and encourages teamwork is an escape room. Many cities have these and some even offer a discount for work groups. When co-workers are comfortable around each other, they naturally communicate better. The feeling of having a “work family” makes most people want to work harder toward a common goal and builds a strong sense of reciprocity.
5. Give Purpose To Coffee Breaks
Keeping in the spirit of team-building, a set coffee break for all employees together allows everyone to interact informally while still in the workplace. Coffee is the fuel that gets most people through the day, so why not make drinking it enjoyable and productive at the same time? Research shows that conversation over coffee, work-related or not, promotes healthy communication among co-workers and encourages the exchanging of ideas.
6. Communications Training Will Reset Your Team
Yes, that is a real thing, and it can be highly effective at improving group communication. Communications training doesn’t just cover basic conversational skills. Depending on the course, it could include presentation skills, instruction on business writing, and managerial skills training. These courses can be costly, but the benefit far outweighs the cost when your team is functioning like a well-oiled machine.
7. Decide What Form of Communication Works Best
Different situations require different ways of communication. For a project involving team members working remotely, a video conference is an excellent way for everyone to keep in contact about progress and milestones. For in-house projects, face-to-face meetings are often the best method of communication. Email has been a popular form of contact in the past few decades, but it can be inefficient and unreliable. Emails can get lost in cyberspace, sent to a junk folder, or overlooked in a crowded inbox.
8. Utilize Project Management Software For More Transparency
These days it seems as though everyone is turning to cloud-based storage and software, and for good reason. Cloud-based project management software allows for transparency across the board, giving team members the ability to track their progress, collaborate with other members, and check details and due dates. With one streamlined system, everyone has access to the specifics of the project and the ability to leave comments for others to see.
9. Identify Group Leaders…And Support Them
With most projects, there is a main leader and several mid-level leaders that take charge of smaller groups. Making it clear from the start who those leaders are makes it easier for team members to know who to go to in the event of a problem or question. Delegating roles to others distributes the work more evenly among the leaders and reduces stress on individual team members.
10. Understand Diversity Issues
When people of all nationalities, races, ideologies, and languages collaborate, unique ideas come together to create something truly special. But diversity isn’t without its challenges. Accents, nuances, dialects, and cultural colloquialisms can make clear communication difficult at times. To combat these difficulties, team leaders first need to recognize that the problem is indeed a problem. Sweeping these kinds of issues under the rug, although they may be uncomfortable to address for some, doesn’t help anyone. Make it a point to be open with your team members about the problem at hand and discuss ways to overcome the obstacles present.
11. Point Out Individual Strengths And Use Them Well
Keep in mind that not everyone prefers to communicate in the same ways. Visual people tend to prefer written forms of communication (email or cloud-based software) while auditory people benefit more from a phone call, a video chat, or face-to-face meetings. Realizing that everyone is different not only allows for better communication, it sends the message to your team members that you value them as individuals and recognize which form of communication works best for them. A team member who feels valued is a team member willing to go above and beyond for the company.
12. Be open and honest with your team members
Possibly the single most effective way to improve interpersonal communication in the workplace is to instill a sense of trust among your team members. Transparency is key here; if team members feel like secrets are being kept from them, any trust you have built goes right out the window. Of course, sensitive information should be handled as such, but team members have a right to know when they are not privy to such information. Be open and honest with your team members, and reassure them that they can do the same with you. Mutual trust is important in any relationship, including a professional one.
13. Take Advantage of Mobile
These days, nearly everyone has a smartphone or other smart mobile device. The need to have information instantly available is something we are all familiar with. So why not take advantage of the many opportunities granted to us by technological advancement? Certain project management software solutions may offer a mobile app for team members to stay on top of project developments on the go. For those behind on the times, a good old-fashioned text message is a quick and easy way to get in contact.
14. Make A Survey. Make It Anonymous
In many workplaces, it can be difficult for team members to be candid and honest ALL the time. To truly understand the needs and concerns of your fellow employees, consider issuing an anonymous survey. Address any concerns you are aware of and invite your associates to voice their opinions on how to deal with general situations and to bring up any issues you may not know about. People are more likely to be honest if they know their opinions are anonymous.
15. Take Ownership For Mistakes
The best managers are the managers that can relate to their employees. That includes owning up to the decisions (and errors) that you make and admitting when you could have done something differently. Everyone makes mistakes, so by confessing your flaws, you are showing your employees that you are just as human as they are.
By utilizing some (or all) of these tips, you can bring your team together, improve communication, and generally make the workplace a more enjoyable and stress-free place to be. These factors lead to an improvement in project quality, better control over the budget and increased satisfaction from clients. When the workplace becomes a second home and co-workers become a second family, that cohesiveness translates to your team being at its most productive.