Workplace Communication: It’s Now More Important Than Ever
Workplace communication is one of the most important aspects of a thriving business. The recent change to primarily virtual work across numerous industries has redefined the function and form of workplace communication.
What we will cover:
- The Definition of Workplace Communication
- What Do We Mean by Effective Workplace Communication?
- How Do You Quantify and Qualify Effective Workplace Communication?
- How Important is Workplace Communication?
- Improving Communication in the Workplace
- The Return on Investment of Excellent Workplace Communication
Workplace communication is much more than conversations. It is all about the exchange of information through multiple different mediums. Employees share ideas and businesses communicate strategies and goals through communication, both formal and informal.
According to a Workforce poll, approximately 60% of companies do not have a long-term strategy for their internal communications. Reviewing and updating a business’s communications strategy will define the direction and emphasis for idea creation and sharing that will drive the future of the business.
Workplace communication is the means by which employees exchange information and ideas. Communicating effectively is a critical aspect of getting any job done, whether it occurs in-person or virtually.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a significant disruptor to everyday business and global communications. At this point in time, approximately half of the United States workforce is working from home according to US Labor Department statistics. For the meantime, this trend seems like it will be staying around for a while. There is little promise that normal, in-person work models will return this year or even into 2021.
Numerous corporations and businesses have pledged to remain in work-from-home models for a full twelve months to avoid the risk that COVID-19 presents. As these businesses manage the transition from in-person business to virtual business, more than ever they will need to focus on managing virtual workplace communications.
What Do We Mean by Effective Workplace Communication?
Organizations share information and ideas differently. New communication tools like Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Jell, and Twist streamline messaging across organizations, amongst teams, and between individuals. But what makes the messages sent on these platforms effective or not?
Effective communication is a two-way street. Establishing context as the sender, and choosing the proper medium or channel can be critical.
Effective communication should always have a context that forms the setting and necessity for the statement, idea, or question being shared. Setting includes any external circumstances like urgency, opinions, or culture.
A clear context leads to a clear message. Quantified Communications, a business communications advisory firm, found that businesses with approximately 100 employees spend on average 17 hours a week clarifying unclear messages. This translates to an annual cost of approximately $525,000 in lost productivity.
The sender is another important aspect of effective communications. Messages are written based primarily on the medium that they travel through. Verbal communication is easy, we encode our verbal communication in whatever language we speak.
Some encoding can be difficult though, not everyone can code in HTML or speak sign language, much less put together a compelling PowerPoint presentation. It’s the sender’s responsibility to encode the information or idea that they are trying to share so that it can be received.
The medium, or channel, is how the message is communicated, for example verbally, electronically, or on paper. Technology has drastically improved the mediums that we have to communicate across a workplace. Communication channels in this day and age enable us to be constantly connected to each other. Within reason, you can get ahold of just about anyone at any time.
Maximizing connectivity is one of the primary goals of any communication medium. According to the McKinsey Company advisory firm, employee productivity increases 20-25% in organizations where employees are highly connected. Connectivity requires high performing platforms to facilitate idea sharing and conversations. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the number of businesses investing in communication technology and stronger mediums for conveying information.
The final element to effective communication is the receiver. Receivers decode messages using context and observation to interpret information and create their own thoughts. Receivers provide feedback when they receive information, to confirm both receipt and understanding.
Sifting through data and information can be one of the most difficult aspects of being a receiver. Workplace communication studies by SaneBox have shown that 62% of the emails received by employees are not important. When software company Adobe surveyed over 1,000 Americans working in offices, they found that workers on average spent more than five hours a day checking and answering emails.
Luckily, there are numerous technology solutions entering the market that offer stronger communication platforms than email-based communications. Communication companies like Dynamic Signal are improving the way that receivers view and analyze the communications they receive.
How Do You Quantify and Qualify Effective Workplace Communication?
Once business leaders realize the importance of effective workplace communication, the next natural question that they typically ask is: How do we determine if we are communicating effectively across our organization?
Quantifying and qualifying workplace communication can be difficult for businesses with employees working virtually. Without a physical representation of communication channels and networks, employees often forget who they are supposed to be communicating with on a daily basis.
Virtual communication tools and applications like those created by Dynamic Signal bring a workforce together by facilitating the number of connections. Every workplace is different, but across a business functional area or an organization, everyone should be able to connect with each other.
Communication between two or more people happens across a channel. The Communications Management section of the Project Management Book of Knowledge, written by the Project Management Institute, defines communication management as: the key to project control, communications management provides the vital project integrity required to provide an information lifeline among all members of the project team.
Brightview Senior Living is one organization with a lot at stake in relation to communications management. Brightview is a senior living business that manages over 4,600 associates across multiple states who all provide assisted living care to senior citizens.
Brightview provides necessary and sometimes emergency care to thousands of senior citizens. Because of the wide expanse of their business and the high stakes of communication breakdown, Brightview Senior Living developed a communication system called BVLink with Dynamic Signal.
BVLink is a platform that allows Brightview to provide real-time communication from executive leaders directly to associates. This level of information flow keeps everyone across the business informed, safe, and inspired to provide the very best care to their senior citizens.
The technical challenges of implementing a system to communicate across a 4,600-member decentralized business were significant for Brightview. The system had to manage over 10,000 lines of communication across the workforce.
To develop the best system, Dynamic Signal helped Brightview focus on what amounted to quality workplace communication for the business. Quality communication is based on numerous characteristics, most important of which for Brightview Senior Living were clarity, ease of understanding, and information density.
Over the last 20 years, time spent on workplace collaboration and communication has increased by 50% or more. The increase in quantity of communication must be paired with quality communication in order to be effective. This key tradeoff between information quantity and quality is very important to Dynamic Signal. Dynamic Signal works very closely with its clients to develop a communication platform where employees are consistently better off from the information and messaging that they receive from their employer.
How Important is Communication for your Company?
Data has shown that employees with functioning communication networks in a work-from-home setting are more productive, have greater work-life balance, and have overall better mental health. Proper workplace communication increases productivity and creativity, and there are multiple reasons why a comprehensive communications management plan should be a part of corporate and business strategy.
First and foremost, effective workplace communication builds and maintains relationships across an organization. Relationships are managed on the key interactions that take place every day. Virtual, work-from-home models have created a significant challenge for businesses in managing and building the relationships between their employees.
The challenge of building relationships through virtual communication is often most evident during new employee onboarding. Despite the economic freeze on new employment that occurred March through May of 2020, businesses are hiring again and bringing on new employees virtually to their team.
The first few weeks at a business are critical for building a new employee’s expectations and understandings of the work environment and goals of an organization. Even businesses that had perfected the in-person employee onboarding experience struggled to bring new hires into the culture and organization virtually.
Effective workplace communication systems and models are key to solving the difficulties of virtual onboarding. Dynamic Signal has helped companies tackle this problem by creating an immersive platform and tiered engagement plans to onboard employees in a welcoming and gradual nature.
Innovation also strives on effective communication. According to a Salesforce poll, 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration due to ineffective communication as the main cause for project and product failures across industries. There are numerous collaboration tools that a company can utilize to improve innovation.
The very first thing that companies have to ensure that they get right is providing employees with an information rich environment to develop their ideas and innovations. Collaboration takes place across business organizations and also between individuals. According to the HR Technologist site, 39% of surveyed employees believed that people in their own organization don’t collaborate enough.
Collaboration, and effective communication in general, helps businesses solve problems and survive the difficult times within the business. During times of hardship, effective workplace environments help employees rally around their business leaders.
Improving Communication in the Workplace
Businesses must identify the cultural and environmental needs of their employees in order to improve workplace communication and to better achieve strategic goals. Effective workplace communication often starts with company leadership. As discovered in an HR Technologist study, 57% of employees surveyed reported not being given clear direction and 69% of managers reported not being comfortable communicating with their employees in general.
Establishing formal and informal communication channels is one of the best ways for a business to improve their workplace communication. Businesses can improve the quality of their communications by empowering managers to communicate effectively and upfront. Formal workplace communication channels are often the best route for managers to convey important company goals and initiatives.
Informal workplace communication channels are also vitally important for daily business operations. Senior management often ignores informal channels in their communications. management plans, but these channels are how 90% of business communication is conducted. New communication platforms like those created by Dynamic Signal are highly effective solutions for facilitating effective informal communication between employees and management.
Informal communication channels are also where businesses need to ensure that there is proper adherence to the company’s ethics and values. General principles of ethical communication are truthfulness, accuracy, honesty, and reason. Every company should have its own specific guidelines for what constitutes acceptable behavior and communication in the workplace.
The Return on Investment for your Company
Return on investment is a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or its ability to create qualified positive returns. Management should look at workplace communication as a performance investment, and consistently assess whether their investments into it are paying off.
The cost of poor workplace communication is well documented. David Grossman reported in “The Cost of Poor Communications” that a survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees each cited an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year because of inadequate communication to and between employees.
Businesses that invest in workplace communication effectively often see dividends in their bottom line. According to a report by global risk-management and advisory company Willis Tower Watson, companies with effective communication practices generate 47% higher total returns to shareholders compared to organizations with poor communication.
The intangible benefits to investing in and establishing effective workplace communication can even outweigh the tangible benefits for the long-term strength of a business. Effective communication leads to a healthier work culture and satisfied employees who deliver their best level of work and stick around longer with a business. Employees spend 40% of their lives at work, so it is important that they can effectively communicate while they are there.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated for many businesses, within 24 hours the entire nature and physical location of the workforce could go through a drastic change, like transitioning to work-from-home employment. Businesses with strong communication networks and engaged management will be the best suited to react to future challenges.