Effective Communication in the Workplace

The success of any firm, large or small, is based on relationships and the key to any relationship is communication. Even organisational systems, processes and guidelines are ineffective without effective communication. However, numerous employee surveys highlight communication issues as top of the list when it comes to employee complaints writes Andrea Harper

Research in this area also highlights the link between poor communication management and motivation, satisfaction, recognition and the bottom line – profit and success. Therefore, communication and how it is valued and managed can be viewed as an enabler or a disabler; it can be the means to both motivate and demotivate staff, to produce satisfied or dissatisfied staff.

Andrea Harper is senior lecturer in business management at Warrington School of Management

The big question business owners and managers need to ask themselves, is: ‘Do we disable or enable our staff to help make our organisation successful?’

One of the main problems of communication in the workplace is that communication is all too often not managed. Organisational communication, in many firms, tends to be an unconscious concept – yet human resources, marketing, finance and operations are all managed consciously.

They are all important functions in an organisation and time, effort and resources are used to ensure they function effectively. The process of communication in the workplace, however, is often left to its own devises; communication just ‘happens’, it ‘doesn’t need to be managed’.

Therefore, in order to create a more successful business, communication in the workplace needs to be managed consciously. Communication needs to take its place in the hierarchy of organisational functions and processes; it should no longer be the Cinderella of organisational life. Therefore, it needs to be made a central part of organisational strategy and be viewed as pivotal in not only getting things done but getting things done successfully.

How can you be more communication savvy?

  • Recognise the role of effective communication
  • Make it a consciously managed process
  • Lead from the front
  • Evaluate and learn

1. Recognition

Managers, not just top management, but all managers need to see communication for what it is – an enabler, it’s not just a tool to be wheeled out from time to time.

Communication as a concept/process should be embraced and needs to be recognised for its ability to unite a team by creating and maintaining openness; encouraging true involvement of all employees and facilitating cooperation. Informed and motivated employees are ones who will take your organisation to a new level.



2. Conscious management of communication in the workplace

This should naturally follow on from managers’ recognition that communication or, more to the point, effective communication, is an enabler.

If its importance is recognised, managers will naturally start to manage the process consciously. Therefore, put it at the top of your agenda, build strong relationships and encourage your team to do likewise. Create more openness with your communications, e.g. think about the channels of communication you use, could you be more innovative in how you disseminate information?

Could you encourage two-way communication – not just to obtain feedback but to use your staff and their experience, knowledge and skills to get involved, to contribute more?

Employees need to believe that their contribution and ideas are welcome; they could make a difference. Managers should keep asking themselves have I shared ideas sufficiently? Have I included enough/the right people? Have I encouraged contributions? Who have I spoken to today? Did I persuade or did I tell? Has my communication been effective?

3. Lead from the front

When the management of communication starts to become effective, communication in the workplace starts to become effective. It breeds; it spreads. Openness and collaboration become the norm. Furthermore, if communication is valued and takes on a central role in manager’s lives, employees throughout the organisation will also start to embrace the centrality and importance of effective communication – helping to change attitudes.

4. Evaluate and learn

Review and evaluate are well-known manager mantras and many managers have the belief they are ‘good communicators’. The problem lies in the fact this belief isn’t necessarily held by their staff. What are staff saying about the organisation, about you, about the state of communication in your workplace? If you don’t know, find out. This is definitely good practice when an organisation has shifted to new thinking, new ways of doing things.

When all of these elements are pulled together, the organisation should start doing things differently. This will be demonstrated through employee motivation, satisfaction and organisational commitment. Stronger relationships with colleagues will ensue, employees will collaborate and cooperate more readily – they should feel more encouraged to challenge and get involved.

Good managers will want all of these things and, therefore, evaluation is critical to the process. Don’t take for granted that your communication is now effective – effective communication is in the eye of the beholder. Ask, evaluate and learn…and keep doing it.



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