According to industry research, poor communication in the workplace now costs business leaders a staggering $37 billion in lost productivity, with average losses topping $62 million per year.
Have you noticed a disconnect at your own office? When messages get lost and collaboration suffers, it doesn’t take long before the entire enterprise becomes affected.
The good news? It’s possible to turn the tide.
Today, we’re sharing three ways to reverse this poor communication cost, creating dynamic and collaborative workplaces that drive profit and improve morale.
Ready to learn more? Let’s go!
1. Understand the Bigger Issue
It shouldn’t take jaw-dropping communication statistics to catalyze action. Don’t wait until an employee comes to you with a complaint, a deadline goes unmet, or a deliverable misses the mark.
It’s easy to blame miscommunication when we notice a glaring issue. From there, we work overtime to correct the mishap. We schedule more frequent meetings, send more emails and overload our employees with an even greater number of checkpoints.
The problem? In most cases, access to information isn’t the problem. When you assume that it is, you tackle the wrong pain point.
Instead, take a look at your employee structure. Is everyone aware of their roles and limitations? Do they know what they can and cannot do?
Establishing Employee Knowledge
For small-to-midsized companies, those may be easy questions to answer. However, when larger enterprises assume that their entire workforce possesses this level of understanding, they set themselves up for disaster.
That said, before you install new programs and implement new procedures, make sure you understand what’s really behind your communication issues at work. Start by asking these three questions:
- Are all job responsibilities posted and clear?
- Do all workers have access to the data and documents they need and know how to find them?
- Does our organization have steps in place to help employees find guidance when they need it?
2. Create Open Channels of Dialogue
You assess your internal structure and find that it’s sound. So, it isn’t that your employees don’t know what to do or where to turn for help.
Could it be that they don’t feel comfortable doing so?
If your workplace culture is designed in such a way that workers are unable or afraid to speak their mind, that breakdown can lead to confusion, along with resentment.
Across most industries, workplace communication falls into one of two categories:
Transactional communication serves a quick, short-term purpose. For example, you may ask a co-worker to send you an email with the latest meeting minutes. That takes two seconds.
On the other hand, relational communication sparks insight. In this case, you don’t ask for the minutes, but you sit down with your co-worker and ask him to explain a difficult concept brought up at the meeting.
One way to get the most out of every relational conversation? Use open language.
The Importance of Open Language
In short, an open question is one the other party can’t answer with a simple “yes” or “no” response. Rather, it forces them to elaborate. Most open questions begin with one of the following:
When you ask questions like these, it demonstrates that you value the response. You’re invested in the answer and want to learn as much as possible from it.
Supervisors and managers can use open questions during employee reviews to encourage more meaningful feedback, which can then help break down communication barriers between departments. The next time you have a meeting, shake up the status quo by asking, “How can I help you meet your goals for this quarter?”
This opens up the floor for the employee to share issues and concerns that you may otherwise have missed if you’d asked, “Are you on track to meet your goals this quarter?”
Separating Fact from Opinion
In addition to practicing open communication, be wary about intermixing fact-based statements and opinions.
For instance, facts include, “Jim joined the conference call late this morning” or “Jim didn’t speak on the call.” An opinion from there is “Jim doesn’t care about this project.”
When you confuse these two categories, it’s easy to make assumptions and lose track of what’s going on. Instead, approach Jim with a statement such as “When you joined the conference call late and didn’t speak, it made me feel like you weren’t invested in this project. What’s going on?
From there, Jim can explain his side of the story without going straight into a defensive mode.
3. Stop Talking and Listen
Dealing with poor communication in the workplace? Stop trying to fill the silence.
Instead, sit back and notice what your employees are telling you. Yes, we’re a workforce that’s busier and more stressed than ever before. Still, when you’re only half-listening to someone, they feel it and may hold back.
Take a note from businessman and educator Stephen Covey and ask yourself these poignant questions:
Am I listening to understand? Or, am I listening to reply?
If you’re always on the edge of your seat, ready to rattle off a response before the other person finishes their sentence, this is where communication breakdowns begin.
Even if the conversation is relational in nature, it becomes transactional when we fail to practice active listening. The next time an employee approaches you to talk, don’t nod your head and keep checking emails.
Instead, give that person your full attention. Then, ask pointed follow-up questions that show you took in every word. This demonstrates your concern and helps pave the way toward more effective and actionable conversations.
Reverse Your Poor Communication Cost Today
It’s no secret that the American workplace is more connected now than ever before. Whether we’re on our smart devices or face-to-face in a conference room, we’re talking to each other at an unparalleled rate.
Yet, more voices don’t always equal more productivity.
If your poor communication cost is weighing you down, it’s time to make a change. The above practices can help you get back on track. Once you know what’s causing the breakdown, address it with open communication and meaningful listening.
Want to transform the way your organization communicates, both with in-house teams and external partners and clients? We can help.
The Ecrion platform includes robust customer communications management software designed to help you develop and distribute clear and consistent documentation that gets your message across the first time.
Contact us today to learn more and never miss an opportunity to connect.