Why effective communication is so important in the workplace.
If you have worked with us or have been following us for any amount of time, you probably know the level of importance we place on communication. We have built it into our partnerships with clients, our interactive trainings, our blog and social media posts, as well as the mission, vision, and values of our business. While we feel strongly about communication as a best practice, not everyone is as excited about it as we are. It can be scary and uncomfortable, especially those tough conversations. Take a few minutes to learn more about effective communication and how you can build it into your organization.
“If communication is not your top priority, all of your other priorities are at risk.”
Bob Aronson, Communications Consultant
Can I have the definition, please?
Noah Webster, of Merriam-Webster fame, defines communication as, ‘a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior’. Add the adjective ‘effective’ which means, ‘successful in producing a desired or intended result’, and you are on your way to a healthy workplace.
Risky, you say?
Can you hear me now? Radio silence. Ghosted. That's not what I said. These phrases all refer to some form of communication or lack of communication in most cases. Replacing these ineffective and potentially risky words with statements like I heard what you said and I understand; I’m checking in with you to see how you are doing; Thank you for including me in the conversation.
Silence, assumptions, and interpretations do not register the same way with everyone. In the workplace, if you were to make a decision based on an assumption of a situation without having communication, you run the risk of a lawsuit or discrimination claim. For example, you have an employee who has started missing quite a bit of work, and when they are at work their performance is sub-par. The employee tells their manager they have been struggling with a mental illness, but the company decides to proceed with termination due to attendance and performance issues. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), covered employers are required to go through the Interactive Process and provide reasonable accommodation to the employee. This is a situation where communication could have avoided any potential risks.
So, I’m confused!
Communication, in order to be effective, has to be clear and ongoing. An employee spending an unnecessary amount of time on figuring what is expected of them and how to perform their job is unproductive, costly, and frustrating. Say you have an employee show up for their annual performance review and they are shocked by their low rating and the manager’s feedback. Previous to the meeting, the employee had received no indication that they were not doing their job well, or that there were actual performance targets they were expected to meet. What do you think the outcome of that meeting will be? The employee quietly goes back to their work to improve on their performance? Or the employee boldly announces their dissatisfaction with the company to everyone in earshot as they head for the front door? If we rewind a year and have the employee set goals and complete a self-evaluation, provide them with clearly defined performance metrics, and have them meet with their manager on a regular basis to receive feedback, this scenario would have played out differently.
What can we do?
From the first moment you reach out to a prospective candidate, open and clear communication should be the standard. This sets the precedence throughout the employee’s lifecycle with you. Even the candidates you pass on will be more likely to respect you and your organization's reputation. These are other areas where communication is vital:
Your current employees - they should be the #1 priority
Your Mission, Vision, Values, Culture, and DE&I - communication strategy should be apparate and consistent throughout
Job descriptions and postings - setting expectations from the beginning eliminates confusion down the road
Interviews - hiring mistakes can be costly
Onboarding - the who, what, when, where, and how of their first day, first week, first month, etc.
Policies, procedures, and employee handbook
Disability accommodations - do you have the equipment, tools, or other resources to accommodate employees/candidates with disabilities
There’s nothing that would make us happier than to see how you put some of these ideas mentioned into practice. Need some support with your communication strategy, we can help. Don't forget about our interactive training on this topic. May 26, 11:00 MDT