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Effective communication is essential in the workplace. When you’re not communicating enough, employees are kept in the dark about things they need to change and improve. Likewise, if you fail to encourage open communication your employees may not feel free to come to you with a problem, letting it grow into a wider conflict.
If colleagues are not updated on each other’s progress, they may risk duplicating work or failing to meet deadlines. When different teams within the office don’t communicate with each other regularly, the company as a whole can suffer.
Today, learning how to communicate effectively in the workplace is more important than ever. Millennials want more feedback at work to meet their ambitious professional development goals.
A recent survey from PWC revealed that 41% would rather communicate electronically than face-to-face or over the phone while another 78% said that access to the technology they like to use makes them more productive.
However, with the onslaught of new tech tools that help to meet this generation’s communication demands, we also see sources of tension. Some older generations and less tech-savvy employees can be hesitant to adopt new technology, preferring traditional face-to-face communication.
Although technology can make our lives easier, psychologists have pointed out the limits of non-verbal communication. Body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice are also extremely important for effective communication as they offer more clues into the thoughts and intentions of the speaker.
Creating more open channels of communication is a simple fix that can help you avoid these common pitfalls and encourage inter-generational knowledge sharing.
Here are three ideas to help your company communicate effectively:
1. Google Docs & brainstorming sessions
Google Docs can be a great tool to help you collaborate with multiple co-workers on a project, allowing you to directly read and edit each other’s work. However, nothing beats a good brainstorming session. The beauty of brainstorming is that it allows employees to bounce ideas off each other.
Being able to see an issue from multiple perspectives allows you to come up with a creative solution to a problem. Including everyone in the conceptual process fosters a stronger sense of ownership amongst everyone in the group.
However, one thing to keep in mind is that sometimes you’ll see the same people giving their opinions in brainstorming sessions. Technology can encourage people who may be more likely to stay on the sidelines to voice their opinions after a session.
This is especially true for observation-minded employees who like to listen to different arguments and come up with innovative new solutions after letting ideas simmer.
The unstructured nature of a brainstorming session can also make it easy to drift off-topic. Using a tool like Google Docs can help bring more order to the creative process. During the meeting minutes and learnings can be recorded directly on the meeting agenda for everyone to see in real-time, ensuring important information isn’t forgotten.
After the meeting, a shared Google sheet can help everyone keep on track with the action plan, but also allows for flexibility enabling members of the team to make changes that appear directly on everyone’s sheet.
2. Slack & All-Hands
Millennials have grown up sending short messages and pieces of information by text, Facebook, and Twitter. Slack (or other messaging tools) is a great tool for sending fast messages to individuals or groups of colleagues without disturbing others in the office.
This is especially useful in open-concept offices. It can also help you boost team spirit by updating everyone on achievements within your team. However, it’s imperative that you don’t let technology completely replace office-wide meetings.
Though Slack can be great to get things done amongst a small group of people, there is also not a lot of transparency. Even if each team is on track to accomplish their own goals, with closed communication channels disconnects can grow amongst different groups within the company.
All-Hands is a popular solution that we also use here at BetterUp. Every company that uses this tactic has its own version. Whether someone speaks for one minute or ten, the benefits are greater than you might expect.
All-Hands promote greater transparency amongst your different teams. Even if your marketing and development teams don’t work together on many projects, both must be informed of each other’s progress and new projects being implemented.
You’ll find that this can lead to more cross-team input and spontaneous collaboration. It also provides a forum for team and employee recognition.
Even if not everyone can attend these meetings, technology provides an alternative solution. Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangouts are useful tools to enable the members of your team who are traveling or working remotely to attend meetings virtually.
3. One-on-one meetings and manager relationships
Giving fast and continuous feedback puts the professional development of your employees and managers into high gear. However, to gain the full benefits of continuous feedback it’s essential to build trust.
Building trust requires you to simultaneously create a relationship in which you, your managers, and employees are comfortable giving feedback to each other in person through one-on-ones.
The best managers follow up with their employees after a 360-degree review. This is especially important when an employee has received constructive feedback. Meeting one-on-one allows you to discuss the results, hear their reactions, and develop a plan to integrate this information into their development plan.
At the same time when tensions are high using technology can also be beneficial, allowing employees to regulate their emotions before responding to feedback.
For example, when you want to ask for more information about the constructive feedback you were given but feel your response may be affected by your emotions, writing down your response can help process the information until you have time to speak calmly in person.
This can be particularly helpful when you first begin transitioning to a feedback mindset.
Lauren Kelley, Head of Learning and Development, Google, shares why it's critical to build mental fitness to effectively give feedback around communication. Her work focuses on developing product managers — and why personal and professional development hinges on the ability to communicate well across teams and individuals.
If you're struggling with creating a culture of feedback, BetterUp can help. With guidance from a coach, you can empower your teams to give and receive feedback well. Virtual coaching can help unlock the potential in your workforce.
Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.