Soft Skill, Solid Foundation: How to Strengthen Communication for Organizational Success
It should be no surprise that 6.1 million job listings on the market today list communication as a required skill for applicants. But what are employers really asking for when they look for recruits with strong communication skills?
Communication is one of the most in-demand soft skills. This is because in today’s market, we usually have people working in many different modalities, with hybrid work becoming more commonplace. Therefore, we need to broaden our communication styles to be efficient and effective across mediums.
Since so much has changed about how we work in just the last few years, it’s crucial that all of us explore ways to strengthen our communication skills. This will help your organization improve in key areas such as diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, work-life balance, culture, and reputation. This blog explores a few simple but highly effective ways you can strengthen communication skills.
Why is Communication Important at Work?
When it comes to achieving professionalism at work, we should all keep in mind that this involves an intentional effort to improve workplace communication through everything we do as leaders. There are endless ways in which we can improve communication skills by leading through example.
Let’s look at some examples of poor and strong communication in the workplace. Being clear with your teams about what is and is not good communication will set standards and help your employees know what areas they need to focus on to strengthen their communication skills.
Let’s look at some communication styles to avoid and discourage:
- Passive aggressive communication – This can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, and low morale. Passive aggressive communication involves using subtlety to convey negative ideas. This style of communication isn’t directly or obviously aggressive or confrontational, but it can have lasting severe impacts on the individual on the receiving end.
- Intimidation – Using intimidation tactics can be considered a form of bullying. This involves putting pressure on others through threats, unhealthy competition, inappropriate speech, and dominating body language.
- Denying responsibility and blaming others – We all make mistakes, but those who refuse to take accountability and instead shuffle their problems onto other people to avoid looking bad create a toxic work environment. This can lead to damaged relationships and ineffective teams.
- Inability to respond to feedback – When employers refuse to really listen to their employees, they risk damaging workplace culture by creating a social dynamic where people don’t feel valued. These employees, in turn, are disengaged in their work. Forty-seven percent of employees working in an environment where they don’t feel respected will intentionally spend less time there. While 38% will deliberately decrease the quality of their work.
So, we can see that poor communication has serious lasting impacts in the workplace. According to communication expert Debra Hamilton, miscommunication can cost a business of 100 employees or less $420,000 per year.
This loss grows exponentially when scaled up. In the US and UK, employee turnover and reduced productivity resulting from poor communication has resulted in a total loss of $37 billion dollars. That said, we can always implement changes to strengthen communication skills.
Here are some communication styles to adopt and encourage:
- Active listening – Practice understanding over hearing by listening with your whole body. When someone says something important, reflect it back to them in your own words to show you are comprehending them or to give them an opportunity to clarify. This involves drawing on empathy.
- Open and respectful body language – Use a neutral tone of voice, non-aggressive eye contact, neutral or friendly facial expressions, and open posture to convey warmth and approachability. Avoid more dominating stances like crossed arms, furrowed eyebrows, or a raised voice.
- Productive feedback – Respectfully summarize and evaluate your employees’ progress by routinely telling them what they’ve done well and giving them tools for improvement. It can also help to use encouraging and positive language when providing constructive feedback on places the employee can grow.
- Mindful communication – Have compassion for the people you’re communicating with while also holding compassion for yourself. Remember that we all endure our own traumas, big and small, and holding space for people to be complicated and imperfect shows respect by recognizing that sometimes people need support rather than corrective measures.
- Inclusive language – Make an effort to use language that is more inclusive for all backgrounds. This will aid in cultivating a culture of respect.
Healthy communication in the workplace can boost employee morale, engagement, retention, productivity, and safety. Communication is crucial in building strong teams that enjoy collaboration and cooperation, leading to increased innovation and a more positive reputation for your organization.
4 Types of Communication
The subject of communication styles is so broad, it can be challenging to break things down into manageable action steps. To help with this, consider the four main types of communication and start to notice how you see these manifesting in your teams. Then, you can use this awareness to guide your employees through practices to strengthen communication skills.
This kind of communication involves planning and using processes to one’s advantage. Functional communicators rely on using details to convey meaning, leaving as little room for subjective interpretation as possible.
If you have functional communicators on your team, try to be concise with them and give them step-by-step processes as their work assignments. They will thrive with this careful attention to detail.
A functional communicator may work in scheduling or processing and have a set workflow with tasks they complete in order. This person appreciates deadlines and data-keeping tools like spreadsheets.
Pros of Functional Communicators: Keen attention to detail, passion for process and organization, works well with timelines and deadlines, asks helpful clarifying questions about projects, and appreciates consistent feedback
Cons of Functional Communicators: Can get overwhelmed when rushed, can feel under-valued if not working with people who appreciate their eye for detail, does not appreciate being handed last-minute or priority tasks without warning, may struggle to communicate with less detail-oriented communicators
Analytical communicators are primarily driven by concrete facts, and these individuals are reliable when it comes to information and figures that will serve as the backbone to a project. People with this communication style appreciate clarity and may misunderstand those with a more emotional communication style.
If you have analytical communicators on your team, you can help them feel valued by inviting them to help launch new projects with research and hard data, by giving them clear expectations, and by allowing them to take an independent approach to solving problems.
There may be a high likelihood that people working as data analysts, researchers, or scientists could use this communication style.
Pros of Analytical Communicators: Provides logical and factual context to questions without involving much emotion which could cloud judgment, can be objective when making decisions, can serve as a knowledge expert, works rigorously and pays attention to detail
Cons of Analytical Communicators: Can get overwhelmed with too many details, won’t thrive in highly social settings, won’t enjoy leading collaborative conversations or creative brainstorming sessions, may not have the best public-facing demeanor since they can come across as callous or abrupt
Personal communication involves using emotions to connect with others. Individuals with this communication style tend to listen well, and they are good judges of character. Often, you’ll notice that these people are the glue that holds a team together, as they have a natural ability to smooth over conflict. These individuals are highly diplomatic and can be great motivators.
If you have personal communicators on your team, try putting them on more creative projects where they’ll be sharing ideas with others, and watch how they will encourage healthy team dynamics through leading by example.
Employees acting as project leaders, team managers, coaches, or consultants may have a tendency toward this style of communication.
Pros of Personal Communicators: Manages teams and tasks well, serves well as leaders who assign roles to team members, loves building synchronous communication, is naturally empathetic and good at expressing emotions, skilled at building healthy relationships and driving passion in others
Cons of Personal Communicators: Can be perceived as overly emotional in the wrong setting, won’t appreciate being on teams where they can’t be themselves, may not do well in roles with too many administrative responsibilities, tend to communicate better face-to-face than via email or in asynchronous settings
Intuitive communication involves looking at the big picture. People who communicate this way are motivated by the end-goal and do a great job providing a sense of purpose and meaning behind complex projects. These people have a learn-by-doing mentality that allows them to try a variety of different methods to reach their goals, which can help inspire action.
If you have intuitive communicators on your team, try to give them autonomy to try new things and work creatively, and avoid micromanaging them or bogging them down with too many details.
You may find intuitive communicators among artists, leaders, and orators.
Pros of Intuitive Communicators: Thinking outside the box, leading and contributing to brainstorming efforts, creative problem-solving, natural ability to challenge the status quo
Cons of Intuitive Communicators: lacking patience required for long projects, can sometimes lose track of details, can struggle to communicate with more logic-driven communicators, can skip important pieces of information if not presented in the right context, can get overwhelmed with details
Each style of communicator has their strengths and weaknesses. In the workplace, you can encourage some crossover between these styles in your teams by promoting training and development around in-demand soft skills in addition to your routine hard skills training.
What Are Your Next Steps?
There are many different ways to improve communication skills that are easy to implement right away. Being aware of the different types of communicators will help you carve out space for everyone’s unique strengths, and help you identify areas for improvement as well.
In this article, we explored why it’s so important to pay close attention to communication in the workplace and how healthy communication will lead to reduced loss and improved culture. Now it’s time to use this information in your own work.
KnowledgeCity has numerous courses about how to improve healthy communication within your organization. We recommend starting with our courses, Communication Best Practices and Communicating in the Workplace. These courses cover communication basics, how to adapt communication between virtual and in-person environments, and how things like gender and bias can impact the way we communicate and understand one another at work.
You’ll also learn the different methods of communication, how to harness the subtle power of language, how to adjust your communication between individuals or with groups, and how to approach difficult conversations.
With these tools, you will quickly start to notice improvements and results in your teams. Remember, communicating with respect will help encourage a healthy foundation on which to build some of the more complex communication skills you need to develop well-connected and effective teams.
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