Workplace communication is something that many organizations pay lip service too but that few rarely give the attention it deserves. There is a tendency among many supervisors and owners to think that communication should only flow one way, from the top down. A top-down approach might work for a while but in the end, it is likely to result in disaster, as you may be unaware of brewing problems or issues with your employees or customers until the situation has bloomed into a full-blown crisis. A healthy organization will make sure that communication is a two-way street and flows as easily from the bottom up as it does from the top down. There are two major forms of communication, verbal and non-verbal and it is good to give equal weight to both of these forms if you want to avoid future problems.
Verbal communication can include anything from water cooler talk in the hallway outside of your office to formal speeches, webinars, and presentations that may be viewed remotely by hundreds or thousands of employees. The key with all verbal communication is consistency, as the CEO you should decide what message you wish to convey and then stick with it regardless. You may think that a chat in the hallway with subordinates is harmless but if you are complaining about another employee or customer don’t be surprised if your views end up widely communicated throughout the company and come back to haunt you in the future. Regardless of where you are in the workplace you always, have to be “on” as the leader of the organization. Employees will be quick to catch on if your more private words and actions do not match what you are saying publicly, and this can have an impact on employee morale and productivity. At the same time, you must let it be known that you have an open door to listen to employee concerns and new ideas. A staff that feels they are not being heard or listened too are likely to suffer from diminished morale, which, in turn, can hurt the bottom line of your business. Be an active listener, encourage new ideas and give them a fair hearing if the answer has to be ‘no‘ then it is in your own best interests to explain to the employee why the answer is ‘no‘ or at least ‘not now‘.
Non-verbal (not spoken) communication is equally important; everything from your emails and memos to your body language needs to convey the same message of openness and responsiveness. Be careful to choose your words wisely when you respond to employee concerns, something as simple as the font size and color choices could convey the impression you are angry or irritated. If something has irked you, it is better to write something out and then let it sit for a day or two, don’t rush to send it out to all employees. Review it once you have had a chance to cool down and see if it accurately portrays the message you want to send. If you run a larger organization you may want to consider allowing an anonymous suggestion forum for employees who might be scared to come forward and even conducting an anonymous staff survey from time to time to see what your employees are thinking and how they feel about their jobs. Yes, you may hear things that are untrue, wild rumors, or things that are simply irritating but it gives you a chance to respond to these issues and address them before they become major problems. It may also allow you an opportunity to squelch rumors or dispel false information that may be wasting the time and energy of your staff.
Whether verbal or non-verbal, communication can have a big impact on staff productivity, don’t let yourself be caught off guard! A proactive communication strategy can help ensure you get the most out of your employees and have a happier more productive workforce.