Effective communication strategy at workplace

It has been well established that people with strong communication skills perform better at workplace, primarily for the reason that they can manage people effectively, whether clients, colleagues or bosses. However, like any other skill, communication skill can be honed and developed. Managers who spend time in developing this skill in their teams, reap benefits in many ways. It is also important examine this skill with respect to the changes brought about by the pandemic and the way it has affected the work settings.

So, what constitutes an effective communication strategy at the workplace?

Before any one of the actual actions takes place, an effective communication strategy should invest a considerable time in identifying the objectives, means and the desired result of any communication initiative. Having this part sorted saves a lot of misunderstanding and miscommunication at later stages.

Listening Skills: An important yet often underestimated is the power of listening in the effective communication strategy. Listening carefully leads not just to understanding a situation better but also helps in arriving at relevant solutions.

In a conference or a meeting, the person who listens carefully is the one who adds value later. This skill is often sacrificed at the altar of “me first” syndrome to respond in an attempt to establish professional superiority and satiate egos. However, managers can lead by example and enforce the need to go through the four stages of this skill:

  • listen
  • comprehend
  • iterate
  • analyze
  • respond

When such a cycle is followed, the responses are rich and add value to the discussion.

The other dos include respecting the person who is speaking and maintaining the basic etiquettes like not looking into phones or multitasking. This is important in the remote working situation forced by the pandemic where the team members are not sitting across the table in a conference room. A rather disciplined approach is required when attending calls and joining team meetings over audio or visual means.

Asking appropriate questions is the key during virtual meetings which in turn establishes that the team members are involved and actively participating. In a physical set up, facing the speaker and nodding appropriately signals active listening. The significance of body language in the communication strategy will be discussed at length further in the article.

Speaking: It was deliberate to put listening before speaking in the list, because only effective listening can lead to impactful speaking. So what constitutes an effective speaking strategy. In a work setting, it is twofold.

The speech should be clear, unambiguous with no beating around the bush. However, there can be no denying the fact that it also has to be diplomatic, weighed and carefully planned to achieve the desired results. This becomes all the more important in case of conflict resolution, negotiation, feedback or complaints. The way spoken words are structured can determine the fate of the businesses because at the end of the day, one is dealing with people.

A positive approach to even difficult conversations is the balanced way to spear ahead. A much-respected trope in psychology is to iterate what one has understood and then repeat it to the speaker. This helps the both listener and the speaker to understand clearly the matter in hand.

Most often than not, in conflict situations, it helps the aggrieved party to lay out their grievances without accusing and the other party to clearly understand what those grievances are without taking it as a personal attack. It also helps to stick to formal tones and choice of words in difficult conversations as it brings back a sense of decorum and streamlines the conversation to arrive at solutions rather than spiral into a blame fest.

Choosing the Medium: Choosing the mode of communication is also an integral part of the whole strategy. What should be the preferred mode of communication to escalate an issue, inform an error, share a feedback or give an important time sensitive update? The success of the communication strategy will rest heavily on choosing the medium wisely. A time sensitive update should be shared in person if possible and when working remotely, a telephonic call should take precedence over an email.

Written Communication: An enormous amount of work happens over emails and teams interact with each other on internal chat platforms and some even use WhatsApp or Google hangout/documents to work together. It becomes important to have the written part of the whole game under control.

  • Simple: Simple sentences to structure information.

  • Accurate: Accurately representing the information. Reading aloud after writing helps in gauging if what is written is what was intended

  • Brevity: Keeping it brief helps in cutting down on misunderstandings

The Body Language: The nonverbal part of the communication strategy is as important as the above stated approaches. In the virtual setting when one is psychically not present, extra effort is required during video calls.

Sitting upright, maintaining eye contact, nodding and interjecting the conversation with appropriate expressions can help. In a physical setting however, body language becomes way more powerful. It can set the tone of the meeting even before a word is said.

For leaders, it is an important reminder to be judicious regarding their nonverbal cues. For e.g. for a brainstorming session, getting rid of your suit jacket, rolling up your shirt sleeves and energetic steps will motivate the team far better than a lengthy speech. Similarly for a feedback session, sitting in a relaxed manner and exuding calmness and strength will help deliver the message effectively.

The above information is a good place to begin framing the communication strategy however, the pandemic has thrown several challenges in the path of the managers.

Apart from technical glitches that often cut down conference calls and insane amount of emails that go to-and-fro, it is not unlikely for information to get lost. Prioritizing issues can also be a challenge. The teams should arrive at a way forward when they encounter a new problem in the middle of the everyday work.

Another constraint that teams can face is the availability of key members at specific times when information needs to be communicated.

Remote working can often pose unforeseen challenges, having a robust communication strategy and a protocol in place can help smoothen everyday working.

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