If we can say anything about today’s workplace, it’s that it’s not the same as it was pre-pandemic. The benefit of hindsight tells us that our focus has changed as we’ve endured stress at levels many of us may have never experienced. Mental health, well-being, and work-life balance are at the forefront. Employees have realized they need more from their employers, starting with better communication.
Effective team communication isn’t just for staff members. The success of businesses depends on it. Organizations are also under pressure to make ends meet despite supply chain issues. The loss of productivity attributed to poor communication has come at a greater price. About 86 percent of employers and employees blame it for business failures.
Team communication directly affects the bottom line. It occurs on two levels. Synchronous communication exists with meetings, whether in-person or Zoom calls. Online applications such as Slack also play a role. Asynchronous forms include collaborative platforms, such as Asana. Communication isn’t real-time but exits nevertheless. Both contribute to the vitality of the group.
Goals of Team Communication
The primary goal, no matter what the venue, is to improve communication. It will reduce the poor choices that waste time and money. It can also boost the morale of the company culture with clear expectations for all team members. According to the 2021 Gallup State of the Workplace Report, 40 percent of employees don’t know what management expects of them.
That’s a problem for managers who won’t be able to meet their goals. It’s also an issue for staff members who want to do their best but can’t because they don’t know where they should center their focus. Only 30 percent think they have what they need to accomplish these aims, putting them under undue pressure to deliver.
The result of effective team communication eliminates this ambiguity and replaces it with clarity. It’s worth noting that 75 percent of employees value collaboration which relies on teamwork communication.
Of course, the ultimate goal is the success and growth of the organization. Effective communication ensures team members are able to do their best by giving them the direction they need to follow the company’s vision.
Best Practices of Team Communication
The aim of team communication is to create an open work environment of psychological safety. Every employee feels comfortable expressing their opinions and ideas without fear of reprisal. Creating this workplace involves:
- Building trust
- Practicing transparency
- Respecting individuals
- Being inclusive.
The Importance of Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is a vital element of a psychologically safe workplace. It describes the process of building self-awareness to understand your emotions better. Armed with this knowledge, you gain a deeper appreciation for the people around you and their circumstances.
You become empathetic.
Embracing emotional intelligence opens new avenues of communication by improving your perception of emotions, both verbally and non-verbally. Honing your observational skills will help you read the feelings of others even if they aren’t sharing them openly. The unfortunate consequence of this silence is resentment that can ultimately lead to an employee becoming disengaged.
A key component of emotional intelligence is active listening. That means being present in your conversations with others. Focus on what the other person is saying without interrupting. This simple act conveys respect and appreciation, something that would motivate 74 percent of employees to work harder.
Implementing Better Team Communication
The next step to improve communication is to evaluate your workplace's current and future state. Just as individuals took time to reassess and reprioritize their lives during the pandemic, so too should leaders reconsider the type of post-pandemic office they will have.
Will your organization return to a five-day work week in the office?
Will your remote workers continue with this business model and stay off-site?
Will your company become a hybrid workplace embracing both?
The path that your organization takes will present varying challenges. According to a survey by Morning Consult, less than half of remote employees want to return to the status quo. Over 55 percent would look for another job if they didn’t feel safe returning. It’s fair to say that the remote option isn’t going to go away.
Therefore, management must prioritize internal communication for navigating this new workplace. Employee feedback is vital, given the differences in opinion. Leaders must also realize that communication is a two-way street. It begins by opening up a dialogue with a free exchange of ideas. That will go a long way toward building trust.
It’s essential to realize that everyone is coming to the table from a different place. Individuals are dealing with personal challenges that have nothing to do with their jobs. The encouraging takeaway is the pandemic taught us how much we need each other. We’ve also realized the importance of well-being and mental health. That provides an excellent starting point for nurturing effective communication.
As Plato wisely said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Making a Plan
Successful teamwork communication begins with information and a framework. Many people prefer to communicate through specific channels, whether it’s email, text, online chat, or in-person meetings. We suggest asking the question of management and all team members. It’s the single best step toward optimizing communication within a group. Consider these facts.
About 70 percent of workers saw a 70-percent spike in meetings with the rise of remote work.
Nearly 70 percent of employees say that meetings interfere with their productivity.
The question each organization must ask is what forms of communication work best with their staff, and how often should teams meet?
It’s tempting to dismiss meetings. Perhaps, the problem rests not so much on the time or frequency but on whether they are well-planned or not. No one likes to waste time, especially if it contributes to burnout and stress. As you develop your team’s communication framework, it’s vital to ask questions and get feedback from your employees.
That brings us back to emotional intelligence and psychological safety. Improving communication depends on having an open forum for discussion, even about management practices. It’s the best way to walk the talk about transparency in the workplace. However, an oft-neglected aspect of communication is the conversation between departments.
The Role of Cross-Functional Teams
It’s perhaps not as frequent an occurrence in small organizations as it is in larger ones where there is little if any communication between departments. Some employees may not know anyone outside of their functional team. This lack of communication can hamper productivity, increase costs, and slow workflow. A sound solution is cross-functional teams.
These groups facilitate lateral communication between departments where coordination is paramount to completing projects and goals on time. They benefit organizations by seeing the big picture and bringing new ideas to the table. They can also lessen the chances of conflict by catching issues or misunderstandings before they escalate.
Effective cross functional communication can boost an organization’s problem-solving by bringing different skill sets together. These teams function best if discussions are real-time, whether through conference calls or video chat instead of email or text. These groups can ensure all departments are working toward the same goals while building stronger relationships between departments.
It’s essential that cross team communication doesn’t create an us-versus-them mentality. In-person discussions can help avoid misunderstandings that can undermine productivity. Tools such as collaboration and project management software can facilitate workflow and coordinate deliverables. The success of cross-functional teams depends on understanding communication styles.
Understanding how employees and employers interact can go a long way toward building stronger teams. Some individuals are better suited for different tasks than others. Learning your employees’ communication styles can help improve communication within groups by matching compatible personality types to the various functions.
For example, analytical communicators focus on data and methodology. They work well in development because of their approach to projects. Collaborative communicators are the cheerleaders of an organization. They are excellent choices to have cross-functional teams to keep projects moving and on time.
Understanding the various communication styles can help emotionally intelligent leaders interact more effectively with their employees. They can identify the non-verbal clues that can help them match team members to the best tasks to optimize their skill sets. It can also give a manager an edge in preventing conflict and personality clashes. Equally important is knowing when something isn’t working and why.
Red Flags That Something Is Wrong
Poor team communication usually doesn’t take long to manifest itself in missed deadlines, projects over budget, and disengaged employees. Conflict is inevitable when you bring different people together. It may start with off-handed, sarcastic remarks or personal jabs instead of focusing on the urgent issues. Discussions start or track negative more often than not. The tension is evident in a toxic workplace.
According to the 2021 Gallup State of the Workplace Report, only one-third of US employees are engaged. You can see it in the lack of enthusiasm and low productivity of these workers. The numbers also tell the story of failures to meet project milestones and goals. Poor team communication is imperative to manage quickly before the company morale spirals out of control.
Mistakes Managers Make
Managers aren’t immune to ineffective communication. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult for an individual to spot their shortcomings. You may see it with a failure to delegate. A leader may feel compelled to take on a project solely, whether out of insecurity or lack of trust in their team. It also rears its ugly head with you statements that put blame or responsibility on others.
Often these issues arise because a manager has lost touch with other aspects of the organization, the so-called curse of knowledge. They may not realize how awful it feels for customer service reps on the front line to take calls from angry clients. They may have lost touch with parts of the operation that make it difficult for them to be empathetic.
Exacerbating the issue are managers who refuse to change. That’s what made the pandemic so devastating for many businesses that couldn’t—or wouldn’t—adapt to the changing economy and workplace. Successful leaders are flexible and open to change if it’s in the best interest of the organization and its people.
Fixing Workplace Communication Issues
Awareness of the problems at the workplace and with the company culture is the first step toward righting the ship. It’s often difficult to admit one’s shortcomings. However, the emotionally intelligent individual has the traits to move forward to restore effective teamwork communication.
Frequent employee check-ins are an excellent way to nip problems in the bud. Active listening and an open-door policy are imperative. Careful management of your emotions is also vital. You may hear some uncomfortable truths if your staff is willing to open up about the problems. Remember that in knowledge, there is power. You can’t fix the problem unless you know what it is.
Strengthening relationships and improving communication takes time. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Open-forum meetings can give your team members a chance to voice their concerns and build trust for a solid foundation. Bear in mind that it’s a work in progress. The crucial first step is opening the door.
Leaders must remember that employees want clarity and well-defined expectations, the crux of successful communication. When you set forth your vision for your organization, you give your team members a clear direction and a purpose for their work. Your job is to empower them to reach these goals.
Effective communication is the heartbeat of any organization. It will dictate how successful you work as a team and weather storms like the pandemic as well as the minor bumps in the road. Kutsko Consulting can help your management team with our supervisory training. We can help you be more proficient working with people and facilitating team collaboration.
Contact us today to help your managers become leaders.
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