How to Improve Workplace Communication
Defining â€śEveryone Contributesâ€ť
At humanworks8, we say Everyone Contributes. We question together. We communicate clearly. We love good conversations. We believe each person has a voice and a valuable point of view. Be it through your internal communication channels such as the intranet, e-mail or live all-hands meetings, through pulse survey questions, feedback loops, team meetings or 1:1 communication.
When we ask executive leaders and business owners about top challenges theyâ€™re facing, communication tops the list, time and time again. But what exactly does a leader mean when they say communication is an issue at their organization? And how can an organization improve workplace communication?
Improving Communication, Improving Connection, Retention, and Performance
Communication is the single most effective way to help the members of your team feel connected and aligned to each other, and to your organizationâ€™s Reason for being. Through research, McKinsey has proven that well-connected teams increase their productivity by 20-25%, and further research shows that organizations with effective communication strategies are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers. Thereâ€™s even more data out there showing communicationâ€™s link to retention, engagement, and performance.
So whatâ€™s holding people back from effectively communicating, and how can they embrace a new mindset around the idea that Everyone Contributes?
Communication is a catch-all word. It covers so much ground: Organization-level, leadership communication, interdepartmental communication, cross-team communication, 1:1 communication, hallway conversations, etc. â€“ which also varies based on level, role, and, of course, work location.
But, regardless of whether youâ€™re communicating to 1 or 1,000, the humanworks8 365 Communication Model stands.
What is The 365 Communication Model?
â€ś365â€ť means that your organization has a culture of communication, of contribution, of conversation. Itâ€™s alive, itâ€™s ongoing. Communication is not saved for once-a-year team meeting, and itâ€™s not only for biggest victories or toughest challenge.
It means you know the answers to these 3 questions:
- What do employees want/desire?
- What are the best ways to reach them?
- What do they want to learn about?
The 365 Communication model is comprised of 5 key components, communicating: Daily, Consistently, Collectively, Proactively, and Honestly.
Whether weâ€™re talking about organization-level communication or leader-direct report communication, communication is a daily practice. Each interaction generates a connection, a sense of trust, a feeling of belonging. A daily touchbase creates an action, a win, a result. Leaders, start the habit of practicing daily communication â€“ on both business topics and personal updates.
Why? The people within your organization are still communicating with each other daily, whether youâ€™re part of the conversation or not. Get engaged with your team â€“ they should be hearing from â€śthe companyâ€ť and hearing from you. Are you among the 67% of managers who feel uncomfortable with face-to-face communication with employees? Time to get talking!
Consistently has two meanings within this model:
Single Source of Truth
Communicate using a single source of truth â€“ one consistent channel for reaching your employees – alÂways. Create a hub of communications. Think company intranet. When your employees know where to tune in and arenâ€™t expected to search multiple channels, communiÂcations are better received and employees begin to trust the source. Your organization-level communications are always happening the same way â€“ on the intranet. Consider that 74% of employees believe they are missing out on important company information. That single source of truth and your invariable practice of communicating via the intranet will put their minds at ease.
This doesnâ€™t mean you can or should abandon other channels that support the sharing of internal messaging, but rather leverage them to drive employees to an always-accurate reliable source. Get creative and meet employees where they are – Teams chats, office signage, e-mail and more – for mesÂsage reinforcement, but shift the expectations you have for how employees access information. Send your team members to your intranetâ€¦and it is hard work to do that, but donâ€™t give up just yet.
Leverage your managers and people leaders in maintaining the success of the intranet. A single source of truth starts with a companyâ€™s voice at the organizational level, but itâ€™s very much supported by the leaderâ€™s voice. Think of each leaderâ€™s voice as the echo of organizational communications.
Consistency also means using one common language across your humanscape. We have one at humanworks8, and itâ€™s tied to our values, our Way of working, our unique strengths and our foundation of Kolbe Wisdomâ„˘. Using this common language â€“ speaking it, clarifying it and continuing to build it â€“ creates efficiency, clarity and accountability. Itâ€™s present in our processes, frameworks, and daily communications. There are words we use and ones we really intentionally donâ€™t.
Whatâ€™s your organizationâ€™s language? How was it formed? How is it being used? And how is it introduced to new members of the team?
Maintaining that common language is a practice. Keep building.
Communication comes from everyone at your organization. Not only are all of your employees brand ambassadors, but all of your employees are essential to the organization moving toward its Reason for being (not just the loud ones, ones with the highest salaries or ones with â€śCommunicationâ€ť in their titles).
Employees who believe they have been heard by their coworkers and leaders are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to do their best work. Getting employees involved in being both the messenger and the active recipient creates a culture of contribution that strengthens team connection and engagement. Invite and empower them to share team updates, major project progress, submit announcements, team photos, calendar suggestions. Commit to a process for vetting and sharing their content.
This culture of contribution influences the way the organization operates at every level. If your intranet is a site of, by, and for the employees, empowering and valuing voices, departments and teams will be guided that same way.
The key to communicating collectively is treating communications as conversations â€“ talking with people, not talking at them, even on the intranet.
If you know the answer now â€“ or even a small part of it, share it with employees. And if you donâ€™t know the answer, share that too. Get ahead of issues, create clarity and donâ€™t wait for unanswered questions to be answered by others. Organizational leadership should be the first to fill in the blanks, establishing a confidence in your communications that sets the foundation for continued trust.
One way humanworks8 clients practice proactively at a leadership level is by using the You Matter Here Conversation Planner, a tool designed for leader-direct report conversations to proactively address ideas, opportunities and challenges that tie directly to engagement and retention.
Honesty might already be represented in one of your core values in one way or another â€“ hopefully with some gutsy, unique and active language to articulate it. You wouldnâ€™t hire anyone to be part of your team if they werenâ€™t honest, would you? Hold yourself accountable to that same expectation. Celebrate the good news, and be transparent about the not-so-good, especially during times of change, growth and uncertainty, such as layoffs, pandemics and mergers/acquisitions.
The big secret to honest communication: Leave egos at the door. Knowledge is power, and if youâ€™re sharing it, your organization as a whole becomes more powerful, more connected, and more successful.
365 Communication and Your Organization
If your organization is ready for improved communication â€“ and it should be, considering 97% of employees believe communication has an impact on their task efficacy â€“ evaluate your existing communication practices through the lens of the 365 Communication Model.
Listen to this post in podcast form in episode five of the Culture(&) Podcast, part of the GGG Unleashed series, and subscribe to hear more about workplace culture and leadership.
Kolbe Wisdomâ„˘ is a registered trademark of Kathy Kolbe and Kolbe Corp.