In just about any field or job, communication skills are at the top of the list of essential competencies. It’s obvious why you must be able to listen to others and communicate your points effectively, but here are some other reasons communication aptitudes matter:
Everyone will do their jobs better. Whether you’re a manager or a staff person, you must be able to give and understand direction and explain yourself well when presenting your work to others.
Productivity will skyrocket. Lack of communication is one of the culprits of diminished productivity. When employees don’t understand the objective of a project or a team feels unclear on their department’s vision and goals, people end up going in all different directions—or stalling completely. Better communication leads to greater efficiency.
You won’t confuse people. Most jobs require employees to ask for things from others on a regular basis. Whether you meet with people or communicate via email, honing your ability to give clear direction and make your points and requests known will minimize miscommunications and frustration on the part of your colleagues.
Your team will be stronger. Camaraderie builds solid teams, and you can nurture this kind of work environment with open, honest communication. Your employees will feel heard and appreciated and employee conflicts will get resolved quicker. This will lead to respectful relationships and a happier work environment.
Your organization will use resources wisely. Productive employees make for organized workplaces. Picture fewer unnecessary meetings and calls because your employees are all on the same page and tasks done correctly the first time thanks to clear direction at the outset.
Improving communication in the workplace starts with yourself! Here are a few tips to do so:
• Listen actively. This means not just hearing someone speak, but asking questions to confirm your understanding, making eye contact, being interested and avoiding distractions (e.g. no scrolling through emails on your phone when someone is talking to you).
• Write more concisely and to your audience. Work on writing succinctly and clearly in email, reports and anything else. Keep your audience top of mind when crafting your message. Avoid being verbose. Don’t use 10 words when you could have said the same thing with four.
• Back it up. When you state an opinion, be prepared to provide the rationale behind it. When planning to write something persuasive, think critically about how to convince your audience before you start.
• Outline first. When writing something long, make a plan first rather than just diving in. Lay out your overall objective, the points you want to make and any other notes that are important (e.g. supporting information).
• Work on the non-verbal communication. Eye contact and a firm handshake aren’t the only ways to strengthen your non-verbal communication. Do you slouch during meetings (giving the impression that you’re disengaged)? Do you wear your emotions on your face more than you should? Are you standing and speaking in a way that exudes confidence? Start paying attention to the non-verbal messages you’re sending and make corrections if needed.
Effective communication in the workplace isn’t just nice to have—it can mean the difference between a professional and inefficient workplace. Work to improve yours, then move on to helping your team. You’ll be glad you did!