What Is Effective Communication In The Workplace?

For over five years I’ve specialised in internal communication, and like all comms pros, consistently revisit the question: what is effective communication in the workplace?

There’s plenty of communication theory available for you to read that explores the intricacies of the answer to this. I’m not going to delve too far into that here, although Proof Hub shares some useful information on the subject here on their site. Here, I thought I’d touch on my own experience on the subject. I think a simple way to approach the question around, ‘what is effective communication?’ is to consider the opposite. That is, what is ineffective communication?

You don’t have to work in communications or marketing to know the answer to this.

Have you ever received an exceptionally lengthy email at work, only to not understand what you’re supposed to act on after reading it?

Or, received communication about a matter that doesn’t impact you at all, because it’s region or job specific?

Then of course, there’s the times when zero communication is distributed. I’ve seen this happen recently with some pretty big organisations that hire tens of thousands of staff. They have seen important updates from their industry first on the media, rather than from their employer. Ouch.

Tips you’ll find outlined in this article:

1. Why you need to determine who your audience is

2. How to consider what channels to use to get your message out there

3. When to advise peers or leaders on best practice

4. How to decide when to send an email or choose a different way

4. How to craft your communication with an effective call to action  

What is effective communication in the workforce? Find out how to get your message across

Effective communication in the workplace: what to ask yourself before hitting ‘send’

There are a few key rules you should follow to ace your comms. Whether you are crafting an update for staff from a leader or department like HR or IT, and no matter what the subject, ask yourself (and others) the following questions.

Who are we really talking to? Does everyone in the business need to know about this, or just a particular group?

Where are these people then? Are they at their desks and reading emails, or are they on a closed Facebook Group or internal comms app, community, or platform? Maybe they are offline, and need to be reached via text, digital signage, poster, or flyer?

What ‘channels’ do you have available to reach them? Is it the intranet, an email from a leader, closed community, through their managers and team meetings?

And ‘how’ could you share the message? Is it through the written word, or images and graphics, a video or audio update, or another engagement tool?

When should you reach out to them with the information? Is it urgent, should it really go right away? What other comms are scheduled to go out simultaneously – can any of this be spaced apart so there’s a more steady stream of information being distributed to the business?

Hint: it quite often simply comes back to the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘why’, ‘when’, ‘how’ that we were taught back in junior school.

Donning your ‘comms advisor’ hat to achieve effective communication

As a communication advisor, I’m often approached with a request to develop comms for ‘all staff’. But is it really?

For example, I used to work for an organisation that had several offices across the UK, including all the major regions in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Before an internal comms process was set in place, a team member in Scotland could easily send off an email to ‘all staff’, even though the update was for the Edinburgh office only.

With so many emails flying into our inboxes now, each one that is unnecessary can cause extra stress. This risks adding to the ‘noise’, and then important or relevant messages are ignored or missed by those who need to see them.

To someone wanting to get a message out to a workplace, whether it’s a senior leader or team member on the ground, their message is really important to them. It’s ok that they want their message to get out ‘to all staff’. But, it’s up to us as comms advisors to ask the question and encourage proper thought on who it really is that the message needs to get to. Sometimes it is ‘all staff’, sure. But quite often, it is not. As a comms pro, don’t be afraid to ask the question – it shows you know your stuff.

comms advising - how to don your comms advisor hat to achieve effective communication

To email, or not to email, that is the question

What is effective communication in the workplace then? Is it emailing, or is there another way?

In many businesses, especially those where there is a workforce behind a computer some or most of the time, emails are still an effective way to share messages.

The trick is to limit email where possible.

This is already being achieved in businesses by making use of collaborative platforms like Microsoft Teams or Slack, or project management tools like Asana, where a message thread is in one place. It negates the need for dozens of emails (and even more CCs) going back and forth.

For communication to be effective, you don’t necessarily need to send an email.

A few other ideas for distributing key messages to team members that may mean you can bypass email:

– Add the key points to meeting agendas for leaders to share at team meetings and huddles

– Summarise the message for display on your digital signage. This might also include a QR code that links back to an intranet news item for ‘more information’

– Create a poster or flyer for your sites

– Post an update (this could be using words, images or video) on Yammer, your team community board or private shared space

– Create a news item and/or highlight on your intranet homepage

– Turn it into a blog post if you have a channel that hosts first-person stories and updates

– Include the update as a snippet in your regular team member e-news, rather than sending a separate update to staff.

Final thoughts: how to communicate effectively with your workforce

Above all, keep your message simple. Less IS more.

If you’re sending an email, keep it short, and look for opportunities to create a ‘read more’ option. That is, can you summarise all the important ‘need to know’ details in an email, and post the rest of the information on the intranet so people can ‘read more’ if they want or need to?

If you’re distributing a message that is seeking action (e.g. asking for RSVPs to an event, or volunteers for a training program), make sure the action required is clear.

For example:

👉🏻Click here and sign up before 13 January

👉🏻Email sarah.blinco @ XYZcompany.com to register your interest

Where you can, highlight the key action required in any way you can: bold, include within a shaded box, add white space around it: keep it clear and to the point. Do not bury it at the end of a lengthy email. Make it pop! 

Need further advice? Feel free to drop me a line on any of my social networks 🙂