Communication is often called a “soft” skill. But the impact of poor communication can be a harsh reality. A report from The Economist Intelligence Unit found that poor communication has a variety of detrimental effects on employees, including:
- Delay or failure to complete projects (44%)
- Low morale (31%)
- Missed performance goals (25%)
- Lost sales (18%)
Some reported those lost sales were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The kicker? Each is avoidable through better communication skills.
“Fundamentally, when there is a good, effective communication stream where clarity is present, it absolutely increases productivity,” says Jeff Miller, Ph.D., senior director of talent management at cloud-based talent management platform Cornerstone OnDemand.
Research firm Gallup has repeatedly shown the link between employee engagement and productivity, yet just one-third of employees are engaged at work. Leaders who communicate daily using a combination of face-to-face, by phone, and digital methods are the most successful in engaging their employees. Even good communicators can often fine-tune or improve their skills. Adopt these five habits of great communicators to boost productivity in your organization.
A whopping 88% of office workers surveyed recently by American Express OPEN said that they have pretended to understand office jargon when they really have no idea what it means. The more jargon-laden and complicated the exchange, the more likely it is that your team members will lose time. They may wonder what, exactly, they’re supposed to be doing or tackle the wrong tasks because of a misunderstanding. Clear, precise language is lets people know exactly what they need to do and what is expected of them, Miller says.
Whether you’re leading a big conference call or having a one-on-one conversation, when you need follow-up action, recapping is important. Discuss the issues at hand, then invite any questions so your team or audience knows they can feel safe asking for clarification, says communication expert Cheri Torres, co-author of Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement. “Sometimes, people need more detail or a broader context,” she adds.
Once you’re sure you have a shared understanding of the conversation, recap the next steps. You might say something like, “We’ve covered a lot of ground here. Let’s just go over the next steps.” Then recap a list of the actions that need to be taken and who’s responsible for them.
Your team may be made up of extroverts who thrive on talking things out in a group and introverts who need time to process information to do their best work. To get the most out of your team, accommodate their styles. Sometimes, doing so is as simple as pausing throughout the conversation to allow people an opening to ask questions. Or you may follow up with some team members after they’ve had time to process the meeting to get their feedback, Torres says.
What we say makes up a small portion of what is being communicated, watch for facial expressions, changes in voice tone, or body language. You may find important clues about the clarity of your communication. If your audience members are looking around or shifting in their seats or if the tone of someone’s voice on a call sounds frustrated, you may need to adapt what you’re saying to be clearer and ensure you’re being understood.
As your team embarks on the tasks necessary to fulfill your expectations, Miller says it’s crucial to establish check-in points along the way. This gives your team members an opportunity to ask for additional clarification, address questions that arise, and report progress. This practice also gives you an opportunity to provide additional feedback and ensure your directives weren’t misunderstood.
Productivity-enhancing communication is a work in progress. Be an active observer of your own communication style, adapting and adopting what works best for your team.