The importance of clear communication in workflow management

Have you ever considered how communication impacts your bottom line? Research shows that employees who feel heard are almost five times more likely to also feel empowered to perform their best. And 80% of workers said they would prefer more effective workplace communication than the reward of attending fancy company events.

Roughly half of people say their workplaces don't have standards around communication

So why is it that almost 45% of workers say their companies have no current standards or policies around workplace communication? As a project manager with a remote or hybrid workforce, it's essential to learn the importance of communication in the workplace, both in person and virtually. With the right communication practices, your organization can retain skilled, loyal team members, boost productivity, and put all efforts toward your company-wide goals. 

Why you should improve your communication 

Improving communication goes a long way in your workforce, particularly if you have both in-person and hybrid or remote teams. Proper communication makes it easier for team members to work together and increases overall trust and efficiency within your organization. 

Here are the top benefits of enhancing communication in the workplace.

Improve employee engagement

Employee engagement is a critical aspect of productivity and retention in any workplace. Better communication results in better connections between people, which is a driving force in making your teams feel valued and appreciated for their contributions.

With a culture of good communication in place, your team members are more engaged in their work and better align their skills and experience with company goals and objectives. Enhanced communication helps everyone build better professional relationships and promotes a more positive work environment.

Increase morale and productivity

Communication powers productivity by ensuring understanding between all team members, partners, and management. Without effective communication, staff members can often feel lost or fail to understand their roles within your organization. This sometimes leads to low workplace morale and employees taking excessive time off work, which, in turn, affects productivity. When you clearly communicate with your people using the right technology solutions, they can perform their best. 

Inspire loyalty and reduce turnover 

If your organization wants to keep long-term, engaged, and loyal people, it's critical to value communication and learn how it impacts your bottom line.

With better communication, you can avoid misunderstandings and disengagement and make your people feel truly valued within your organization, which leads to less attrition.. Keeping people on for years at a time allows them to grow with your company, so they build essential skills and experience to use as a driving force to keep your business innovative and competitive. 

Enhance collaboration

Within remote and hybrid teams, communication often becomes a headache, leading to more frustrating collaboration challenges and misaligned goals. Effective communication tools, especially if they're cloud- based, help your team members collaborate efficiently — whether they're in the same building or not. 

With better collaboration, your organization also benefits from growth and innovation. Instead of spending valuable time trying to contact team members with inefficient technology, you ensure projects are running smoothly and pave the way for creativity.

Minimize conflict 

Miscommunication often leads to conflict — people feel misunderstood or that their needs are not being met. Building strong, effective communication skills improves your company culture and prevents tension and conflict at work. Encouraging all team members to focus on listening, have empathy, and consider individual differences goes a long way in creating a respectful environment. 

Offer motivation

It's difficult for your people to feel motivated if they don't understand the "why" behind what they're doing and how they're contributing to your business. Communicating properly with teams and discussing how their unique skills align with your company goals, objectives, and values helps them feel more motivated with every task they complete. 

From day-to-day tasks to company-wide initiatives, team members who embody the "why" behind your organization feel inspired and motivated to get their jobs done effectively. 

Types of communication in the workplace 

Communicating with your team consists of more than just sending a friendly email or having a face-to-face meeting. Communication comes in many shapes and forms, especially when you have hybrid and remote teams. Here are the different types of verbal and written communication that professionals use in project management.

Workplace communication includes downward information, upward communication, and other types of updates

Communication from leadership 

Communication from managers and other people in leadership roles, also known as downward communication, involves any information, instructions, orders, and requests transferred from leaders down to team members. This is a traditional type of communication that generally does not invite feedback. Instead, it focuses on instructing or directing your people on important organizational matters. 

This one-way channel for giving directives leads to confusion if leadership is not clear on their meaning or instruction. With no options for questions and feedback, it's important that any downward communication you send clearly articulates your meaning and ensures team members are more informed after reading it. Use this communication as a way to inspire, encourage, and create commitment from your team.

Upward communication  

Upward communication, on the other hand, allows people to share their thoughts, feelings, and feedback with senior-level management. Upward communication is extremely valuable and plays a critical role in company culture. It gives all team members a platform to share their voices and be heard by those they may not interact with on a daily basis. This allows leadership to better serve the needs of the entire workforce and increase job satisfaction and engagement.

Updates 

Quickly sending updates to your team is an effective way to communicate on short notice without sending long newsletters or scheduling an hourlong meeting with the entire staff. Updates, also called memos, come in many different forms. You might send a short email or post a printed flier in a public area of the workplace to inform or share important details with staff.

Project managers often use updates to communicate about a specific project or provide a recap of what happened in a meeting. 

Project management communication

When developing and overseeing a project, leaders will often create a specific subset of objectives and delegate them to team members — this is known as project management communication. This type of communication in the workplace often includes updates and memos about a specific project or provides a recap of what happened in a meeting. 

This communication type includes tasks like identifying objectives, creating a list of all stakeholders, deciding how communication will be delivered, and setting a deadline for communications like reports. Project management communication also describes how communication is sent, received, and understood by everyone working on a certain project. 

Presentations

Presentations are a formal type of verbal and visual communication, usually held in person or over a video chat application. This helpful form of communication is effective for sharing more broader company-wide topics and news, such as educating your people on a new project or organizational initiative. 

Presentations often consist of key points, images, videos, and other informational details. That information acts as a guide to a new procedure or explanation of where your company is headed. Creating a document or downloadable version of your presentation is ideal so your people can refer back to it if they need to refresh their memory or learn how to perform a certain new task.

Meetings

Whether your meetings are in person or over video chat, they are an effective, inclusive type of communication. They get your team in the same space to talk about important updates, goals, and expectations for upcoming projects. Meetings are also an ideal place for employers to ask team members to share their concerns or questions. Use this time to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Communication with customers

Most organizations around the world deal with some type of customer or client, so it's useful to help your team build on these skills. Many businesses use various channels and platforms, such as email, newsletters, phone calls, text messaging, and social media feeds, to communicate with customers. 

Knowing how to keep a consistent brand voice throughout all of these various mediums improves the customer experience. Better overall communication also helps your team become more effective at applying customer feedback and suggestions. 

Informal communication

Informal communication can be just as informative and effective as formal meetings and presentations. Depending on your work culture, you may value when your teams can quickly send a message to confirm an important matter rather than scheduling a meeting in advance. As with updates, informal communication comes in many different forms, such as messaging through an app, email, phone calls, or texts. 

While professional emails and phone calls are sometimes formal, these methods are also often much faster and easier to conduct than trying to get a hold of a senior executive face to face. 

Tips for improving your communication

Now that you know the importance of communication in the workplace, it's time to put your best efforts into practice. Here are several ways to boost communication in project management and make your team feel more engaged and motivated. 

Have a plan 

Before you dive into a new project, consider what you want communication to look like throughout the assignment. Perhaps you can map out a plan for each phase of the project or divide your team up into smaller groups and ensure they report to each other with updates. 

Once you’ve made this decision, it's important to create some type of plan that makes communicating with your team easier and sets an example of how they should communicate with management. 

Be clear and concise

In a busy workplace, the last thing you want to do is constantly have to ask a team member for clarification, a status update, or confirmation about a project or assignment. Convey this to your team as you work on enhancing your workplace communication. You can also ensure you aren't dragging out a meeting or conversation about the same topic, which leads to confusion and disengagement. 

When it comes to formal communication, remember that team members are busy. Don't make it too hard for them to understand what you're saying or what you need them to do. Be clear and concise so they know what you want, and you can elaborate with more details if they have questions. 

Set expectations

If you want your entire organization to value communication as a priority as you embark on a new project, it's important to set expectations right from the get-go. No matter what communication style you choose to convey these expectations, make them clear to avoid misunderstandings and confusion down the line. 

Listen 

Communication is not just about talking and understanding communication styles. Active listening plays a huge role in comprehending others and improving professional relationships in the workplace.

Set an example as an active listener to improve communication throughout your organization

Promote active listening within your work culture by setting an example. During meetings, when your team members ask questions, show that you're listening to their words and make them feel heard. You might even say something like “Am I understanding you correctly when you say x?” to show that you are engaging with them.

Keep everyone in the loop

While a one-time meeting often sets clear expectations and instructions for your team, be sure to update team members on any new details, no matter how small. Communicating about an important project or deadline change or update is essential to effective collaboration and to meeting your goals. Whether you send out a company-wide memo or email your team directly, keep everyone in the loop to avoid miscommunication.

Be patient

Organization-wide changes simply don't happen overnight. Be patient with these new practices and give your team members time to reflect on their communication. Tell your people to take a few extra moments before speaking with a coworker, sending an email, or typing a message to ensure it's conveying something clear, informative, and respectful.

Try different tactics

As with any new business policy or procedure, if it’s not working, try something new. Don't be afraid to branch out and find new tactics or methods of communication that work for your team. For instance, if email threads are breaking down, consider moving to a chat platform to share quick project updates. Instead of holding a long meeting once a month, consider holding shorter weekly standups to address staff updates, questions, and concerns.

Reflect and seek feedback

The only way to truly improve workplace communication is to review your current practices and ask for feedback from your trusted team members and coworkers. Hold a meeting to discuss communication improvements or send out a survey that asks questions like:

  • What can we start doing to promote better communication?
  • What should we stop doing to promote better communication?
  • What skills or areas can we improve on to enhance workplace communication?

Consider having your team members rate each other's communication skills anonymously to identify specific people who may need more support as they learn to communicate more effectively. Be sure to include yourself and your management team in these surveys and meetings so you can create an open conversation about how everyone has something to learn.

Handling remote communication

Project management communication can present a challenge, especially for larger organizations. Having remote and hybrid teams can make these obstacles even more significant. With several or dozens of team members in different locations, finding ways to collaborate and communicate effectively takes effort. Here are some ways to improve workflow communication with your remote teams.

To improve remote communication, create informal communication opportunities, focus on message quality, and be always considerate

Create a space for informal communication

Using a messaging application or other platform for informal communication is a great way to keep unnecessary clutter out of your remote teams' inboxes. You also give them a platform to ask questions and communicate about minor project details day to day. Opportunities for more casual interactions might also include a professional social media feed or happy hour events to build a better workplace culture.

Focus on the quality of your messages

Remote teams often work in different time zones and may feel protective of their time while doing so. With that in mind, be sure to thoughtfully plan out your messages and meetings to ensure your remote teams are well informed but still have plenty of time to devote to their everyday tasks.

No one wants to spend hours of their day sending emails back and forth. In fact, over a quarter of workers state that having too many emails in their inboxes is one of their top distractions. Help your teams  have productive, brief conversations by sending out meeting objectives and agendas in advance.

Remember the person on the other end

At the end of the day, even professional and formal communication should value empathy and human connection over efficiency. This doesn't mean you have to spend your entire conversation checking in about a team member's personal life. But building a foundation for effective communication starts with reminding yourself that everyone in your organization is a real person with real-life distractions, challenges, hopes, and emotions. Before you communicate, take a moment to picture the person receiving your message, and always be considerate.

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