Workplace communication is important for many reasons. If you can’t communicate effectively with your colleagues and bosses, it’s nearly impossible to learn new skills or remain a valued team member for long. Over time, you can miss out on promotions, raises and even new jobs.
Research backs this up. Studies show a lack of communication can block your ability to succeed at work. In Harvard Business School professor Noam Wasserman’s book The Founder’s Dilemma, he says an estimated 65% of startups fail because of interpersonal conflict. Communication failures can run the gamut, from misunderstanding organizational hierarchy and unclear roles and responsibilities to too many communication channels or even disagreeing over the most-effective ways to communicate as a team.
The good news: You can improve communication by learning new techniques. Better communication means better performance for you and your company.
Ways to improve communication skills
1. Embrace the outline
Even seasoned pros can break out in a sweat over presentations or an annual review. And when you’re stressed, you’re more likely to stumble over your words or forget your point. Be prepared! Invest some time ahead to plan out what you want to say.
Gene Zelazny is known for being an expert at McKinsey presentations. Based on his four-decade career, he created a simple guide to effective presentations. He says there are three keys to communicating effectively with peers and commanding their attention:
- Purpose. Start by defining the purpose of your presentation. What do you want to cover? Who is the audience, and why are you addressing the topic?
- Importance. Why is this topic important? Why would your audience care about what you have to say?
- Preview. Give your audience a preview of the rest of your presentation.
Consider PIP your elevator pitch: It should hook your audience’s attention.
2. Practice before performing
Most great speakers aren’t born. They’re made through years of practice and feedback. To improve communication, practice before your actual presentation or conversation.
Recording your presentation is an effective way to see what it looks like and make changes. When you review it, you can change gestures, switch the order of your topics and remove ineffective sections.
As you watch your recording, pay attention to nonverbal communication. So much of human communication is nonverbal. What are your hands and body saying? Always maintain eye contact with the audience as you speak.
3. Ask for honest feedback
If you truly want to be a more effective communicator, you need to get feedback. Colleagues can help you decide which parts of your presentation are effective and which sections need to be changed.
For maximum results, get feedback from your audience too. Being a great communicator is as much about listening as speaking. Through listening to others and shared discussions, you can collaborate better. Ask your audience how you did, and encourage honesty.
4. Focus on the audience
Always stay focused on your audience and what they need to know. Why is this information relevant to them right now? People are most invested when something affects them directly.
5. Offer team and individual coaching
If you struggle with workplace communication, seek out professional coaching services. Many companies turn to experts specializing in helping teams improve their communication through guided practice, feedback and clear strategies. Some companies even offer free coaching as a perk.
A reputable coach will also teach you how to measure your communication efforts and determine their effectiveness. They should offer clearly defined techniques and tracking ideas so you’re not guessing whether what you’re doing is working.
6. Use the right communication tools
Will you be working with a team across the globe or collaborating in an office? The right communication tools depend on your unique situation. For example, Slack lets you share documents online, video chat and collaborate on projects across more than 2,200 different apps. Since collaboration and communication go hand in hand, these tools and applications are essential to keeping everyone in the loop and on task.
Slack and similar platforms are great for working with remote teams. They keep virtual team members from feeling alienated and boost morale across the company. You won’t have to worry about broken communication or wasted resources.
Five ways to improve your communication using Slack
1. Connect employees with the mission
It can be hard to incorporate remote employees into your overall company mission. They can easily feel isolated and out of sync with in-office peers, or even other remote colleagues. If communication channels aren’t organized and clearly defined, people can inadvertently miss important updates and fall behind.
Slack makes hybrid collaboration more effective by letting you organize projects and teams by channel. Communicating milestones and tasks within the channel keeps all team members on the same page and with equal access, regardless of location. It also gives teammates more instant ways to interact and take part in a shared sense of identity.
2. Share more engaging content
Slack lets you change up your communication style to engage specific types of teams and personalities. Grab people’s attention by strategically using videos, polls, GIFs and living documents to connect with employees, clients or the entire company. Sharing more engaging content also fosters more direct communication with leaders.
3. Help people get what they need
Many remote teams use five or more different platforms and online tools. This gets cumbersome when you’re searching for a single PDF guide or contract. Because Slack integrates with more than 2,200 different apps, your team members can access everything they need through one central location.
4. Use surveys to poll your teams
Surveys are a great way to find out what your employees want and better ways to support their needs. Slack offers integration with useful apps like Zoho Survey and Simple Poll, making it easy to put quick questionnaires together.
5. Give consistent recognition
When you work online, it can be challenging to recognize and thank your employees consistently. But it’s a critical part of leadership that requires time. Slack drastically cuts down on that time, letting you efficiently give consistent and widespread recognition through chat, in-channel videos and quick chat reactions. By working with everyone in a shared space, you can give public recognition and thanks right away for jobs well done, large or small. This saves hours in meetings, buried emails and growing to-do lists.