You probably already know that effective business communication is essential for a healthy workplace. But with so many communication strategies available, deciding which ones to use in various scenarios is not always easy. Yet getting it right remains extremely important, as strong workplace communication impacts everything from productivity to employee retention.
There are four main types of business communication, each with its own pros and cons. Here’s how you can make the most of them.
This is about communicating up the chain, from an employee to a manager or a manager to a CEO. Upward communication gives decision makers at the top a better understanding of what’s actually happening throughout the company. Encouraging and soliciting upward communication also allows employees to feel heard and validated, boosting their morale and, ultimately, their loyalty.
But upward communication has some limitations. Employees might be reluctant to share their thoughts if they think there will be negative consequences or that no one is really listening anyway. Even when employees are forthcoming, managers always need to ensure they’re getting the full story.
You can dramatically improve the effectiveness of upward communication by developing an open and supportive environment. Offer multiple communication channels, make it a habit to chat with your employees and proactively solicit feedback.
Downward communication flows from the top down, such as from a CEO to a manager or from managers to their team members. It’s crucial for presenting key information, building an atmosphere of transparency and ensuring everyone’s on the same page.
But, if not done right, it can become a giant game of telephone. As information flows through the hierarchy, important details can be lost or distorted. Using downward communication too often can make employees feel like they’re being lectured or are unimportant in the overall organization chart.
For more effective downward communication, be approachable. Personalize your communications when possible and solicit feedback. Remember that a healthy mix of downward and upward communication is essential to a strong workplace.
Horizontal communication happens between people at the same level in the corporate structure. It’s often cross-departmental, like when a marketing manager meets with a finance manager or the coding team collaborates with the design team.
Whether it takes place interdepartmentally or within the same workgroup, horizontal communication is what makes teams function. It tends to be highly organic and rapidly evolves with little or no management input. It can help build a sense of belonging and allow the best ideas to surface.
But horizontal communication is not without its pitfalls. It can also lead to territorialism, squabbles and an “us versus them” mentality. To ward that off, be careful not to pit teams against each other. Instead, foster an atmosphere of collaboration, where each team is equally valued for its contributions. Encourage groups to meet in person or through video chat to work through any misunderstandings. Then follow up with a written summary of what was discussed and the decisions that were made.
External communications involve someone within the organization and someone outside it, such as a customer, vendor or media member. External communication is your opportunity to build your brand and get your message out to the public.
But of course, external communication comes with risk. Sending the wrong message can reflect poorly on your company, leading to lost opportunities (and revenue). Conflicting messages, incorrect data or even a failure to understand the target audience can leave a bad impression that’s difficult to overcome.
To make the most of your external communication, carefully and strategically curate everything you put out into the world. Whether you’re writing a quick vendor email or corporate press release, take the time to get to know your audience and choose a message that will resonate. Be direct and to the point, and always let the audience know what’s in it for them and why it’s important right now.
How Slack helps with all communication types
Getting everyone in an organization moving in the same direction is no easy feat. That’s why Slack offers a single, scalable platform with practically endless options for customization. You can set up different channels for different types of communication and give each person access to the channels they need. Whether you need a space for horizontal teams to collaborate or want to make sure everyone reads the annual CEO update, Slack offers flexible tools to keep your communications running smoothly.