In the past couple of decades, our workplaces have gone from the office to mostly virtual spaces. We get our jobs done and we communicate in the cloud. However, we still struggle with the same issues in communication which we had decades ago. Here are a few effective ways to overcome communication barriers in the workplace which you can apply right now.
Diversify your communication channels
If you feel like you’re not communicating well enough with your team, it may not be an issue of a communication barrier. In fact, your team members may not be in love with your preferred method of communication.
Up until recently, email was the preferred way to communicate in many companies around the world. Despite many of its benefits, it also had its faults, so new tools were created. Team chat apps such as Chanty, video messaging apps, voice call apps, screen sharing apps, etc.
If one communication tool doesn’t work for your team, you can give something else a try. For example, email can be quite clunky for messages about tasks that need immediate attention or asking quick questions – this is when you should use your team chat app.
Document your communication processes
Suppose you use several methods to communicate: email, team chat app, and Zoom. You want to ask your project manager a question about a task that needs to be done today, but you’re not sure where to do it. Which channel should you use?
If you’re confused, your team will be too. The way around this problem is to have a documented standard operating procedure (SOP) that tells your team members where they communicate which information. For example, important announcements and updates are sent through email, meetings are done on Zoom, quick task-related messages go to your team chat app, etc. If you have a documented procedure, your team members will know where to communicate their message at all times.
Try to understand your coworkers
Easier said than done, right? At the very core, the majority of communication problems in the workplace arise because we don’t understand the other side. Whether it’s understanding their point of view or something related to their workday, we can’t communicate properly because we don’t understand them.
How many times has it happened that someone from another department is talking about something and you have absolutely no clue what they’re talking about? For example, a marketing manager talking about click-through rates or return on ad spend while a developer listens to them.
To prevent this from happening, make sure that all of your team members have some idea of what other teams and coworkers are doing. They will better understand their workload, duties and how they fit into the grand scheme in your company.
You can do this by having a handbook with an overview of all your positions in a company, or by introducing the duties of a new employee as you onboard them. For some roles, it’s worth sending your employees to a course to find out more about different processes in your company. For example, an HR expert will benefit greatly from a course in web development essentials, so they can find and hire better developers.
Communicate only what’s necessary
The bulk of issues in communications happen because we communicate things which aren’t necessary or include people who aren’t necessary. For starters, make sure you stay on topic, no matter the channel or the participants. Sharing memes and gifs in a discussion about a new project is not a good idea, so refrain from going off topic. You can always create a dedicated group or channel for random discussions unrelated to work.
The second point is that in 2019, it’s high time to learn the difference between “reply” and “reply to all” in emails and other modes of communication. If you only send out messages to people who really need to see them and take action, you will save their time and yours. Once again, modern chat software has different channels and groups where you can include only the necessary participants.
While technology has changed in the past couple of decades, most of the communication problems in the workplace have remained the same. The key to improve team communication is to choose the right channels, show understanding for your coworkers, document your communication processes and finally, think carefully about what you’re sending and to whom.