Effective communication is one of the most important factors in creating an efficient work environment. Being able to communicate effectively across an organization, from the highest levels to the lowest levels, creates an environment that promotes productivity and efficiency. Employees are better able to understand each other, which provides an increase to office morale and unity. There are many ways that the communication within an organization can have an affect on the work being done, and by creating a better understanding of communication organizations can use that affect to their advantage. Below are the key points of understanding communication and it’s affects on the workplace.

1.    Workplace Communication Statistics

2.    Types of Communication

3.    Flow of Communication

4.    Improving Communication

1. Workplace Communication Statistics

Effective communication is one of the most important factors in an organization being successful. Communication extends beyond just employees, as effective communication with customers leads to increased customer satisfaction. Beyond customer satisfaction, organizations that utilize effective communication practices are over 50% more likely to have below-average employee turnover rates. Being able to communicate effectively will have a positive influence on an organization; however, ineffective communication can have much more impactful side effects.

HR Magazine surveyed 4,000 professionals about communications in the workplace. When looking at the results they found that 46% of the participants regularly receive directions that are vague or confusing, 36% of participants said that this happens up to 3 times a day. It was estimated that, on average, 40 minutes of productivity are wasted per day due to unclear directions. Basex Inc. found that 28% of the average employee’s day is spent dealing with interruptions, which winds up costing U.S. businesses upwards of $900 billion on an annual basis. In another study, conducted by the Computing Technology Industry Association, out of 1,000 professionals, 28% indicated that poor communication was the cause of projects not being completed in their original time frame. An inter-company study reported that differences in communication between managers and employees were directly responsible for an 18% variance in absentee rates of employees.

After seeing some of the impact that communication has on an organization, learning to understand, and effectively utilize, communication in the workplace will help to avoid those issues.

2. Types of Communication

Among coworkers, face-to-face communication is generally the most effective type of communication, as it allows for the clear exchange of messages and ideas. However, the problem is that face-to-face communication is not always possible, so other methods must be used. It is common to also communicate with written notes, phone calls, emails, and text messages, but more and more organizations are starting to utilize social media and blogs to communicate with employees and customers. By effectively utilizing multiple means of communication it allows for organizations to operate more efficiently and effectively.

One thing that many people do not realize is that effective nonverbal communication is just as important as effective verbal communication. Body language is one of the best indicators of nonverbal communication, and can show the real thoughts and attitudes of coworkers, despite what they might be saying. Nonverbal communication can affect the morale amongst coworkers, for instance: someone might be giving a presentation over a project and they look around and notice that everyone is slumped in their chair and not making eye contact, which might make them feel that their work is inadequate. However, you can take the reverse, and during the presentation everyone is paying attention and maintaining eye contact, which would make the employee feel accomplished.

Outside of the office it is also important to communicate with customers and receive their feedback. Many organizations will utilize social media, comment cards, and satisfaction surveys for customer feedback. By receiving customer feedback, it is easier to understand and meet their wants and needs.

3. Flow of Communication

There are 5 main types of communication flow within an organization: downward, upward, lateral, diagonal, and external.

Downward communication is communication that flows down from the higher levels of an organization to the lower levels, or down the chain of command. This type of communication transmits work-related information to lower level employees, which helps them to meet the expectations that have been set by their superiors. Managers use this communication to:

·     Give feedback on an employee’s performance

·     Relay instructions

·     Provide understanding for an employee’s job, and the role it plays in the organization

·     Communicating the mission and vision of the organization.

·     Etc.

This flow of communication is carried out through things such as – organizational publications, circulars, letters to employees, and group meetings. In order to be effective it is essential to:

·     Have a clear objective

·     Ensure the message is unambiguous, specific, and accurate

·     Make sure that the technique being used is the one that is best fit to relay the message.

When practiced effectively employees can maintain a clear direction for what they are doing, and have a complete understanding of the role that they play, which will increase productivity and limit frustrations.

Upward communication flows from the lower levels of an organization to the higher levels, which helps to relay the effectiveness of downward communication and allows employees to convey their opinions and ideas. Upward communications give employees a voice within the organization, to share their grievances, opinions, and ideas for the organization. This allows for managers to work out any issues and keep the workplace a pleasant place to be. This communication is facilitated through the Grievance Redressal System, Complaint/Suggestion Box, face-to-face conversations, etc. When effectively utilized this creates more loyal and committed employees because they feel like they can take some ownership and have a voice within the organization.

Lateral communication takes place at the same level of hierarchy within an organization, and is used to:

·     Save time

·     Facilitate co-ordination of tasks

·     Facilitate co-operation among employees

·     Solve problems within the organization

·     Share information

·     Resolve conflicts

When lateral communication is being used effectively it creates camaraderie, and builds rapport with coworkers. Many times this flow of communication brings coworkers closer because it provides them with emotional and social assistance in the office.

Diagonal communication is when a manager works with employees from another department or work group. This is utilized in instances like when a manager is creating a training module and works with employees from various departments to ensure that the training is accurate, or when a project spans across multiple departments. Effective diagonal communication leads to uniformity across an organization, and helps prevent any misunderstanding that may occur through the communication chain.

External communication is between a manager and an external group such as – vendors, suppliers, banks, etc. This communication helps to ensure that the organization has all that it needs to be able to function properly.

4. Improving Communication

For an organization to be successful, it is paramount that it’s members, both high level and low level, develop their communication skills. When an organization doesn’t have effective communications practices it can cause problems on many levels. Vague communication leads to a misunderstanding of expectations, while excessive communication can cause confusion and loss of concentration.

One of the first and most important steps in improving communication happens before you even need to convey a message, and that is listening. Communication is more than just relaying messages and ideas; it is also being able to listen to others so that you may understand them better. By listening first, you will gain a better understanding of your target audience, and thus, be able to identify the most effective way to communicate. Listening also allows for you to find answers to things you may be unsure about, and allows you to ask questions before it is too late.

It is important that the message, whether being sent electronically or in person, is both accurate and coherent. Leaving out details can, and most likely will, have an impact on the quality of the work that is being done. It can leave employees unable to complete their work, and lead them to be frustrated. By making sure the message is fit to reach your target audience it makes it easier to understand and will increase both productivity and efficiency.

Communication is essential to any organization that wants to succeed; the proof is in the pudding. The more effectively an organization communicates the more efficient and productive they are, and the happier their employees tend to be. When looking for ways to improve your business practices, insuring streamlined communication should be at the top of the list. Effective communication practices tend to foster organizations that are better equipped for success by being more efficient, having satisfied employees and, just as importantly, satisfied customers.

*Originally published on LinkedIn*