How to overcome problems and make communications a two-way street

Poor communication is a common problem in many organizations, resulting in a number of workplace woes such as interpersonal conflict, poor productivity and low morale. Fortunately, communication problems are almost always solvable, and, while not everyone may be born a great communicator, most of us can learn.

In order to improve relationships with employees and ensure messages are achieving the intended results, effective communication requires a constant exchange of information. In many organizations, internal communications consist of e-mail messages, memos to employees, informal surveys and town-hall meetings — all of which are indeed activities of internal communication, but all lack the critical component of personal contact.

“In this age of electronic communication, too many of us use e-mail as a substitute for personal interaction,” says Amy Broadbent, the vice president of JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice. “When giving employees news that directly affects their work, it is best to convey the message in person.”

Doing so will give you the opportunity to clarify complex or sensitive issues and answer questions. When giving instructions or discussing business solutions, do not assume that everyone understands you. It is important to ask if you have been clear or if further explanation is necessary. Different people often make different deductions from the same information. The extra effort made clarifying an issue upfront can save valuable time later by preventing mistakes and misunderstandings.

Smart Business spoke to Broadbent about communication, overcoming communication issues, and why clear and effective communication is so vital to business.

Why is clear communication so critical?

Employees want to be heard; managers and supervisors need to take time to listen. Clear communication is a two-way street. So, enter every discussion with an open mind. The more receptive you are to new ideas and suggestions, the more readily your staff will offer them. Improving communication with employees can help employers build stronger and more productive relationships. Keeping your team members informed and showing genuine interest in what they have to say in return is critical in creating the type of work environment that brings out the best in employees.

How does feedback to employees tie into effective communication?

Meaningful feedback to employees is very important to effective communication. While annual performance evaluations are valuable communication tools, they should not be limited to once-a-year events. People do not like surprises and they want an opportunity to develop and improve throughout the year. Providing continuous and constructive on-the-job evaluations that focus on situations as they arise is a key component of effective communication. Remember to highlight the positives as well as the negatives. And, in addition to giving assessments, solicit feedback from employees. Ask if there is anything you can do to make their jobs easier or more satisfying.