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GuidesEmployee experienceMastering effective communication: tips & techniques

Mastering effective communication: tips & techniques

Last updated

3 October 2023

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Shawnna Johnson

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Communication plays a vital role in our lives by enabling the sharing of thoughts, ideas, instructions and the cultivation of meaningful relationships.

Ineffective communication can result in misunderstandings, arguments, and errors. However, successful communication calls for more than forming coherent sentences.

To master effective communication, one must develop a profound understanding of its fundamental principles and acquire the necessary skills and strategies to apply them effectively in various situations.

Why is effective communication so important?

According to Grammarly’s 2023 State of Business Communication report with The Harris Poll, ineffective workplace communication costs US businesses $1.2 trillion annually.

Setting aside the hefty costs of broken communication, the benefits of getting communication right are numerous:

Employee success

Clear communication is essential for employees to complete daily tasks, perform well, build relationships, and thrive in the workplace. Managers and team leaders must be able to transmit information successfully in the form of instructions, expectations, and feedback. Clear communication gives employees the resources to perform their jobs properly and meet company expectations. 

Two-way communication that allows employees to share their career goals can help companies improve the employee experience and provide upward mobility within the organization.

Team building

Clear, courteous communication is vital to teamwork, trust, and collaboration. When team members can effectively share information and ideas, each member can perform their role more effectively and work towards common goals. 

These interactions improve productivity and employee engagement, increasing your company's bottom line.

Fostering creativity and innovation

Transparent, respectful communication gives employees the confidence to share their ideas freely. When employees can convey new ideas in meetings, with team members, and with management, their creative ideas can assist with developing new or improved products and services. 

Transparency and increased trust

Gallup research shows that only 22% of employees trust their organization's leadership. Why is this important? Employees who trust company leaders are four times more likely to be engaged and 58% less likely to seek a new job. Clear internal and external communication helps organizations build trust with employees and customers. 

Reduced misunderstandings

Clear communication can result in clarity between management, teams, and employees. If either party communicates ineffectively, the resulting misconceptions can lead to disagreements and errors. Ultimately, misunderstandings can decrease productivity and lead to poor relationships among coworkers. 

What defines effective communication?

Highly effective communication successfully conveys a message that ensures clarity, understanding, and the intended response. 

It hinges on multiple elements, including: 

  • Adapting the communication style to suit the audience and context 

  • Clear and concise expression of ideas

  • Active listening

  • Empathy

Effective communicators are often skilled in both verbal and non-verbal communication, using body language, tone, and timing to enhance the impactfulness of the message.

Moreover, skillful communication fosters a conducive environment for open and honest dialogue where both parties feel heard and respected. 

Communication bridges gaps in understanding and fosters meaningful connections. Ultimately, it achieves the desired outcomes in personal and professional interactions.

What are the key features of effective communication?

Effective communication relies on two fundamentals: clarity and mutual understanding

It is a dynamic, interactive process necessitating active involvement from both the sender and receiver.

The sender's responsibility covers crafting a clear message, strategically selecting an appropriate delivery method—such as face-to-face conversations, written documents, or visual aids—and providing sufficient context to facilitate understanding.

In practice, this might involve

  • Choosing a presentation format for a business proposal

  • Writing an informative email

  • Using diagrams and charts to simplify complex data

Meanwhile, the recipient's responsibility is to engage attentively with the message, striving to grasp the underlying meaning rather than merely the surface-level words. 

Communication flourishes when both parties collaborate.

The 7 C's of effective communication

The 7 C's of communication is a list of principles to ensure strong business communication. The list was crafted for the textbook, "Effective Public Relations," written by Professor Scott M. Cutlip and Allen H. Center in 1952.

Next time you have something important to communicate, run it through the 7 C's, confirming that your message is:

Clear

✅ Concise

✅ Correct

✅ Concrete

✅ Coherent

✅ Complete

✅ Courteous

Advanced communication techniques to master

Observation and non-verbal cues

Body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice are often key communication signals. Sharp observational skills can help leaders recognize issues that need addressing. Sometimes, non-verbal communication during an interaction can tell the recipient more than speech. 

Concision and clarity

Clear messages are concise and convey a specific point. Skip lengthy sentences, multiple paragraphs, and complex vocabulary in favor of direct information.  Illustrations, maps, charts, or blueprints may provide additional clarity.

Self-confidence

Working on self-confidence can signal trustworthiness and enable you to communicate straightforwardly without ambiguity. 

Active listening

Avoid planning how you’ll respond or react while the other person is still speaking. Be attentive and reflect on what you think you’ve heard. Experiment with using phrases like “Correct me if I’m wrong, but…” or “So I think I hear you saying that...” can elicit confirmation or prompt the other person to say, “Actually, no. I mean that...”

This technique works best when used conversationally and backed by sincere curiosity. Just take care not to overdo it. For instance, if your colleague is openly furious about something, peppering them with questions or reflecting, “Wow, Jean, sounds like you’re really angry!” probably won’t land well.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence or awareness helps you understand why you react the way you do in various situations. Unexamined emotions can sometimes cloud the ability to communicate clearly or listen to others effectively. Outbursts can sometimes undermine authority or prevent getting taken seriously. In addition, situationally appropriate responses—for instance, staying calm when your colleague is angry—can facilitate effective communication.  

Discretion

Public forums like team meetings are ideal for communication policy updates, milestones, success stories, or recognition for a job well done. However, text and email may be more suitable for private, one-on-one interactions. For instance, sharing constructive criticism calls for discretion and tact rather than a scolding in a morning rally.

Good timing, using the best available communication channel, and knowing your audience are all paramount to ensuring your message’s effectiveness.

Conveying feedback

Communication is a give-and-take. As such, providing and receiving feedback is essential to developing effective communication. When delivering instructions or presentations, allow time for questions afterward. 

How to improve communication when working remotely

According to 2023 data from the Labor Department, 40% of employees work from home at least part of the time. Businesses need relevant communication tactics to maintain high productivity and collaboration.

If your workforce includes remote workers, make sure you’re using these techniques:

Clarify your expectations

Whether you're assigning tasks or setting policies for remote work, ensuring employees know what you expect is essential. Begin your interactions by clearly stating your expectations. If you have much to cover, circle back to repeat expectations before signing off. It's also okay to ask your audience to restate what you said to ensure understanding.  Follow-up discussions with a written summary will help cement expectations.  

Use two-way communication

Working remotely without two-way company communications can lead to disengagement and poor performance. Create ways for employees to communicate and interact with personnel, such as polls, surveys, and ranking tools.

Create an informal space

Create virtual spaces or special occasions to promote casual interactions. Non-work Slack channels, virtual gatherings, team quizzes, and virtual happy hours can provide this space.

Include face-to-face communication

Misunderstandings from lack of visual cues are some of the biggest concerns surrounding ineffective communication. Even when employees work remotely full-time, in-person communication can establish a better connection and increase understanding. 

Add well-designed Zoom meetings and (when possible) in-person interactions to your schedule.  Consider requiring employees to be on-camera more than off-camera during working hours. Making interactions more organic and frequent helps teams get to know each other and collaborate.

Add value

Remote workers may be more protective of their time and time devoted to work. While it's essential to make an effort to communicate with remote employees, it's crucial to avoid wasting their time. 

Avoid creating a situation that makes employees feel like company correspondence adds to their workload. For instance, when planning remote meetings, send agendas and objectives ahead of time to ensure preparation. 

Organize live events so they will be fast-paced and add value rather than interrupt workflows and lengthen the workday.

Make personal connections

Now, more than ever, showing employees they are more than a number is essential. A recent Gartner survey revealed that 82% of employees want their company to see them as people instead of just employees. Conducting non-business interactions is critical. 

Participate in one-on-one interactions with each of your remote employees. A simple Zoom check-in or even an email can be an effective way to show employees you care. These conversations can also help you become aware of issues and resolve problems before they become a significant concern. 

All human relationships depend on effective communication to share information and ideas. However, this is even more true when success depends on the ability of multiple individuals to align objectives to achieve common goals.

Takeaways

In the realm of personal and professional success, one central pillar stands out: effective communication. Its profound impact extends to shaping relationships and determining outcomes. 

Clarity and brevity in communication offer employees and teams many benefits, from enhanced creativity and trust to reduced misunderstandings. 

Mastering the art of communication entails understanding its fundamental principles, adapting to diverse audiences, and employing advanced techniques like active listening and emotional intelligence. 

The 7 C's of communication offer an excellent guide, reminding us to be Clear, Concise, Correct, Concrete, Coherent, Complete, and Courteous.

In the era of remote work, maintaining communication excellence demands clear expectations, two-way engagement, informal interaction spaces, face-to-face connections whenever possible, and efficient, value-added communication. 

Effective communication is a driving force behind increased engagement, effective teamwork, and business excellence.

FAQs

How does effective communication save time?

Effective communication saves time by reducing the likelihood of misunderstandings, errors, and the need for repeated explanations or corrections. 

When information is clear and concise, recipients can grasp it swiftly and accurately, minimizing the back-and-forth exchanges and clarifications often required in less effective communication scenarios. 

Additionally, efficient communication streamlines decision-making processes, as relevant information is readily available and easily understandable, enabling quicker resolutions to problems and facilitating more efficient workflow. 

This time-saving aspect of effective communication translates to increased productivity, smoother collaborations, and the ability to allocate time and resources to other critical tasks and priorities.

What are the common types of workplace communication?

Workplace communication encompasses various types, including leadership communication (instructions, policy memos, reviews, praise), informal interactions (emails, chats, guidance), vertical communication (notes, emails, reports), updates (texts, digital channels), demonstrations (presentations), meetings (swift information exchange), and customer communications (transparent and concise).

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