Employers today are looking for more than technical skills. They are also focused on other essential skills, sometimes referred to as soft skills. These include things like critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration.
Possibly the most important soft skill that employers are looking for in a potential employee is communication. Hiring managers seek applicants who can communicate well. They may want somebody to communicate with colleagues and clients. For management positions, employers need people who can communicate well with the individuals who report directly to them.
Communication at work may look different from communication at home. Every business has its own communication style and culture. Some offices may be casual places where people know each other on a personal level. In this case, communication may be more informal and feel like conversations among friends. Still, communication between colleagues should always be professional. In other business cultures, more formal communication may be expected. In this case, people are less personal and more direct when they talk about business matters. Regardless of the type of work environment, communication is key in order to flourish.
The Best Ways to Communicate Effectively at Work
1. Listen Actively
Active listening is an important skill. Yet many people do not take the time to listen to what is being said to them in a way that allows them to process information. To improve your communication at work, make sure you stop what you are doing when someone is speaking to you, make eye contact or take notes and ask clarifying questions. You do not have to process everything your coworkers say right then, but you do need to hear what they are saying so you can consider it in the future.
2. Read Body Language
Much of what is communicated is unspoken. Body language can convey a multitude of feelings and emotions. Facial expressions can tell you when people are confused, upset, excited or feeling neutral about a topic. Posture, such as how people are standing or holding their arms, can tell you if someone is feeling defensive or open to the idea that you are communicating. When you are speaking with colleagues, make sure to notice their unspoken communication.
3. Present to Engage
If you are in a role where you must present information, consider how your audience best receives it. Not everyone likes to watch a PowerPoint presentation and have each screen read aloud word for word. Some people like micro-learning or small chunks of information because they find that easier to process. Other people prefer conversation or question-and-answer style rather than a lecture. Consider how to present information to engage your colleagues in more effective communication.
4. Know Telephone Etiquette
Using a telephone was once the only way we could really communicate with colleagues or clients on a regular basis if they were not close to our workstation. Today, many different forms of communication have taken over as preferred. Let the person know why you are calling and what you hope to accomplish in the phone call. Also, before you make the call, consider whether to send an email or a quick chat message instead. Some people prefer to respond at their own pace and in their own time.
5. Use Email Wisely
It can be easy to shoot off a quick email whenever you have something to say to a colleague or a client. However, email is best used for quick updates or recaps. It should not be a forum in which you discuss personal matters, give feedback or share sensitive information. All those things should be done in person so that you can gauge the receiver’s reaction as expressed in body language. It is okay to use email to check the status of something, to check in with somebody or request a meeting or phone call.
6. Designate a Time to Get to Know Your Colleagues
Many people feel that they lose productivity at work because of the time spent socializing with their colleagues. They do care about the people they work with and want to get to know them better, and this type of communication does help build community and enforce a collaborative culture in a workplace. However, it can also be distracting if they are in the middle of a task or trying to keep a timeline. So instead of communicating socially with people whenever you feel like it, try to schedule that time with them. Ask them if they have ten minutes for a chat. Alternatively, set aside open office hours for people who report directly to you and ask them to check in with you on non-work-related topics.
7. Collaborate Remotely
In recent months, many businesses have sent their employees home to work remotely. This has been a trying time for organizations that were used to their staff meeting and communicating face-to-face. A lot of that communication dropped off as people tried to get both their personal and their business lives in order and to figure out what communication looks like in the “new normal.” In order to keep your professional communication strong, make sure you can collaborate with people from afar. Do you have the technical tools to support effective communication and collaboration? Make sure the distance does not detract from communication with your colleagues and clients.
8. Connect on a Personal Level
Even if your organization has a formal communication style, you can get to know people on a personal level by sharing information about yourself when you give presentations. This helps people engage with what you are saying and get to know you better. It helps them connect to the message you are trying to send. This can build collegiality and community in the office. If you have a more informal office, make sure you take the time to get to know about people's personal interests and families. You may be able to use that information later to help them connect to projects they might be interested in or to meet other colleagues who have similar interests.
9. Know the Best Tool for the Message
There are many ways to communicate, from email to phone to in-person to using a chat or messaging program. One way to improve your communication at work is to know which communication tool works best for the message you are trying to send. We have already talked about how email should be used for quick check-ins or scheduling time to talk in-person. The phone should also be used to connect personally with people at a distance, but long phone calls should be kept to a minimum. In-person communication is best for sharing sensitive information or giving feedback. Chat or messaging programs are popular tools especially now that many teams are remote. However, these tools are not ideal for sharing a lot of new information about a project. Instead, they shine for social interaction and quick project or status updates.
10. Ask for Feedback
Possibly the best way to improve your communication at work is to ask for feedback. After you deliver a presentation, ask people close to you what you could do to improve or how you could have gotten your message across more clearly. If someone you are talking to seems to be getting upset or confused about what you are trying to share, notice that. Then pause your delivery. Ask what is going on and how you can communicate for effectively. The more you learn about your communication style, the better you will be at communicating with the people you work with.
Essential communication skills are built into many courses at Grand Canyon University. Join us for an online class or a full-degree program where you will not only build your academic skills but you also learn how to communicate effectively in just about any situation.
At Grand Canyon University, we provide a rigorous academic experience for learners from all walks of life, as well as the support our students need to be successful. Click the Request Info button on this page to learn more and get started on your academic journey.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.