Keeping communication open and transparent in the workplace isn’t always easy, but it’s necessary for the business to function.
There are many ways of improving communication skills between colleagues to help everyone work more efficiently and effectively.
Here are 10 ways you can bring your team closer together by working on your communication skills:
1. Check in with your team regularly
Team meetings are an opportunity for everyone to explain what they’ve been working on and raise any issues they’re having. Making these a weekly or biweekly event gives people time to make progress on the projects they’re working on while giving everyone a chance to check in with each other.
Talk to your team about what works best for them. Is it best to have a kick-off meeting on a Monday morning or would a mid-week catch-up suit them better? Is there enough to say at a weekly meeting or would it be more practical to make it a fortnightly get together?
As well as team meetings, your one-to-one meetings should meet the needs of the individuals in your team. Some might need more support than others and appreciate more frequent meetings with you.
Every individual will have a different way of communicating too – some will prefer you to be direct with them, whereas others will need to be spoken to in a gentler way.
Getting to know your team on a personal level and understanding their strengths and weaknesses is the best way to get the most out of your team and draw on their expertise.
2. Use your active listening skills
It’s so easy to get distracted when you’re having a conversation with someone, and often, people just want to feel heard.
Active listening can help you to build a strong rapport with your colleagues, and help them feel as though someone is hearing what they have to say.
Concentrate on what they’re telling you, without crafting your response in your mind. That will show them that you’re invested in their concerns, and you’re not trying to dismiss them. Using prompts like ‘yes’ or ‘mm’ can also encourage them to expand on their points without feeling like they’re taking up your time.
If you’re unsure on what someone is telling you, ask them to clarify their point and paraphrase what they’ve said so they can see that you’ve understood.
3. Improve your non-verbal communication skills
Believe it or not, a lot of what you say isn’t with your words.
Your body language plays a huge part in how you come across to others. If you want to show someone you’re interested in what they have to say, lean into them a little more and maintain eye contact to show they have your full attention.
Nodding along with what they’re saying can encourage your colleague to elaborate as they feel validated. You can also try subtly mirroring their movements to show that you’re on their side and build more of a rapport with them.
As well as paying attention to your own body language, try to notice what the other person is doing too. Do they have their arms crossed in a defensive position or are they quite open and confident? Noticing these cues can help you to understand how they’re feeling without them having to say a word.
4. Learn how to give constructive feedback
Some people need more encouragement than others to complete tasks effectively, so affirming that they’re doing a good job could be just what they need.
When you’re giving constructive criticism, try to keep in mind the sandwich approach – sandwiching a negative point in between two positive ones. For example:
“David, your work has been exceptional this month and we’re getting lots of good results from it. We do need to work on your ability to meet tight deadlines, but I’m sure with a little more practice, you’ll be able to deliver on time. What can I do to help you reach those goals?”
5. Be clear when giving briefs and asking your team for work
To improve efficiency within your team and minimise frustration among your colleagues, try to give as much context as possible when you’re briefing work into other people in the team.
You might be able to see the full picture, but your colleagues might not have been involved in earlier conversations.
Once you’ve given a clear brief and explained why they are being asked to complete the task, make sure they fully understand it before they start the work.
Be there to provide clarity should they need it and follow up to make sure they have everything they need.
6. Always follow up after meetings
In a similar vein, following up after a meeting can help everyone to gain clarity on what happened during the meeting and what the outcomes are.
Recap what was discussed in an email to everyone who attended to make sure everyone is clear. Then detail the action points that were taken away from the meeting, and who is responsible for what.
That way, everyone understands what’s expected of them, and when it should be delivered. It also gives everyone the opportunity to question anything they’re unsure of before they get started.
7. Deliver information in the way that your colleague would rather receive it
Although everyone is busy, taking the time to deliver information to your colleagues in the way they’d prefer to receive it can save lots of confusion.
If one person would rather have the raw data, share it with them, but if they won’t read it unless it’s presented in a PDF document with key facts highlighted, it may be worth dedicating some time to this.
Understanding how people would prefer to receive information can make everyone’s jobs a lot easier and help the whole team to understand their colleagues’ needs a little better.
8. Train your team in communication skills
Building your team’s communication skills is crucial for bringing teams together. Putting official training in place can help to speed learning up, and get everyone on the same page.
You might want to look into Information, Advice and Guidance apprenticeships (IAG) for your managers if they’re sharing information or offering advice (or our communication skills in the workplace course).
Anybody in an advisory role can take an IAG course, from people working in the public sector, to housing associations, and even priests.
Having this qualification in your team means there is a greater level of support for those who need it.
9. Keep staff up to date with company information
In every business, there needs to be a central place that staff can visit to find out news about the company.
Particularly in larger businesses, it can be difficult to foster a feeling of community, and people can end up missing out on events they would have liked to take part in.
If you don’t have a dedicated role for this within your team, make sure there is someone who can send company-wide emails, or run a Slack/Teams channel for that purpose.
When you’re communicating information with employees, try to keep your messages clear and concise. Let your team know how they can get involved in any events you have coming up and keep them up to date with any company changes.
This can stop rumours swirling, and staff feeling as though they’ve been left out.
10. Ask for feedback yourself to see how you can improve
Whether you’re in an entry-level position or a director of the company, it’s always a good idea to ask your colleagues for feedback.
Use 1:1’s with your team to speak to them about your support and whether there is anything else you could be doing to help them. In a more private setting like this, they may feel more comfortable sharing their concerns.
It’s also wise to ask for feedback after you’ve delivered work or a presentation, as this will help you to take comments from your colleagues on board and improve in the future.