Effective communication in the workplace is one of the cornerstones of a successful business. It paves the way for achieving a collaborative environment and maintaining professional working relationships built on respect, trust, and understanding. When employees communicate well, this will help move projects smoothly and therefore, increase the productivity of the business.
While knowing how to communicate well in the workplace is highly important, this skill does not come naturally to a lot of people. Some employees are more comfortable with verbal communication while others thrive better using the written word. If you excel at one form of communication, it doesn’t mean, however, that you cannot improve on your weak points.
Knowing the different methods of business communication and what types of messages they are suitable for can help you improve your overall communication skills.
Methods Of Business Communication
There are different methods in which employees can communicate in the workplace. Each method has its own purpose and advantages. Depending on what message you want to impart, you can decide on which approach to use.
1. Email Messaging
Do you know that almost 300 billion (yes, billion!) emails are sent every single day?
Sending emails is one of the most preferred methods of business communication. Email messaging provides a quick, economical, and simple way to send messages wherever internet connection is available all over the world. Emails can be sent 24 hours a day and delivery is instant.
The advantage of emails when it comes to communication in the workplace is that you can easily reference the message history. Emails give you a “paper trail” without the need of printing and storing physical documents. It reduces problems of “he said, she said” because you can easily look up what was written in the email to clear things up.
While there are many upsides to using emails at work, there are also some disadvantages. Sending and reading emails can become a productivity-killer as it can take so much of your time. It can also be frustrating when you’re copied to email threads that you don’t need to be in. Emails can also open you to spam, viruses, phishing scams, and ransomware risks.
One of the most common issues with email messages is that they often lack emotional cues which often results in misunderstandings. Unlike a phone call or a face-to-face conversation, an email can come across as too formal or impersonal.
Emails are great for sending out messages that contain information that are too detailed or lengthy for a verbal conversation. Because of the formal tone emails tend to have, sending an email is a perfectly acceptable method to reach out to a client, send business proposals, and seek approvals.
You can use emails when sending out a project brief to your team, meeting minutes or a set of tasks, wherein they need a written reference. If you want to send business documents like contracts or invoices, emails are a very useful way to send electronic copies.
Emails can also be used to send out messages that do not necessarily need an immediate response such as circulating company announcements and newsletters.
Avoid using emails to relay negative news, simple questions that can be answered by YES/NO, instructional training, and giving out complex information that needs to be explained.
2. One-on-one personal communication
In many cases, there’s nothing better than a face-to-face conversation to discuss work-related matters. The non-verbal cues and body language involved in talking one-on-one eliminates misunderstandings that are often experienced with electronic communication.
This method of communication can be used for different purposes. If you need to discuss a sensitive or confidential issue with a colleague or a client, it is better to meet the other party in person rather than just sending an email or calling by phone.
One-on-one meetings are also used by managers in giving feedback or coaching. At the same time, employees use one-on-one meetings to give status updates, explain a project detail, or to get a quick decision from a client or superior.
While one-on-one meetings are effective, make sure that you send the other party an agenda or supporting information about what you need to discuss beforehand to save valuable time. If important issues and decisions were made during the one-on-one, sending a recap email on what was agreed can ensure that you are both on the same page.
3. Team Meetings
A team meeting is a collaborative tool that can help in getting employees engaged in with the business. Meetings should be used to brainstorm, get ideas flowing, share instant feedback, and make joint decisions. When utilised well, meetings can help employees become more creative and productive.
For a meeting not to become disruptive, make sure that it always follows a set agenda. Avoid going off-track or discussing items not related to the issue.
Keep meetings brief and action-focused. Always maintain minutes of the meeting outlining the decisions and the next steps to be done.
When used as a brainstorming session, you should not just sit around thinking. Instead, people going into meetings should be ready with their suggestions before they come in. The meeting should be a platform to discuss and hone ideas, not a venue to think fresh ones.
4. Instant Messaging
Instant messaging is a great tool used by employees to exchange messages in real time. These types of messages can be sent one-on-one or employees can engage in a group conversation.
You can use text messages connected to your phone line or online applications such as Skype, WhatsApp, or the direct messaging tools on your social media channels.
One-on-one instant messaging is often used to send reminders to your colleagues, quick updates, or ask simple questions. While there is an expectation to receive a response quicker than an email, there is no pressure of answering on the spot as would be required in a phone call.
It also saves time because you’re typically not expected to exchange pleasantries or engage in small talk. A simple greeting like “hi” or “good morning” at the beginning of the message is fine and then you can directly get straight to the point.
Team messaging or group chats have been made possible by technology. Many online applications like Slack and Skype allow multiple users to engage in team conversations in real time. This is very useful especially for connecting employees from different business departments and locations.
For many young workers, they prefer this type of communication as it is less formal than emails and does not require too much time commitment like team meetings. While the messaging is still instant, people can respond in their own time.Participants can multitask and continue with their work while being in the group thread.
5. Presentations and training
Presentations and training sessions are often referred to by most employees as meetings. However, these serve quite a different purpose. While meetings are collaborative and require the active participation of the attendees, presentations and training are mostly one-sided.
In presentations, one employee or team presents ideas to another party. The bulk of the time is spent on one party getting these ideas across. At the end of the presentation, there is usually a question and answer portion. Since in most cases the content of presentations are communicated for the very first time during the session, you should not expect feedback that is very detailed or well fleshed-out.
Training sessions are conducted when the company needs to educate employees regarding new processes. Even with many tech innovations, training is still very useful to this day. You can read the best business books or an entire company manual, but that cannot replace the hands-on approach provided by training.
6. Voice Call
Voice calls either through phone or internet applications are still widely used by many businesses. Customers often reach out to companies using hotlines or toll-free numbers. Voice calls are also used to communicate to clients, business partners, and colleagues.
While voice calls used to be a preferred method of business communication, it has become less popular especially with millennials. Phone calls are not free and it can cost quite a lot if you need to call someone who is from another city or overseas.
With voice calls, the other party can also be put on the spot whether or not that person is ready with an answer. This is the reason why more and more employees prefer instant messaging or emails.
That does not mean, however, that voice calls do not have their advantages. Phone calls can be a great way to follow up with someone after sending an email. It can add a personal touch and push for a response in case something is very urgent. Avoid using voice calls to discuss very lengthy topics and sensitive information.
7. Video Conferencing
Speedy internet connection in many parts of the world has made video conferencing much better. Using a video call is a step up from voice calls because participants are able to visually see one another, which prevents overlapping of dialogues.
This is a great alternative when in person conversations are not possible due to location concerns. Video conferencing can also be used when a person cannot attend meetings or to conduct training.
Improving workplace communication
Even if all your employees are gifted communicators, communication in the workplace will not always be smooth sailing. Misunderstandings amongst employees are normal and unavoidable. However, knowing the different methods of business communication and when to use them can help minimise miscommunication issues.