Effective Communication in the Workplace (How To Inspire Employees and Maintain Productivity)
Effective communication is the difference between, “Let’s eat, Grandma!” and “Let’s eat Grandma!”. One small variant and the sentence has us wondering when cannibalism became the newest trend.
Improving communication involves small suggestions, such as adding necessary commas, and larger ones, like using a three-step formula.
In our personal lives, communication is the ability to showcase that in fact – we do not want to eat grandma. In business, effective communication can showcase our leadership, bridge gaps between departments, and apply as much inspiration as the coffee pot in the kitchen.
When communication flounders, bad things happen. Grandma gets eaten or we realize a misconstrued message from us to accounting gave the customer a hefty bargain that was not intended.
What Qualifies as Effective Communication?
As Zig Ziglar, one of the world’s most successful motivational speakers, explains,
“In many ways, effective communication begins with mutual respect, [it’s] communication that inspires, [and] encourages others to do their best.”
Where business leaders fail is in thinking that others think just as we do. Reality? Every person has a totally different way of inputting information. As the person outputting, it is our job to be as clear as possible for maximum comprehension.
Effective communication in the workplace is a three-step formula:
- State what you want to tell the team member
- Give background as to why you are telling them this
- Explain what action you want taken
For example, imagine a CEO wants to start using Facebook ads in her marketing strategy and she is talking with the Head of Marketing.
Let’s look at an example of this conversation, email or chat message.
“I am interested in using Facebook ads in our 2019 marketing strategy. After speaking with several of my peers in our industry, I see them capitalizing on Facebook ads and increasing their monthly net profit as a direct result. Can we find ten companies in our niche using Facebook ads and research the campaigns they are running?”
This formula works because it touches upon the three critical components of a work conversation (not including those at the water jug):
- What are we about to talk about?
- Why are we talking about it?
- How do we proceed after?
This is the meat of the conversation, followed by the most important driver of business success, inspiration.
How To Motivate Employees Using Only Communication
Remember Zig Ziglar’s definition of effective communication? Communication encourages others to do their best.
In the above example, the CEO should end the conversation with,
“I’m looking forward to exploring the different ad campaign options available to us and hearing your advice on the best strategy for our company.”
Ending a conversation, email or chat with an inspirational driver like this shows that the CEO doesn’t just need the Head of Marketing to help with research, she also values his advice. When an employee feels valued, what do they feel encouraged to do? Complete each task at the absolute best of their ability.
Robert Cialdini, author of Pre-suasion, a marketing book delving deeply into the influence behind communication and its effect on marketing, emphasizes the consequences of asking somebody for their advice over their opinion.
As a social scientist, Cialdini explains the importance of advice over opinion based off of the following study of consumer relationships with a company:
One group of consumers was asked to give their opinion on a product and the other group was asked to give their advice on a product. The researchers found a stark difference between the two groups.
“We contrast different types of consumer input and propose that, relative to no input, soliciting advice tends to have an intimacy effect whereby the individual feels closer to the organization, resulting in increases in subsequent propensity to transact and engage with the organization.”
Consumers asked for their advice felt more attached to the company than the consumers asked for their opinion.
This discovery can be used to create the same attachment to the company within employees.
Cialdini uses this seventh principle of influence to turn customers into brand ambassadors. Intelligent CEO’s use it to promote longevity and work ethic in the workplace.
How To Sustain Effective Communication in Group Chats
We’ve covered the topic of group chat already, but in the era of mass communication, we get that it’s a hefty enough topic to cover twice.
Is it possible to effectively communicate via group chat or is this the equivalent of finding a purple unicorn eating tofu tacos on Mars?
Our goal at Brief is to make group chat (and all chat) as productive as possible, so we asked ourselves, how do we make tofu taco eating purple martian unicorns the norm?
The answer isn’t rocket science, it’s the simple understanding of how communication works (the three-step formula we explained above) and how to manage that within several team members at once.
Here’s what you need to know:
Quick thoughts over long-form messages.
If you had to text a friend about a book you think they would love, would you copy and paste the first chapter to them or would you text them a few sentences describing why you think they’d like the book?
Use the same concept for group chats but with the addition of ‘who’ in the third step.
- One sentence for what you want to do
- Once sentence for why you want to do it
- Once sentence for how you want to do it and who is going to do it
- Once sentence requesting all of the recipients advice (when appropriate)
Short and simple is the key here.
Communicate the expected response time.
Not every message needs a response, so communicate that. If there is no response required or if the response doesn’t need to be immediate, let your employees know. This avoids them jumping from task to task and allows them to get into deep work mode (AKA the sweet spot for maximum productivity).
If you need a response immediately, communicate that. Let the employee know that a fast response is what you need in that moment and you appreciate their flexibility to send you the answer you need when you need it.
Not following these guidelines can lead to group chats that slow your team down instead of propelling them forward. Jason Fried, author of Rework, refers to group chat as “being in an all day meeting with random participants and no agenda.”
Don’t waste all of your time sending GIFs.
How To Make Communication Effective Long Term
We have a three-step formula for communication, a research-backed inspiring conclusion and a revised group chat friendly communication method — but we don’t have a long-term plan.
What is a long-term effective communication plan?
It’s the number one reason your business is going to thrive in the upcoming years. Remotely-run businesses enable companies to access talent living all around the world. Yet, it has its downfalls.
Running a remote team works. It is totally a viable option when deciding to bring on employees or freelancers. What doesn’t work is thinking that group chats and emails are going to move the needle by themselves.
What moves the needle in 2019?
Face to face communication.
“No matter what industry you work in, we are all in the people business. Regardless of how tech-savvy you may be, face-to-face meetings are still the most effective way to capture the attention of participants, engage them in the conversation, and drive productive collaboration. If we don’t continue to nurture strong and positive personal relationships with our clients and coworkers, we won’t build trust, understanding, or a sense of a shared mission – all of which are critical elements to successful partnerships and business success.”
-Michael Massari, CSO of Caesar’s Entertainment (yes, as in Caesar’s Palace), on The Immeasurable Importance of Face-to-Face Meetings
When we talk about a long-term effective communication plan, we are talking about the face to face interactions that cover a series of 20 back and forth emails in fifteen minutes.
Face to face communication comes in two forms: video chat or in-person meetings (that take place in a convenient city for founder/CEO and employees). For example, remote businesses will have an effective communication plan that looks like this:
Weekly: 1 Hour Video Meeting
Q1: 2 Hour Video Meeting
Q2: In Person Meeting (Location: Atlanta)
Q3: 2 Hour Video Meeting
Q4: In Person Meeting (Location: Los Angeles)
Having a communication strategy may not have crossed your radar, but it’s time to integrate it into your business’ culture.
At Brief, we integrated Zoom video chat within our productivity app. The idea is to have tasks, chats and files in the same place as one of the most effective communication tools: face to face conversations. You can video chat with up to 100 members of your team at once through your smartphone or desktop. Isn’t that something?
Brief also lets you create tasks that can be used as a reminder for the weekly video chats, quarterly meetings and in-person meetings as in our examples above.
However you choose to build your effective communication strategy, our expert advice is to try to place all of your communication methods in one digital space to make remote interactions as seamless as possible.
Effective communication easily becomes one of the most underrated areas of a business—yet it’s one of the easiest systems to correct.
As a leader, use the three-step formula to get your point across, ask for advice, ensure messages in group chats are getting the same level of concise communication and plan face to face conversations throughout the week.
Effective communication in the workplace is the foundation of business. Effective communication in our personal lives keeps us from mistakenly eating our beloved grandmother.