Prioritising communication as a productivity tool

I spend a lot of time in airports – not by choice, but because I travel where work takes me. Amongst the bustle of confined waiting areas and lounges, it can at times be difficult to avoid overhearing some interesting workplace conversations. My innate curiosity for people often drives me to listen in, particularly to discussions around culture and conflict. (Bad I know!)

I hear some real pearlers of stories, as tired employees and leaders collectively offload before returning home post meetings, training and conferences. The issue of poor communication in the workplace is raised by people time and time again; whether between leaders themselves or between a leader and staff, from colleague to colleague, or board member to board member.

Poor communication eats away at culture like a festering sore. Much research has clearly shown the negative business effect. Higher rates of employee turnover, increased absenteeism and poorer customer service are the manifestation of organisations failing to prioritise a focus on all aspects of the values and behaviours communication cycle*.

Actively moulding a culture of positive open and accountable communication will reap significant rewards for organisations who get it right. Employees feel more empowered in an environment where effective and regular communication takes place. They are more productive and driven to perform well**.

Let’s not, of course, confuse positive feedback with stifling disagreement. Our modern employee wants to be heard and research has repeatedly shown that allowing employees a voice and a vehicle to offer differing opinions creates a more engaged workplace***. When expressed appropriately under the right conditions, passion for new ideas drives disruption and innovation****.

There are some specific tell-tale contributors where internal communication has gone awry. Are any of these workplace realities familiar?

  • There is a clear lack of emotional intelligence among select members of the leadership group and/or business owner. Ego is too prevalent.
  • Little commitment to providing regular, high quality leadership and team development and training is in place.
  • Values and associated behaviours are not embedded as actions in the organisational culture.
  • Effective processes are lacking as a vehicle to drive appropriate communication.
  • Most importantly, a belief in the tangible business benefit of positive, healthy workplace communication is not apparent to those who make decisions. It’s just not on their radar.

Seeking honest, open and anonymous feedback from leaders and employees regularly is a great way to monitor how communication in the workplace is tracking. Remember perception is reality and hence business owners should step into their employee’s shoes is to gain a different perspective on the workplace vibe.

Once any organisational communication blockers are pin-pointed, an external source of training and development is the right step to minimise bias and optimise the outcome.

A proper program of education and development, focusing on self-awareness during the communication process as well as the correct processes and methods to inform and discuss can reap great results in culture and engagement. There is a tangible shift in energy and effort when positive workplace communication shines through. Employees are more motivated, more included and more productive. It all adds up to a more dynamic and productive business environment.

*Connecting Organizational Communication to Financial Performance – 2003/2004 Communication ROI Study (2003). Watson Wyatt & Company, 3 November 2003

Lexie Wilkins, Culture and Employee-Engagement Expert and Director, Lexie Wilkins Consulting

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