The Importance of Effective Communication in the Workplace

Effective communication > ineffective communication.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Importance of Communication in the Workplace

Communication plays a fundamental role in our daily lives. And yet the art of communication at work is somewhat of a mystery to certain people.

But if you fail to communicate effectively, you could end up missing your chance of securing your dream job, closing a life-changing deal or advancing in your career.

For some, good communication comes naturally, but for others, it can be hard to articulate their thoughts and feelings in conversation, often leading to conflict and fundamental errors.

So, whether you’re an effective communicator or not, it’s essential to understand the importance of good communication and how it can help you become more professional at work to move forward in the working world.

What is effective workplace communication?

Effective communication in the workplace is an integral element of a business’s success; it enhances relationships within the company and with clients, and it increases employee engagement and the overall effectiveness of a team.

On the other hand, when teams fail to communicate effectively, the results are detrimental to the business. In fact, research by US firm Gartner shows a whopping 70% of business mistakes are due to poor communication. This statistic proves just how critical communication is to job training and why more emphasis should be put on clear instructions and conversations to prevent mistakes from happening within the workplace.

Types of communication

Communication can be divided into different categories, all of which can be harnessed in different contexts to make collaboration between team members more efficient. These types are:

  • Verbal: The ability to speak out loud in a clear, structured and respectful manner is vital in conveying information within a team.
  • Written: Written communication is just as important and frequently used in the workplace as verbal communication. It needs to be clear, concise and mindful of the receiver.
  • Visual: During presentations, pitches and brainstorming sessions, images can be used to capture and convey ideas. It’s not just designers who can (or should) master it!
  • Non-verbal: Non-verbal communication refers to body language, gestures and facial expressions. Team members must pay attention to the signals they might be sending unknowingly!

Why is effective communication important?

To demonstrate just how important good communication is at work, we’ve listed some of the benefits it can have on your professional life:

1. It improves team building

Honest and effective communication can create a strong team. When staff consult with each other, consider other opinions and discuss their progress, they’ll be more enthused to collaborate. As a result, the strong unit that they create makes the workplace more enjoyable, and they’ll be eager to perform well so they don’t let their teammates down.

Indeed, communication helps solve employee morale issues by keeping entire teams in the loop, making all team members feel useful within the workplace. This lack of secrecy not only boosts team spirit but also has a positive effect on staff attitudes.

2. It boosts growth

Great communication contributes to the growth of the business, which goes hand in hand with your career. It eliminates uncertainties and speeds up the process of policies to ensure there is a smooth delivery of projects.

Take eCommerce website Zappos, for example: their ethos relies on great communication within the organization and with their clients — something that earned them a spot on Fortune magazine’s 2015 list of the 100 best companies to work for.

3. It increases innovation

If employees won’t communicate their thoughts and ideas out of fear of being rejected, then they’re likely to become stagnant in their career and only contribute the bare minimum. However, if there’s an open line of communication between supervisors and staff members, they’re encouraged to be more creative and innovative within the workplace, and they’re likely to put forth new and creative ideas.

In today’s fast-moving workplace, most ideas are likely to be pushed under the carpet due to a lack of communication. As Cisco managing director Alex Goryachev writes on Forbes: “People listen mostly to respond rather than to understand. However, digitization demands active listening to the ecosystem in order to survive and develop collaborative strategies with startups, partners and customers around the world.”

4. It improves productivity

Being able to communicate tactfully and effectively at work can help increase overall productivity, especially for small businesses. Managers can understand their employees’ talents and skills, and will then give clear directions to the people that are best suited for the job, thus increasing the overall turnaround time of any given project.

For example, one coworker may be faster and better at using Excel than others; therefore, through communication, a manager can identify this and task them with managing the spreadsheets. If there was a lack of conversation, meanwhile, the project would suffer, and the entire process would slow down, negatively affecting the goal of the company as a result.

5. It increases efficiency

Poor communication compromises efficiency, as well as the overall quality of work. When instructions aren’t provided clearly, mistakes are bound to happen. On the other hand, clear instructions eliminate the need to clarify and correct any issues.

Think back to a time where you didn’t communicate well with a coworker. It probably resulted in wasted time, effort and resources. So, if you happen to have a manager that doesn’t communicate effectively, make sure you ask the right questions to get the information that you need to successfully complete a project. Over time, they’ll understand what they should be supplying you with so you can start working on your tasks.

6. It increases loyalty

When you have a good line of communication with management, you’re naturally going to be more loyal to the organization. You’ll feel comfortable discussing any professional or personal issues, and you’ll be more committed to the company.

This free line of communication also builds trust between a manager and an employee, which results in a loyal relationship. A two-way line of respect ensures there’s no micromanagement involved and that an employee is trusted to get on with the job that they were hired to do.

7. It reduces mitigation conflict

Two people in the workplace may feel that they’re communicating well, but because they both have different methods of communication, they’re misunderstanding each other. Therefore, working with different personalities requires excellent communication skills to limit any conflict in the workplace.

If you’re experiencing conflict at work, it’s important to look beyond the issue at hand and identify the other person’s thought process. You need to consider the communication pattern of the receiver to get a better understanding of what they’re trying to say.

8. It increases employee engagement

Good communication goes far beyond talking; it’s more about connecting and engaging with others. When teams are engaged, they’re more aligned with the company’s goals and generally more motivated to work towards the set targets.

It’s also easier for managers to identify what makes a positive and satisfying working environment, allowing them to work towards achieving a balanced working life for their employees.

9. It resolves problems

There’s bound to be characters that clash and opinions that differ within any working environment. And what’s the best way to solve those problems? Clear communication!

Effective communication isn’t about who’s right and wrong; it’s about having open, honest and positive discussions to ensure everyone’s needs are met! You’re not always going to see eye to eye with your work nemesis, but if you can find a way to work well with them, you’ll make the environment much more enjoyable for everyone around you!

10. It enhances skills

Managers can identify hidden talents when they communicate clearly with their employees. By doing so, they can tap into these skills and help enhance them, which will contribute to the overall success of the business.

For example, John may be hired as a customer service representative, but through conversation, his manager identifies that he has previous experience in marketing. John is then transferred to marketing and is much better suited to the position. If the lack of communication were there, however, John would have become stagnant later down the line, and the business would have lost great talent.

Signs of ineffective communication

Much like poor leadership practices, ineffective communication can have detrimental effects on company finances and employee morale. More specifically, it can result in:

1. Compromised productivity

Coordinating team members so that company processes run like clockwork requires exceptionally good communication skills. Both written and verbal, that is! You simply can’t be productive as an individual or a department unless you know what you’re meant to be doing and when you need to have completed it by — as well as how it all fits in with the efforts of coworkers or other teams.

2. Poor-quality work

If employees don’t know how to communicate effectively in writing, this can cost them (and their organization) their credibility. Poor email etiquette, badly written “About Us” sections and error-ridden social media posts are not a good look.

Plus, if information doesn’t get passed on right between workers, it will show in other ways: missed deadlines, too many last-minute changes, rushed work, and so on.

3. Wasted time

When colleagues struggle to communicate, information doesn’t get passed on right. If you need someone to complete a task, if you (or they!) are not clear when communicating, you’ll lose time in the back-and-forth.

If this is further exacerbated by a lack of tools in the office, such as project management or contact management software, then more time will go towards looking for things or revising existing work than actually being productive.

4. Bad interpersonal relationships

Communication is one of the core pillars that all healthy relationships rest upon. Take it away, and interpersonal relations suffer.

When team members don’t know how to listen actively, ask or give help, navigate confrontations and set boundaries when they need to, trust goes out the window. This, needless to say, is bad for employee morale and productivity.

5. Higher employee turnover

When an employee is frustrated over receiving inadequate or inaccurate information repeatedly, unfulfilled by their work relationships, and also feeling like they’re wasting their time, what follows is typically their resignation.

According to Gallup, replacing a single employee costs companies one-half to two times the employee's annual salary… And that’s a conservative estimate. Ouch!

Tips to improve communication at work

Miscommunication costs businesses upwards of $12,000 per employee each year. That’s how much significance good communication has! To improve it, try doing the following:

1. Make use of tools

There are countless tools you can use to encourage better communication between your team members. For example, if you don’t already use instant messaging over email where you can, do so to save time. And, if your team isn’t too confident in their written communication skills, get an AI-powered writing assistant to provide instant feedback and recommendations so that they build their skills over time.

2. Sign up for seminars

If miscommunication is causing you and your team to lose precious time and fall out with one another, you might want to consider signing up for a communication skills seminar. That could be in the form of an online course or a series of in-person workshops.

3. Lead by example

As a boss or manager, leading by example can be a great way to motivate your team because it shows that you hold yourself to the same standards as you do everyone else. How can you expect your team members to avoid one-word responses to emails when all you’re sending out to them are hurried “OK”s?

4. Follow up meetings with notes

Whether it’s one-on-one meetings or larger ones, it’s a good idea to follow up what’s been said with meeting minutes. Going over your plan of action both verbally and in writing can eliminate misunderstandings and save you precious time that you would otherwise spend answering questions.

5. Invest in team building

Think of your friends and how well they “get you” even when you’re not necessarily articulating as well as you could. They can simply read your tone and body language and add it to what you’re saying to gain a sense of your experience. Likewise, the more comfortable and familiar team members are with one another, the easier it becomes to understand and be understood.

Key takeaways

Ineffective communication makes it near-impossible for employees to work closely with one another as part of a team. Not only that, but it can also lead to a lack of direction or purpose, which increases employee disengagement and dissatisfaction, thus boosting turnover rates. Whether employees stay at the company and work at decreased efficiency or throw in the towel and find work elsewhere, the result is the same: it wounds the company’s profits and reputation.

Therefore, bosses and managers who hope to retain their best talent and preserve their profits must remember the following:

  • Common types of communication in the workplace include verbal and written, with non-verbal also being essential to building and maintaining trust.
  • Efficient communication translates into increased efficiency and productivity, as well as improved employee relations. This saves companies thousands each year.
  • There are many tools and software that can enhance coordination between team members and help them develop their communication skills in the long term.
  • Leading by example is a great way for leaders to inspire their team members to invest in honing their soft skills, including teamwork and communication.

Can you think of any other benefits that come with great communication in the workplace? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

Originally published on January 5, 2015. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.