By Texthelp, a Disability Confident Employer & global assistive technology provider
The past 18 months have forced businesses to radically rethink the structure of the workplace. Even as organisations return to the office, hybrid practices will likely remain.
In this new environment, good communication is more important than ever. Here are 12 tips which organisations can apply to improve internal communication in the workplace this year.
1. Put the other person first
Whether you’re talking face-to-face, or over the phone, putting the other person first is a vital first step. Try to use inclusive language that connects you and your colleague or client. For written communication, using the word “you” can feel direct and accusatory. Instead, use sentences that describe activity in more general terms in order to make the tone more friendly. The best working environments are collaborative, and thinking carefully about how to foster a collaboration through language is vital.
2. Remember we are all human
Complementing this collaborative approach, it’s important to think about the broader circumstances of colleagues. Remote working can mean that much of our communication takes place via screens and over media channels. This can make it easy to forget that our colleagues are human beings with responsibilities outside of work. They might have young children, multiple people in the house but limited working spaces or loved ones who may be ill – and with COVID being the source of this, that’s highly likely. If we can be conscious of these personal challenges and recognise that, for example, a short and blunt email was really all the time they had available between feeding their kids, we are able to appreciate that someone’s best day might also be someone else’s worst.
3. Personalise your communication to fit individual needs
Everyone is different. People will naturally be more responsive to different communication styles. Whether that be in-person, over the phone or through written communication, understanding that each employee may react differently depending on how they’re approached is extremely important. Making sure to narrow down how employees want to be communicated with and tailor your communication style to better meet their needs will make sure you get the best results from them.
4. Write meeting minutes and use diagrams
One in seven of us are neurodivergent, therefore the use of diagrams in written communication can be hugely helpful. Sharing videos or photos during meetings can help people who struggle with verbal discussions or need visual aids. Additionally, one person can be appointed to write up meeting minutes to make sure that individuals who may struggle or miss out on any actions due to poor internet connection or the fast-paced nature of the meeting have the resources available to keep up to date.
5. Focus on the positive
Ensuring you and your colleagues have positive interactions in the workplace is key for improving an organisation’s overall communications. Always focus on the positive, making corrections when necessary and in a constructive way. This way people will feel confident that when they raise an issue they will receive support, which in turn will help the business to run smoothly.
6. Learn how to position written communication
Written communication is an inevitable part of work and is beneficial for solidifying previously agreed-upon plans and processes. However, people communicate differently and sometimes it can be difficult to understand the context in which something was written. Don’t assume that the recipient’s interpretation reflects the sender’s intentions. If you are ever unsure, consider opting for phone calls or in-person meetings first, before confirming in writing. This can make it easier for people to feel heard and avoid any miscommunication.
7. Ask for clarity before drawing conclusions
When it comes to verbal communication, always ask questions. If something doesn’t make sense, ask for clarification and explanation before drawing a conclusion. This will make sure work is done correctly and avoid causing frustration within teams. Be sure to reframe questions so they are pleasing to other people. For example, if an employee has made a mistake, instead of asking why something happened, ask the individual to explain their thinking. This will provide the insights you need to better understand what happened and avoid creating a tense atmosphere.
8. Don’t overlook anyone
Most businesses have such a fast paced atmosphere that it’s easy to be short with colleagues without meaning to when under pressure. Even if it requires a little more time, you should always be respectful. Avoid language that could be seen as condescending and, as with asking questions, allow colleagues to explain their rationale before jumping to conclusions.
9. Take other perspectives into account
For communication that is not context-rich, such as written or phone conversations, our word choice or tone can convey frustration or any number of emotions if we are not careful. Understanding how our words may have been received can avoid any potential confusion in the office and make sure everyone is on the same page. Self awareness and empathy is key. For example, if you are someone who may naturally speak in shorter, blunt sentences, recognising that this can be seen as you being angry will help avoid misinterpretation from other staff.
10. Learn behaviour patterns of one another
Simple body language gestures can communicate much more than we realise. Direct eye contact and striving to remember personal details can make a massive impact and leave a lasting impression. Particularly with a neurodiverse workforce, different communication styles resonate better with different people. Employees with autism may find short, written bullet points easier to understand. On the other hand, those with vision impairments will benefit from a visual layout with text magnified, or telephone conversations.
11. Pay attention to tone
Tone of voice on video and phone calls is a huge component when speaking because you do not have any other contextual indicators (such as body language) to help understand the nature of the message being conveyed. Make sure that you are professional but friendly, and speak clearly with an appropriate tone.
12. Verbal, body language, phone calls and written communication
We must remember that each style of communication is deployed differently for different effects. For example, for verbal communication, keeping an even volume of tone, despite how you may feel about the conversation, will calm employees and promote a stable cultural environment.
Equally, body language can’t be underrated and is often the difference between a productive or unproductive conversation. Make sure that your body language doesn’t make the other person feel defensive or uncomfortable. Face the person you’re speaking with and encourage signals (such as nodding) to show you are engaged in the conversation.
Written communication can be the trickiest because there are fewer indicators of how the piece is intended to be perceived. However, little things like punctuation can make a difference. Exclamation points can be taken as someone yelling or being upbeat, so it’s important to use them sparingly. Shorter sentences can help others understand your message, but also risks being viewed as blunt. As with all communication, understanding the audience and tailoring your message to them will limit any potential confusion.
Regardless of how many of these resolutions you may put into practice this year, the overriding goal is to be aware of the potential impact – making sure your communications are inclusive and treat colleagues with respect. Not everyone processes information in the same way, and that is what makes us unique, but implementing these resolutions will enable a business to build meaningful relationships with everyone in the workplace.
Keep Learning – Discover how inclusive tools improve workplace communication
On 24 February, Texthelp will be hosting a 30 minute webinar to explore the inclusive tools that are removing communication barriers and supporting disabilities and neurodifferences in leading businesses such as PwC, Network Rail, KPMG, Sainsbury’s and more. Join the conversation.
Register for the webinar: https://text.help/2zykUh