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The Hidden Costs of Poor Communication in the Workplace

As the debate between the benefits and downfalls of in-office, hybrid, and fully remote work continue, effective communication is at the epicenter of the conversation. Whether it's interacting with coworkers, collaborating on projects, or managers finding difficulty communicating with their employees, conveying information clearly and concisely is essential for any organization. Research shows that companies with strong communication practices that use proper communication channels are 50% more likely to report low turnover rates, and employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.

On the flip side, bad communication can have serious negative consequences for organizations. Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, decreased productivity, and even actual financial losses. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, poor communication costs smaller companies of ~100 employees an average of $420,000 per year, while bigger companies of ~100,000 employees lose an average of $62.4 million annually. Piling the financial ramifications of this on top of the mistakes, missed deadlines, and lack of employee morale that ineffective communication can cause truly shows how vital it is for organizations to figure out a professional communication strategy that works for them. 

Who is affected by poor communication in the workplace?

HR managers are among the groups most heavily impacted by poor workplace communication. They have a lot on their plate, ensuring that employees understand company policies, benefits, and procedures and that each employee meets performance expectations. However, when communication breaks down, and the proper communication tools aren't available, HR managers may struggle to convey this vital information to employees, leading to confusion, frustration, and decreased employee morale. In a recent Accountemps survey, 33% of HR managers said a breakdown in communication is the reason for most morale problems, and 38% said better communication is the most effective way to counter it.

Poor communication can also significantly impact companies' bottom lines and turnover rates. When employees don't receive clear instructions or don't fully understand their job responsibilities, they may make mistakes that can lead to costly errors or missed deadlines. This can be particularly problematic in industries like healthcare or finance, where miscommunication can result in serious consequences. In addition, employees may become disengaged or leave the company if they feel that their concerns aren't being heard or that they don't have the information they need to do their jobs effectively. According to a survey by Dynamic Signal, 80% of employees said that they feel stressed due to ineffective company communication, and 63% said they've considered leaving their company (even for companies with lower-than-ideal pay!) because ineffective communication interfered with the ability to do their job. 

Factors that hinder effective workplace communication

While effective workplace communication is key to the success of any organization, communication breakdowns are all too common. These breakdowns can stem from a variety of factors, such as lack of clarity and poor listening skills, different communication styles, remote work challenges, and lack of proper communication tools.

The primary reason for communication breakdowns is a lack of clarity and suboptimal listening skills. When messages are not clear or concise, misinterpretation can easily occur, and it can be challenging for some employees to actively listen and engage when being given a lengthy or confusing explanation. Often, this causes employees to miss important information and misunderstand key points, and they might not be inclined to ask clarifying questions.

Additionally, different communication styles can also lead to misunderstandings and breakdowns. For example, some individuals may prefer to communicate in writing, while others prefer a phone call or face-to-face communication. Some individuals may be more direct in their communication style, while others may use more indirect language. These differences can create conflict between individuals, quickly leading to broken communication.

As mentioned above, remote and hybrid work environments have also become increasingly prevalent in today's workforce, which can create additional challenges for effective communication and employee engagement. Without face-to-face interactions and the ability to read body language, employees may struggle to build trust and rapport with their managers and co-workers, leading to issues that are left unsaid and misunderstandings. Additionally, without proper communication tools in place, such as a mass messaging platform, remote and hybrid workers may feel isolated and out of the loop on company happenings, further hindering good communication.

Strategies to improve communication in the workplace

Understanding the reasons why communication is often hindered in the workplace is essential, but finding practical strategies companies can implement to address these issues is even more crucial. By implementing some (or all) of the following effective communication practices, organizations can promote a healthy culture of open communication and collaboration, leading to increased productivity, employee satisfaction, and overall success.

  1. Active listening: This skill involves giving full attention to the speaker and understanding their message. HR managers can encourage active listening by providing training on practical listening skills and modeling active listening in meetings and conversations.
  2. Clarifying questions: Asking clarifying questions can help avoid misunderstandings and ensure that both parties are on the same page. HR managers should encourage and give employees time to ask questions to explain information or instructions they are unsure about.
  3. Visual aids: Using visual aids such as charts, diagrams, or graphs can help convey complex information more effectively and ensure that the message is clear. This is highly beneficial when sharing information regarding benefits with employees.
  4. Mass messaging platform: A mass messaging platform is a powerful tool that allows HR managers to communicate important information to employees quickly and efficiently. This can help ensure that all employees receive the same message in a timely manner, reducing the risk of miscommunication. While mass messaging platforms are beneficial for all types of work, they are extremely helpful for remote or hybrid workers as they provide a platform for them to communicate with the company quickly and stay in the loop. 
  5. Ongoing training and development: Communication skills are essential for all employees, not just managers, and ongoing training and development can help ensure everyone is equipped with the skills needed to communicate effectively.

The role of technology in effective communication

Technology has revolutionized the way we communicate in the workplace, and while it's brought many benefits, it's also created some challenges. One common problem is that employees can become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of emails, messages, and notifications they receive every day. This can lead to important messages being missed or ignored, which can cause frustration among co-workers and between managers and their employees.  

However, when used correctly, technology can be a powerful tool to improve workplace communication. For instance, messaging apps and video conferencing tools can help employees communicate quickly and easily, even if they are working remotely. They can also be used to share files and collaborate on projects, enhancing productivity and efficiency. We saw this play out exceptionally well when the COVID-19 pandemic kept everyone away from their offices for an extended period of time, with some offices even opting to go fully remote. These fully remote companies really emphasize that when used correctly, technology can be a powerful force in effective company communication.

When it comes to information the entire company or groups of employees need to know, mass communication tools have become one of the primary choices businesses consider. These platforms have become increasingly popular among leadership teams and HR managers because they allow everyone to simultaneously receive the same message through a text or phone call. With the open rates for text being significantly higher than email, it's more likely that everyone in the company will see each message and HR managers can spend less time sending reminder emails, hoping that the employees see and respond appropriately.

Many of these mass messaging platforms also offer features such as automation, MMS, and two-way texting, which makes it much easier for HR managers to reach employees with important updates and announcements. Two-way texting also allows employees to provide feedback, confirm meeting attendance, and ask questions in an easy-to-use method of communication. 

Choosing the right communication tool may take some research, but finding a platform that best suits your needs as an organization is key to communicating effectively. Some questions to consider as you decide on a communication platform include:

  • How many employees do I have, and what are some of the sub-groups I need to reach?
  • What features would be most valuable to my team?
  • Do other people need access to the communication tool, or will I be the only one sending out messages?
  • Do my employees need the capability to respond to my messages?
  • Would it be beneficial to schedule messages in advance?
  • What are the costs of each communication tool, and what's my budget?
  • Do my employees respond better to verbal or written communication?

If you take the time to evaluate your communication needs in this way, you're likely to make the right decision for a tool that will help you reach your goals. And if you want to explore your options, consider finding some platforms that don't lock you into a contract - like Text-Em-All! 

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