How managers can improve team communication

Research shows that practicing healthy communication and collaboration could help companies reduce employee turnover by 59%.

And, managers are a crucial factor in establishing healthy communication and collaboration, by ensuring that tasks, roles, responsibilities, goals, and everything else teammates need to know to carry out their work, are well-communicated.

Managers can also serve as powerful mediators that can help facilitate effective communication between individual members of the team, or the team on the whole. 

In this article, we’ll talk about 13 strategies, tactics, and tips you need to follow to improve team communication when managing teams. We’ll also shed light on the role manager’s communication patterns and practices may have in keeping employee satisfaction high and employee turnover low.

What is the current state of communication in the workplace?

The facts and figures show that the current state of communication in the workplace is unsatisfactory:

  • The level of collaboration is lacking — According to a survey by the Queens University, as much as 39% of employees think that people in their organization don’t collaborate enough;
  • There is a lack of learning opportunities —  according to an Udemy report, less than half of Millennials say that their current employer provides learning opportunities;
  • The employees feel uninformed — According to a Gallup report, as much as 74% of employees feel that they are missing out on key information and news in the company;
  • The managers are unskilled communicators — According to the same Gallup report, only 13% of employees think their managers are effective communicators. This data has support in a different survey, reported by Inc., which shows that a whopping 91% of employees think their managers simply lack key communication skills;
  • The managers feel uncomfortable communicating — according to a survey by Ragan, as much as 69% of managers simply feel uncomfortable while communicating with their employees;
  • Intranets are underused — according to a survey by Prescient Digital Media, only 13% of employees say they use their intranets daily, while 31% of them say they never do;
  • Emails people receive are rarely important — according to research by Sanebox, as much as 62% of emails employees receive are not important;
  • Emails get ignored — according to a survey by Slicktext, as much as 60.8% of employees simply ignore emails at work.

🎓 To read more about the pros and cons of different channels of communication, including intranets and emails, check out the following guide → The channels of communication

Why should managers make improvements in workplace communication?

As evident from the facts and figures listed above, the current state of communication in the workplace is severely lacking — but, the managers have the power to make the necessary improvements. 

Here is why you should make the effort to improve communication in the workplace:

  • To increase your chances for success — according to Salesforce, as much as 86% of employees think that ineffective communication is one of the leading reasons their companies fail;
  • To improve work on tasks — according to CMSWire, as much as 97% of employees believe that communication impacts tasks;
  • To make people feel empowered — according to Forbes, employees who feel like their voices are heard in an organization are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to do their best work;
  • To save money — according to SHRM, companies who employ 100 people lose as much as $420,000 per year due to poor communication;
  • To enjoy the benefits of providing recognition — according to Hubspot’s report about the importance of feedback, as much as 39% of employees report they don’t feel appreciated at work, but 69% of them also believe they would work harder if they felt their efforts were recognized properly;
  • To enjoy the benefits of feedback — according to the same Hubspot report, only 2% of employees manage to stay engaged with work when their managers fail to provide feedback;
  • To enjoy the benefits of having a well-connected workforce — according to a report by McKinsey, organizations whose employees are well-connected show a productivity increase of 20-25%;
  • To boost motivation — according to figures presented by Trade Press Services, as much as 85% of employees state they feel the most motivated when their managers offer regular updates about the company;
  • To improve performance — according to Gartner, employees who are more informed outperform their peers by as much as 77%. 

Now that we understand the benefits of improving team communication in the workplace, let’s see what managers need to do to achieve satisfactory results.

How to improve team communication when you’re a manager

Improving team communication when you’re a manager may seem like an intricate process — but, it’s actually simple once you start implementing the right strategies. In line with that, here are 13 great strategies that will help lead your team to better communication. 

Build your self-confidence

Statistics indicate that as much as 85% of people suffer from low self-esteem. And, considering that self-esteem involves “belief and confidence in your ability and value”, it’s no wonder that high belief and confidence in oneself help people communicate with greater ease. This especially applies to managers who often need to communicate information about projects and tasks, organize group work, but also serve as mediators between individual teammates.

In order to build your self-esteem and improve confidence in your abilities as a way of improving how you communicate, you’ll need to: boost existing skills, learn new skills, copy other confident people, leave your comfort zone, and set personal goals.

Boost existing skills 

Everyone has skills and talents. Once you identify the skills and talents you have that are vital for your role and responsibilities in the company, you’ll also build your overall self-confidence. For example, you may be a great planner — make the effort to learn new strategies and tactics to plan and organize project work.

Learn new skills

Learning new skills can increase your self-confidence in the same way as boosting existing skills.  For example, you can make the effort to learn how to speak in public.

The self-confidence you gain from improving existing skills and learning new ones will carry over into your self-confidence in various areas of work, including your communication skills. 

Copy other confident people

Confident people have confident body language and have no problem striking up a conversation with anyone. Observe the people from your environment and identify the confident ones — then, aim to emulate their strengths.

Leave zour comfort zone

Leaving your comfort zone in terms of communication patterns may seem daunting at first. But, the ability to change our behavior and adapt to the current situation helps build self-confidence, because it shows we have great, unexplored potential we can tap into in the future.

Set personal goals

Communication goals are easy to define. You may want to:

  • Improve your diction;
  • Provide clearer feedback;
  • Be more engaging when communicating;
  • Be more persuasive;
  • Be more assertive;
  • Provide clearer explanations for tasks you delegate;
  • Improve your negotiation skills.

Whatever communication goals you choose, pursue them without hesitation. Also, make sure they are S.M.A.R.T.:

  • Specific — you understand what you’re pursuing and why;
  • Measurable — you’re able to track progress;
  • Achievable — you have the power to reach the goal;
  • Relevant — the goal is important for your development;
  • Time-bound — your goal has a target date.

Reaching a communication goal will not only improve the communication skills you want, but it will also increase your self-confidence. And, with such improved self-confidence, you’ll feel motivated to engage in various communication situations

Clarify team roles

We already mentioned that employees who are more informed outperform their peers by 77% — according to Effectory, not only does role clarity improve performance by 25%, it also improves other aspects of work:

  • effectiveness, by 86%;
  • retention, by 84%;
  • productivity, by 83%;
  • satisfaction with leadership, by 75%.

These numbers show why communicating roles clearly is crucial for success — to achieve role clarity, you’ll need to clarify expectations, delegate based on strengths, align team roles and goals, and promote transparency.

Clarify expectations

The first thing the manager of a team needs to do to provide role clarity is to clarify the expectations tied to specific roles:

  • What is the purpose of a specific role?
  • What does a specific role focus on? 
  • What are the priorities of a specific role?
  • What are the responsibilities of a specific role?
  • What are NOT the responsibilities of a specific role?
  • Why is this role-specific, in terms of its areas of focus?
  • What does success look like for a specific role?

When it comes to new employees, you can make these clarifications during the onboarding process. 

When it comes to tenured employees who seem to lack this role clarity, you can first evaluate the responsibilities of these functions and then answer these questions accordingly.

Delegate based on strengths

To get quality results, you’ll need to assign work based on who has the talents and skills to bring those quality results. To identify people’s talents and skills you can:

  • Ask people directly — for example, you can ask:
    • “What do your teammates rely on you the most?”
    • “What do you like working on?”
    • “What accomplishment are you most proud of?”
  • Ask people’s teammates for opinions — for example, you can ask:
    • “What type of work do they ask to do?”
    • “What types of tasks seem to energize them the most?”
    • “What types of tasks seem to engage them the most?” 

Once you’ve identified people’s strengths, assign projects and tasks based on them. Ask people for opinions based on their strengths. And, don’t forget to properly recognize people for their strengths and accomplishments they achieve as a result— this practice will motivate teammates to nurture their skills and talents, and even improve them further.

Align team roles and goals

Once you’ve clarified team roles, it’s time you clarify team goals — and, understand and clarify how specific team roles can help you achieve these specific team goals. 

So, make the effort to define clear team goals — once again, it would be best if these team goals were specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. 

Aim to clarify everything that binds roles and goals together: tasks, subtasks, decisions, and workflows.

Promote transparency

Even when you think that you’ve defined team goals and roles clearly, there is still room for confusion — teammates may still work on the same tasks and take on the same responsibilities, creating meaningless and unnecessary double work as a result. That’s why you should invest extra effort into making everyone’s roles and responsibilities transparent. Encourage your teammates to share ideas, the tasks they are working on, and their deadlines. Sharing this information can help teammates better understand what others are responsible for — but, also, what they are NOT responsible for.

Provide feedback

We’ve already mentioned that 69% of managers feel uncomfortable while communicating with employees. But, if we look into these numbers in more detail, we’ll notice that managers struggle with providing feedback specifically

In other words, they struggle while:

  • giving the type of direct feedback or criticism that might trigger a negative response — a share of 37%;
  • recognizing employee’s achievement — a share of 20%;
  • giving clear directions — a share of 19%;
  • speaking face-to-face rather than by email — a share of 16%;

However, statistics issued by Officevibe’s pulse survey suggest that feedback is a highly valuable type of communication situation in business:

  • 4 out of 10 workers are disengaged at work if they get little or no feedback;
  • 8 out of 10 employees appreciate both positive and negative feedback;
  • 4 out of 10 employees considered to be highly engaged receive feedback at least once per week, in contrast with 1 out of 10 employees considered to be low engaged who receive feedback with the same frequency.

In line with these numbers, managers should make the effort to overcome the discomfort they have while providing feedback to employees — for this purpose, you can: think about feedback’s purpose, make feedback a habit, make feedback immediate, focus feedback on specific behavior (not the person), allow the feedback to sink in, avoid creating “feedback sandwiches”, and provide regular positive feedback.

Think about feedback’s purpose

Diving into any process head-on, without thinking things through, can make anything feel uncomfortable — this also applies to the process of providing feedback. So, before providing feedback, think about its intended purpose first: 

  • Do you want to punish an employee for something? 
  • Do you want to convey something to make yourself feel better? 
  • Do you truly want to help someone improve?

Ideally, your main motive should be helping someone improve their work — but, feedback can sometimes be a personal matter and you should be clear about your true intentions before providing it. Perhaps this will help you rethink the way you provide feedback, and why it makes you feel uncomfortable in the first place. 

Make feedback a habit

Repetition makes anything easier to do — so, to make it easier to provide feedback, make it a habit to provide positive and negative feedback regularly. This way, you’ll make feedback no different than everyday conversations and meetings, which will help put you at ease.

Make feedback immediate

The best way to deal with providing feedback, for both you, and the person on the receiving end, is to make the feedback immediate. 

On your end, providing immediate feedback will stop you from overthinking and building up the perceived discomfort. 

On the receiver’s end, providing immediate feedback will help make the greatest impact — people will be able to associate proposed changes with their immediate work.

Focus feedback on specific behavior (not the person)

One of the biggest triggers for discomfort while providing feedback is the feeling that the other person might react negatively. But, if you focus your feedback on the behavior and NOT on the person, you should decrease this discomfort — by decreasing the chance that the receiver will react negatively. 

To do this, you can start by first explaining the negative impact of the problematic behavior. Then, you can offer specific advice on how to rectify it, with clear examples — for the best effect, you can also offer a short role-playing session where you’ll play out the proposed changes in behavior, to help the employee adopt it in the future.

Allow the feedback to sink in

If the feedback is negative, the person on the receiving end of it may need some time to process what you’ve just said. To help out the recipient of the feedback, explain that they are free to think about the feedback as long as they need to. Also, tell them that you are open to any additional questions — then, listen and answer them with empathy.

Avoid creating “feedback sandwiches”

An easy way to provide negative feedback and avoid a negative reaction is to “sandwich” this negative feedback between two positive statements about someone’s performance. 

However, most people will see this tactic as manipulative and even insincere. Others may focus only on the positive feedback and disregard the negative points. Either way, you won’t get the expected results. 

The better alternative is always to be direct with your negative feedback and offer the necessary details the receiver of the feedback will need to make the proposed improvements.

Provide regular positive feedback

When looking for ways to make improvements, it’s all too easy to only focus on the negatives you want rectified. However, providing recognition when and where due is crucial for boosting employee morale and motivation. 

So, don’t skimp on positive feedback meant to reinforce great behavior — provide it as often as appropriate, in a timely, sincere, and specific manner.

Accept feedback

In addition to improving the way you provide feedback, you’d also be advised to improve the way you receive feedback. After all, to improve work and communication with employees, it’s not enough that employees receive feedback — you, as their manager, will also need to accept feedback. 

After all, Achievers’ 2020 Engagement & Retention Report indicates that as much as 90% of employees say they are more likely to stay at a company that is comfortable about receiving and acting on feedback. 

In order to improve how you accept feedback, you should: be open to feedback, listen to feedback attentively, reflect and follow up on feedback, and organize surveys.  

Be open to feedback

Being open to feedback is the first step to encouraging others to provide you with constructive feedback. 

This includes being receptive to different opinions, new ideas, but also, criticism. 

But, it also includes being open about what kind of feedback you are looking for, to begin with. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, and James Detert, the Assistant Professor at the Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management, the best way to solicit feedback is to make it clear that you are asking about potential improvements — not about what employees would do if there were managers.

Listen to feedback attentively

Once you’ve made it clear that you’re open to feedback, you should make it a habit to listen to it actively,  without interruptions — don’t just assume you know what people are going to say to you. This way, you’ll be able to absorb a higher amount of valuable information the other person is trying to convey.

🎓 There is more than one way to actively listen to the feedback you receive as a manager — read more about the types of active listening in our guide to the types of communication.

Reflect and follow up on feedback

Once you’ve heard the feedback, consider its actual value:

  • What use (if any) would you have if you were to use the feedback?
  • What use (if any) would you have if you were to ignore the feedback?

If you disagree with the feedback, ask the opinion of a third party before disregarding it— perhaps they’ll be able to find some value you cannot. 

If you decide to implement the feedback, perhaps you’ll also want to follow it up with a dedicated meeting between you and the rest of the management body — especially if the said feedback applies to a crucial management process.

Organize surveys

When you think you’re not getting the feedback you need, it’s time you take a more direct approach to collect the opinions of others. For this purpose, you can implement regular employee surveys and find answers to questions such as:

  • What practices work?
  • What practices don’t work?
  • What new practices are worth consideration?

When creating surveys make sure that you keep them:

  • Anonymous — you’ll increase the chances for honest answers and opinions;
  • Employee-centric — questions about work-life balance and daily routines will encourage people to contribute;
  • Relevant —  people are more likely to answer questions that are directly related to their work environment;
  • Short — up to five questions is the best solution;
  • Frequent — when employees are accustomed to receiving these short surveys on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, they’ll incorporate them into their work processes, which will increase the chances they’ll take these questions and answers seriously.

Once you get the results, you should:

  • Take action — whatever negative feedback and ideas for improvement make sure you act on them;
  • Communicate changes — when you accept a new idea, make sure the teammates are aware of that, to show that their feedback does make a difference;
  • Measure progress — once you start implementing changes based on feedback, make sure you repeat the questions that led to these changes, to see whether improvements were made.

Clarify workflows

Making sure the expected workflows and processes are well-communicated is key to productivity. So, as a manager, you’ll need to work on ensuring the workflows you want to implement in your team are clearly defined.

In order to develop clear workflows, you’ll need to: clarify the “communication code”, define meetings clearly, and clarify project work

Clarify the “communication code”

We’ve already established that effective communication helps build clear workflows — but, communication itself is an important workflow you’ll need to clarify, in terms of:

  • What are the team’s communication goals? For example:
    • Is it to improve employee engagement?
    • Is it to improve productivity?
    • Is it to speed up communication during crises?
  • What channels of communication should the team use? For example:
    • Will you use a team chat app for company-wide instant messaging?
    • Will you use an internal podcast for company-wide announcements?
    • Will you use a project management system to communicate project details?
  • What channels of communication should the team use for specific communication situations? For example:
    • “If it’s urgent, ping them on Pumble.”
    • “If it’s complicated, set up a video call.”
    • “If it’s not urgent, create a task in Trello.” 

To answer these questions, make sure you define clear guidelines of your “communication code” in your internal communication plan.

An example of an urgent message in Pumble chat app

Define meetings clearly

Meetings are a crucial communication practice for every team. And, you’ll need to define clear workflows for how you’ll approach meetings:

  • What types of meetings will you practice? For example:
    • Daily stand-up meetings;
    • All-hands meetings;
    • Weekly and monthly 1-to-1 meetings;
    • “Ask me anything” sessions.
  • What will each type of meeting entail? For example:
    • Daily stand-up meetings — daily progress reports about the work on projects;
    • All-hands meetings — quarterly meetups during which the company’s CEO talks about the overall progress made by the company during the previous period and the plans for the future;
    • Weekly and monthly 1-to-1 meetings — regular meetings between the managers and employees during which the manager provides feedback on the employee’s performance in the previous period;
    • “Ask me anything” sessions — ad hoc meetups between managers and employees about various subjects.
  • How long will each type of meeting last? For example:
    • Daily stand-up meetings — 20 minutes;
    • All-hands meetings — 1 hour;
    • Weekly and monthly 1-to-1 meetings — 30 minutes;
    • “Ask me anything” sessions — anywhere between 15 minutes and 1 hour, depending on the subject discussed.

Defining the types of meetings your team will practice, as well as their expected agendas and time frames, will help your teammates be more productive at these meetings. 

Clarify project work

Project work is a crucial workflow you’ll need to communicate with your team — it includes questions surrounding:

  • Tasks and milestones:
    • How will you parse the project into tasks?
    • How are these tasks interdependent?
    • What are the key project milestones?
  • Task assignees:
    • How will work on what task?
    • In what order will the task assignees work on tasks?
  • Task and project deadlines:
    • What are the deadlines for individual tasks?
    • What are the deadlines for the entire project?
  • Priorities:
    • What are the tasks of the highest priorities?
    • In what order should you work on tasks?
  • Resources available:
    • How many individuals are working on this project?
    • What skills and talents do these individuals possess?
    • How much time do you have before task deadlines?
    • How much time do you have before the project deadline?
    • What materials do you have available for work?

By answering these questions, you’ll better understand the expected workflows during project work, which will help your teammates better organize their time, resources, as well as group and individual work.

Introduce an open-door policy

According to the definition, an open door policy implies a communication policy that has the management body of a company leave their office doors “open” — in order to encourage transparency and openness with the employees.

The expected outcome of the open door policy is the following: employees who have opinions, ideas, feedback, or anything else to share, stop by the manager’s office to talk about it.

The benefits of such a communication policy include:

  • Improved accessibility;
  • Better collaboration;
  • Better performance;
  • Boosted morale;
  • Facilitated healthy discussions;
  • Mutual respect and trust;
  • Employees feel their opinions are valued;
  • Better working relationships.

However, despite their benefits, open-door policies may not work for every team:

  • Some employees may feel afraid to speak up;
  • Some employees may become overly dependant on their leaders;
  • Some employees may start viewing their managers as their therapists;
  • Disruptions in the chain of command may arise;
  • Productivity may decline for managers for their priority tasks.

So, considering that an open-door policy may still fail despite its benefits, it’s important to ensure your open-door policy is well-organized and curated.

In line with that, the list of efficient practices to implement should include the following items: having a virtual option, adjusting to expectations, defining boundaries, establishing a plan for conflict management, handling requests within an appropriate time frame, NOT making the request process complicated/formal (but, still having a formal alternative to it), guaranteeing confidentiality, soliciting input on your own, and ensuring your open-door policy is a great fit.

Have a virtual option

A literal approach to the open-door policy (i.e. an office with an open door) is usually an efficient solution for in-house teammates. But, you should also implement a virtual option, in case your remote employees want to reach out to the management body. 

For this purpose, you can implement an online calendar for scheduling calls and a meeting link for joining calls at the scheduled time.

Adjust to expectations

Adjust the open-door policy with the expectations the employees may have out of such meetups. Organize a dedicated meeting during which you’ll discuss what your teammates might want or need from the open-door policy.

Define boundaries

Having an open-door policy shouldn’t mean that employees are free to discuss absolutely anything they want with you. For example, gossip and casual chats are rarely a productive way to spend the time dedicated to these meetups. So, be clear about the type of discussions that are permitted during the meetups, for example: 

  • project talk;
  • new ideas;
  • innovations;
  • improvements. 

Establish a conflict management plan

Sometimes, you’ll get a request from one employee to discuss her new idea for the upcoming project. But, other times, you may get a request from two employees who’ll want you to settle their disagreement in opinions. For this reason, you should also undergo a specialized training that will help you understand how best to solve conflicts between employees. In addition to that, you can introduce additional protocols you’ll put into motion if the situation goes out of control (e.g. call a member of the HR department as backup).

Handle requests on time

Depending on the seriousness and importance of the matter discussed, no request should remain without a response for longer than two or three weeks (for the more serious matters) or two for three days (for the less serious matters).

Don’t make the request process complicated/formal…

The open-door policy should be available to any employee. So, it should be easy and simple to schedule to see a manager — which means you should refrain from asking people to write complicated requests with elaborate questionnaires. Instead, a simple email or chat app ping should be sufficient.

…but, a more formal alternative should exist

Not all of your employees will feel comfortable with the idea of discussing their thoughts in person. If you insist on having these meetups be face-to-face, you may discourage some of your employees from speaking up at all — as a result, you may miss out on some brilliant ideas and insightful opinions. In line with that, if any employee feels more comfortable issuing an idea or opinion in written form, they should have such an option.

Guarantee confidentiality

To make the employees more comfortable about speaking up, you should make it clear that the ideas or opinions they share during these meetings are confidential. In case an opinion or idea is accepted, only then should you publicly disclose details in front of the team.

Solicit input on your own

In addition to having an open-door policy, you should also make the effort to elicit opinions and ideas on your own — to further encourage people who may have great ideas, but are reluctant to approach you on their own.

Ensure your open-door policy is a great fit

As discussed earlier, open-door policies have their fair share of benefits. However, if the open-door policy is somehow in opposition with other managerial practices in your company, then they may be a bad fit for your team, and should thus be avoided or significantly revised.

Organize team-building activities

Team-building activities are a fun and practical way of improving communication in your team. For starters, most team-building activities require the teammates to communicate in order to collaborate and solve problems — other team-building activities focus exclusively on improving team communication. 

Other benefits of this practice include:

  • Increased motivation — finishing a team-building task successfully makes teammates more confident, which in turn makes them motivated to pursue their everyday tasks;
  • Improved productivity — various team-building activities address skills such as planning work, managing time, making decisions, and solving problems, which are skills that help increase productivity in real-life tasks;
  • Increased collaboration — by definition, team building activities require teammates to work and make decisions together, which helps them find the best ways to collaborate, but also build mutual trust;
  • Improved creativity — various team-building activities require teammates to brainstorm and find innovative solutions to problems;
  • Improved connection for remote teams — various team-building activities are suitable for remote or mixed teams, as they allow people to collaborate online and build their professional relationships from afar.

Typically, we recognize four types of team-building activities: ice-breaking games, time management/planning games, problem-solving games, and communication games.

Ice-breaking games

Ice-breaking games help people in new teams get to know each other better and understand how they can best collaborate in the future.

🔸Example: “Two Truths and a Lie”, a game that mandates players write down two personal truths and one lie and then try to guess each other’s truths and lies. The goal of this activity is to get to know your teammates better, but also encourage better communication in the workplace overall.

Time management/planning games

Games that are focused on planning and time management help people learn how best to organize group work and plan it in accordance with the time they have to finish everything.

🔸Example: The “Big picture puzzle challenge”, a game that mandates that players assemble a puzzle as quickly as possible, without having the “Big Picture” to look up to for clues about where each piece goes. The goal of this activity is to help the team understand the importance of having a clear goal (i.e. the “Big Picture”) when planning activities. 

Problem-solving games

Problem-solving games are focused on helping teammates understand how best to approach and solve specific problems and challenges.

🔸Example: “The Great Egg Drop”, a game that mandates players divide into several smaller teams and work on building egg packages that can withstand an 8ft drop. The goal of this activity is to have different groups work together and communicate effectively towards a common goal, before pitching their solutions.

Communication games

Communication games are focused on helping teammates deliver information effectively, listen to others attentively, and discuss possible solutions to problems and challenges.

🔸Example: “Back-to-back drawing”, a game that mandates people pair up, sit back-to-back with a paper and pencil each, and describe geometrical images from prepared sets to each other. The goal of this activity is to listen to your partner attentively and draw the geometrical images based on their descriptions — and practice how best to give and receive instructions. 

Organize communications training

According to the definition, communication training refers to training meant to help develop key communication skills, including:

  • Speaking skills (with a special highlight on how to be assertive) — e.g. how to use appropriate vocabulary and proper pronunciation.
  • Listening skills — e.g. how to pay attention, defer judgment and respond appropriately.
  • Business writing skills — e.g. how to clearly state your purpose, use concise language, and display confidence.
  • Public speaking skills — e.g. how to connect with your audience, how to keep it short but memorable, and how to paint a picture through storytelling.
  • Responding to conflict — e.g. how to recognize conflict, focus and what you can control, and find solutions. 

You can organize dedicated meetings and workshops to help your employees practice these skills and learn how to be better communicators and what good team communication really means.

Build a positive work environment

For your employees to thrive, you’ll need to provide them with the necessary support. 

This support does not apply only to the equipment and other resources they’ll need to carry out their work — it also applies to the emotional, intellectual, and physical support they’ll need in order to perform their best. 

To provide this vital support, you’ll need to build a positive work environment — to build a positive work environment, you’ll need to: prioritize onboarding, make people comfortable, have regular check-ins, invest effort into creating a good workplace culture, and provide learning opportunities.

Prioritize onboarding

According to one BambooHR survey, 17% of employees cite ineffective onboarding as a key reason why they quit their jobs within the first three months. Because of this, you should make the effort to improve your onboarding processes — these improvements may require you:

  • Engage before day one — express excitement over the inclusion of the new hire by checking in frequently with them and answering questions about paperwork, workflows, or whatever else needed; invite them to the official team apps you use;
  • Providing a work buddy — pair up the new employee with a more experienced colleague who’ll be there to explain the company culture, check up on the new employee’s progress, and answer any questions;
  • Show the new hire they are welcome — introduce new hires to their teammates on the first day and make them feel valued and accepted;
  • Make the onboarding process as long as needed — according to the Harvard Business Review, employees reach peak productivity after eight months (although only 11% of onboarding programs last more than three months), which is in line with the statistics that shows that an extended onboarding experience improves new hire proficiency by 34%.

Make people comfortable

A comfortable work environment requires physical, but also psychological comfort. 

When it comes to psychological comfort, people should feel comfortable addressing anyone and expressing their ideas and opinions freely — in line with that, you should stress that there are no stupid ideas and opinions, to encourage people to speak up without the fear of judgment.

When it comes to physical comfort, make sure your teammates have everything they need to feel comfortable at their workstations — ergonomic furniture, temperature-regulated interiors, adjustable standing desks, and well-positioned computer screens are a great way to start.

Have regular check-ins

According to one Ernst & Young survey, 39% of American workers claim that regular check-ins keep them happy at work. 

So, make it a habit to stop by your employee’s workstations and ask them what they’re working on and what their opinions are on certain matters. 

If you operate in a remote team, send your teammates occasional direct messages instead. Such small signs that you value someone’s opinion will go a long way in boosting productivity across your organization.

An example of a check-in conversation in Pumble chat app

Invest effort into creating a good workplace culture

According to a report by Deloitte, as much as 88% of employees believe that having a distinct workplace culture is important for an organization’s success. So, make the effort to define a mission, vision, and values for your company. It doesn’t matter what this mission, vision, and values are — they just need to be clearly defined and aligned with what your company is striving for, in order to properly unite the team.

Provide learning opportunities

According to one research by Clear Company, as much as 68% of workers cite training and development as the most important workplace policy. In line with that, you can build a more positive work culture by providing your teammates with learning opportunities. 

These opportunities can include:

  • Coaching sessions;
  • Challenging assignments;
  • Job rotation;
  • Community involvement;
  • Special projects;
  • Research projects;
  • Guest speakers;
  • Professional forums and seminars;
  • Workshops.

Address diversity issues

No matter whether they are remote or on-site, teams may be characterized by certain cultural differences — these differences may include, but also not be limited to:

  • Nationality;
  • Language;
  • Race;
  • Religion;
  • Beliefs.

Sometimes, people may clash because of these differences, and it’s up to the manager to understand these differences and work with them in mind. 

To properly address diversity issues, you’ll need to train staff, establish guidelines, forbid negative behavior, and be accomodating

Train staff

Organize sessions of cross-cultural training. During these sessions, you can teach your teammates about different cultures and how they can respect each other’s cultural differences. Provide them with the tools that will help resolve communication problems that arise due to cultural differences. Encourage them to learn about each other’s cultures by asking questions.

Establish guidelines

If you want your teammates to accept each other’s differences and overcome them, you’ll need to define clear rules and guidelines. Define what is considered appropriate cultural behavior, and what is not. If your teammates have different mother tongues, identify the language everyone is comfortable using and establish it as the official language for team communication.

Forbid negative behavior

Make it clear that prejudices, discrimination, and harassment based on cultural differences will not be tolerated under any circumstances— then, define what the consequences will be if someone violates these policies. 

Be accomodating

If members of your team have a holiday and would like a day off, accommodate them. If members of your team need flexible breaks to carry out their religious customs, accommodate them. Make the effort to be sensible towards different cultures and show the teammates that you respect and accept their differences, in order to help them better respect and accept each other.

Encourage honesty and transparency

Honesty and transparency are the key predispositions for effective communication and productive work. 

But, many employees may withhold information because they believe honesty will get them into trouble. 

Moreover, they may overlook key work policies and processes, because of a lack of transparency. 

To improve transparency and encourage honesty within your team, you’ll first need to lead by example. Make sure all your decisions as a manager are transparent. Also, be honest about the possible drawbacks of your decisions. 

In order to encourage honesty and transparency, you’ll need to: make information accessible, provide context for assigned tasks, and own up to mistakes

Make information accessible

Ensure that critical information is always available to everyone. This information includes company policies, such as:

  • Sick leave policies;
  • Vacation policies;
  • Appropriate office behavior;
  • Information about the available work equipment;
  • The contact information of teammates and managers;
  • Work hours and accompanying work rules (e.g. overtime, flexible options, etc.);
  • Official channels of communication;
  • Official work tools;
  • Kitchen and lunch rules;
  • Break rules.

But, the information you should make easily available also includes information about the company’s overall progress with specific projects and clients, all changes to company policies, or anything that may affect the daily work life of your teammates.

For this purpose, you can:

  • Share news on digital bulletin boards;
  • Share company policies on company wikis;
  • Announce meetings, workshops, training, and seminars on the #general channel of your chat app;

Channels in Pumble chat app

Provide context for assigned tasks

When assigning tasks, you should help task assignees place these tasks into the bigger picture and understand why these tasks are important for the success of a project. This will motivate people to commit to their work.

Own up to mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes, even managers. But, what separates a good manager from a great one is how they deal with mistakes. 

Transparency and honesty in this department can help teammates feel more at ease about their own mistakes — and, help them focus on correcting their mistakes, rather than covering them up. 

So, acknowledge your mistakes, and see what you (but also, others) can learn from them. Then, teach others to do the same.

Enable frequent communication

Practice makes perfect — in order to help teammates communicate better, you’ll need to give them a chance to communicate frequently. To do so, you can: utilize Social Media, encourage breaks, organize company retreats, as well as celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries.

Encourage breaks

Communication at work shouldn’t be just about work — teammates should also be encouraged to indulge in small talk from time to time. 

This can be done through various types of breaks in the office: 

  • team lunches;
  • table football game sessions;
  • Making coffee or tea together in the company kitchen. 

Virtual teams can also communicate during breaks — this can be done through:

  • Virtual game sessions;
  • Chat app channels focused on a more casual topic (e.g. #memes, #movie_recommendations, #music_recommendations, #game_recommendations, #pets, etc.).

An example of a public channel dedicated to pets in Pumble chat app

Utilize Social Media

Having Social Media accounts for your brand is not just a great way to communicate with customers — it’s also a great way to encourage teams to communicate with the brand they are building. So, encourage employees to find, “like”, comment, and share posts about your brand. This will help:

  • spark conversations among teammates;
  • educate teammates about the areas of their brand they might have overlooked;
  • boost morale when a teammate shares favorable reviews and commandments customers have posted on Social Media.

Organize company retreats

Company retreats are a great way to help teammates bond and communicate outside of work. Picnics, hiking trips, city tours, campouts, ranch visits, wellness weekends, kayak rides, or simple lunch outings are all great solutions to help teammates socialize in a more informal setting.

Celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries

Celebrating birthdays and work anniversaries is a small, but efficient gesture, to help build a team-oriented community and help teammates feel valued and accepted among their peers. Plus, it gives people a great opportunity to socialize in an office setting.

An example of a private birthday channel in Pumble chat app

Adapt your approach to fit specific teams and teammates

Each team is unique in a certain way — the same applies to the teammates that constitute a team. 

As we’ve previously mentioned, teammates may differ in terms of their cultural background

They may also differ in terms of their communication styles. Are they predominantly submissive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, manipulative, or assertive? Are they supportive (people-oriented) or controlling (task-oriented) communicators? Are they direct or indirect communicators? Are they functional, intuitive, personal, or analytical communicators?   

They may differ in terms of their personality types. Are they introverted or extroverted? Are they sensing or intuitive? Are they thinking or feeling? Are they judging or perceiving? Some personality types may collaborate well and some may clash — moreover, teammates’ personality types can also influence how they’ll communicate with each other.

🎓 To learn more about the different communication styles mentioned here and what effect they can have on communication within your team, check out our comprehensive guide to the types of communication styles.

How a team behaves and communicates may also depend on the type of industry they are working in. For example, Engineering teams, Designer teams, Healthcare teams, Lawyer teams, Education teams, Accounting teams, Marketing teams, HR teams, Customer Support teams, Insurance teams, and Finance teams, are all likely to differ in the way managers should approach the process of improving communication.

Wrapping up

Managers are the foundation of effective team communication — whether they are skilled communicators or not can make or break the team’s chances for success. 

Managers who are skilled communicators can help solve conflicts, communicate company procedures, establish productive workflows, ensure task efficiency by assigning tasks to the right people, clarify confusion, and ease cultural issues. 

They act both as mediators between teammates, but also the leaders towards team progress and prosperity. 

If they follow the right communication tips, strategies, and tactics, they can greatly improve the way they communicate and collaborate with the people in their assigned teams, but also the way these people communicate and collaborate amongst themselves.

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Marija Kojic is a researcher and writer specialized in team communication and collaboration. She enjoys helping people discover meaningful and effective ways to communicate and collaborate smarter. Marija has written many blog posts for Clockify, but she has also appeared in G2 Crowd Learning Hub, The Good Men Project, and Pick the Brain, among other places.