April 2, 2018

Effective communication: the barriers you need to overcome


Communication is one of the most important parts of a successful business. You know this. You are the cornerstone of leadership and motivation in your company. The level of communication espoused in your workplace flows from the top down, starting with you.

A business’s culture relies on effective communication but there are many barriers that you will face every day. Ineffective communication is a threat to a successful business as well as a harmonious workforce.

Once you identify a problem, you must solve it.

Here are three barriers you are facing today or will face in the future, and methods you can implement to maintain effective communication in your workplace.

The language barrier

Sometimes a business hires someone with the skills and experience required for a vacant job role, but the new hire speaks minimal English, or English as a second language (ESL).

A lengthy written email communication or jargon-heavy speech is going to be white noise for somebody whose command of the language is beginner level.

Anthropologists and social psychologists have conducted studies into the workplace communication behaviour of persons based on their cultural background and the environment, with various data; however, studies like these aside, you should know by now that everyone in your staff is unique. That everyone in your staff has their own ambitions, motivation triggers, performance affecters, and so forth. Communication is the lynchpin of all of these.

The best way to interact with your employees is to have a common, unifying communication tool—and in almost all cases, this is language.

Foreign and ESL staff could miss or misunderstand important company updates, struggle to form working relationships, feel shy in team-building exercises, and more, if they just do not have the capacity to communicate with their colleagues.

By failing to do these things, your staff would suffer reduced motivation. Performance levels would drop, and the quality of customer or client service would plummet.

So, in a world where businesses leaders are always on the lookout for the best talent, no matter the nationality, how can you integrate your skilled ESL staff without them missing out or suffering loss of morale?

Break down the barrier

You should make the effort to learn key phrases in the native language of your ESL employees, and encourage this practice among your management staff, too. By doing this, you can soften the early stage of your ESL employee’s employment. If any non-management staff members speak the native language of an ESL employee, ask them to take the time where possible to communicate with and assist the ESL—this strategy could be particularly useful in the early weeks, when new staff need to get to grips with new computer software, sales techniques, production protocols, and so forth.

Another piece of your strategy should involve investing in training for the ESL to improve their English—reading, writing, and speech. Investments such as these can demonstrate to your staff your willingness to remove any obstacles in their way to being an effective staff member. Empathetic investment such as this will promote loyalty among your ESL staff and will increase their morale and their output.

The clarity barrier

One of the big problems with clarity in any conversation is jargon.

We all use jargon. And it is killing clarity.

A certain argot can be important when you are discussing, for example, the quarterly financials with your finance director. Moreover, across a myriad other topics technical language does exist with specific purposes; however, technical language and jargon are different things. It is great when staff can recall legitimate language; it is not great when they are trying to decipher what you mean when you mention a forthcoming pearl diving contest.

You need to ensure that your audience understands you. Effective communication is clear communication.

Break down the barrier

Investors in People found in a survey that workplace jargon isolates staff. Of 3000 workers polled, roughly a third revealed that they felt inadequate when faced by management using jargon.

If you are trying to explain or justify something to staff, keep it simple so that they can concentrate on the meaning of your language, and not the odd metaphorical phrase you threw in because you were careless.

Low-hanging fruit. Blue-sky thinking. Get your ducks in a row. Drilling down. These bizarre phrases all mean something far more concrete than what they suggest—and you are more likely to keep your staff engaged, motivated, and enthused by communicating in a way that everybody can understand. Do not be above board in how you communicate—be honest and open instead.

The listening barrier

Effective communication’s foundation is listening.

Studies the world over have demonstrated that people feel more valued when whomever they are talking to is listening—listening is a nuanced skill. Hand gestures, eye contact, changes to our facial expression, the sounds we make. If you are listening to somebody intently these reactions will seem automatic, so fast do they happen. If you are listening to somebody intently, you will begin to form your verbal response based on your listening.

A culture of success in any business must value listening. Without listening, you cannot absorb instructions, or learn new information, nor can you refine any of your skills. Bad listening is stagnation.

Content, details, context, strategy—these materials are going to be within any discussion that is relevant to your business.

Break down the barrier

Every conversation you have with your staff, or anyone while you are at work, is likely to be important. Whether it is a board meeting or a brief catch-up with an employee, you are a source of motivation and leadership.

Focus on the person you are talking to, acknowledge that they are your current source for information; we live in a fast-paced world, but your response does not always have to be instantaneous. Your responses should always be the product of reflection and consideration.

When you are the one talking, you must remember clarity. Be simple, be explicit, and be clear. Repeat yourself if you feel you need to, to emphasise your point, or if somebody asks you to.

The proof is in the value

In short, effective communication is about demonstrating that you value your staff, that you value what they have to say, and that you value them being privy to information you share.

Effective communication can reduce employee absence and even stop your staff from having thoughts of working elsewhere—and in our competitive digital world, retaining talent has never been more critical.

More from Vistage:

The Vistage Talent Toolkit

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