woman standing speaking in discussion at team meeting

Good communication is effective and is an integral part to a productive organization. Like teeth on gears, communication allows separate team members to work in tandem for a common purpose. Good communication is the key to unlocking a successful workforce and business, but practicing good communication is easier said than done. In fact:

  • 86 percent of workforce members and leaders cite ineffective communication as the root cause of workplace failures.
  • Only 7 percent of team members believe “communication is accurate, timely, and open” at their workplace.

Using and instituting a culture of open communication can help organizations close these gaps. But what is open communication, and why is it essential? This blog details the importance of open communication for your workplace and shows all organizations how to establish open communication at work.

What Is Open Communication?

Open communication is a communication style where team members can freely express their thoughts and ideas to one another. Employees feel accepted and there is common ground for mutual understanding.

No matter their position or role, all workforce members are encouraged to speak up. An organization that values open communication embodies trust, transparency, inclusion, and innovation.

Why Is Open Communication Important?

Organizations that use open communication can enjoy the following benefits:

  • Enhanced performance and retention: Open communication motivates team members to speak up and express their individuality—a key trait that researchers report improves retention and raises customer satisfaction.
  • Greater inclusion: When team members believe their opinion is valued and heard, they are more likely to feel included. Half of team members express “a greater sense of belonging at work when their ideas and opinions are valued.” By promoting open communication, you will directly include your team members and their opinions and identities.
  • Innovation: Workforce members who are comfortable speaking their minds feel more motivated to go against the grain and contribute unique ideas. Honest and open conversations can foster growth and help bolster the competitive advantage of your team and business.
  • Alignment: Because ideas are openly expressed, individuals have the opportunity to discuss their ideas and make decisions together. This process drives alignment across teams and departments. Everyone will be focused on the same outcome while also providing space for feedback.

8 Ways to Establish Open Communication in the Workplace

manager pointing at employees monitor screen

Fortunately, there are practical strategies you can use to foster open communication in your workplace. Although this list is not exhaustive, here are eight strategies that you can start using today.

1. Ask for Feedback

Directly ask team members for their honest feedback. By providing an invitation, you can create a safe space for them to feel comfortable sharing their ideas.

Example

Below are a few ways you can ask for direct feedback. The key is to start small and build momentum until you reach a point where you feel staff members are comfortable sharing their ideas in front of others.

  • Anonymous surveys: Periodically circulate anonymous surveys to team members. Allowing individuals to be anonymous encourages employees to express their feelings freely and safely.
  • One-on-one meetings: If you have not already, set up weekly one-on-one meetings with each of your team members. These meetings can allow your team member to share their ideas and address any concerns.
  • Team meetings: Leaders can ask for feedback during staff meetings. This can be an excellent way to have team members collectively discuss and come up with a decision. Team environments also provide opportunities for individuals to understand one another better and build camaraderie.

2. Share Updates with Teams

It’s easy to feel siloed or alone in the workplace. Staff may not receive updates on time and simply hear whispers in the break room.

To address this, be transparent from the top down, and provide regular team and company updates to staff members. Your team members will feel more connected to the company, and then they can adequately prepare for what lies ahead. Sharing updates eliminates barriers that may exist between management and staff.

Example

Some companies shield financial details (budgets, P&L, operations costs, etc.) from workforce members. This creates an unnecessary divide between leadership and the workforce. An open communication workplace values ownership—every person is treated like an owner or entrepreneur of the company and should, thus, have information that impacts their work. This practice moves the business forward faster and drives it to where it needs to be.

3. Provide Your Full Attention to Team Members

Team members should feel safe expressing their concerns, thoughts, and opinions. Show your employees their contributions are valued by simply listening respectfully and attentively.

Example

Giving full attention entails:

  • Putting all electronic devices away
  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Performing appropriate non-verbal responses (nodding your head, smiling or frowning, etc.)
  • Avoiding interrupting

4. Practice Empathy

One of the key components of emotional intelligence, empathy, is crucial to connecting with individuals authentically and finding common ground as well as understanding different perspectives and emotions in others.

By practicing empathy, you set the example and can give your team the foundation they need to become open and productive communicators.

Example

Here are five practical ways to practice empathy:

  • Ask follow-up questions to better understand a situation and an individual’s perception of that situation
  • Imagine a given issue or circumstance
  • Validate how the other person is feeling
  • Offer to support someone with their situation and ask how they can help
  • Get to know a person on a more personal level

5. Build Open Communication during Onboarding

Establishing a culture of open communication starts right at the beginning with onboarding. Business leaders should instill the benefits of open communication early on in the employee experience to encourage new hires to practice open communication

Example

Business leaders can lead discussions on open communication, explaining the following key topics to new hires:

  • The value open communication provides
  • How staff members at the organization practice open communication
  • Tips on how to contribute ideas and accept/provide feedback

The areas above can be communicated via employee handbook, orientation discussions, and one-on-ones with managers.

6. Practice Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies

Conflict is inevitable in the workplace—workforce members spend about 2.8 hours each week on issues. Leaders should help team members resolve conflict through healthy conflict resolution. If done right, conflict resolution can promote open communication and better relationships.

Example

Practicing effective conflict resolution strategies might include:

Responding to and addressing issues productively. All parties should have the chance to express their concerns and feelings.
Strategizing realistic solutions that respect the ideas and feelings of all parties. These solutions should push them to learn and grow from the experience.

7. Implement the Right Communication Technology

Ensure your team has an efficient way of communicating. Open communication inherently means accessibility, so giving team members technological channels allows them to communicate in the way they prefer. Opening more channels to speak with one another provides workforce members with more opportunities to connect and collaborate.

Example

Teams can lean on a chat-based software tool where team members can exchange ideas and provide feedback to one another. Communication tools like Slack, Fuze, Teams also offer useful features like video/audio recording and a calling tool to help you better communicate.

8. Become More Self-Aware

Self-awareness involves being conscious of your behaviors and emotions and how these might impact others. A self-aware individual will voice and leverage their strengths to push ideas and initiatives forward, and they will have the humility and maturity to own their limitations and blind spots

Someone who does not practice self-awareness may react in brash and negative ways. This can discourage others from engaging in open conversations. Therefore, leaders should set an example by being self-aware and encouraging others to do so.

Example

Developing self-awareness may involve:

  • Understanding your emotional triggers and being able to fully process them before communicating with others
  • Learning how to set more effective boundaries to safeguard the integrity of your work and goals
  • Embracing your intuition to make better decisions

Leaders and individual contributors can participate in personal impact workshops to grow in this area.

Improve Your Communication Skills with CMOE

At CMOE, we understand strong communication skills are crucial to personal and professional growth. We have a dedicated Communication Skills workshop focused on developing fundamental skills such as open communication. Reach out to our team to learn more about this workshop and other offerings.

About the Author
CMOE Team
CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.

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