woman standing speaking in discussion at team meeting

Good communication is an integral part to a productive, high-performance organization. Like teeth on gears, communication allows team members to work in tandem and achieve results to create value. Good communication is the key to unlocking cooperation and coordination across the 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 and conflict between individuals and teams.
  • Only 7 percent of team members believe “communication is accurate, timely, and open” at their workplace.

Using effective skills and tools and instituting a culture of open communication will help organizations significantly 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 explains for any organization how to establish open communication at work.

What Is Open Communication?

Open communication exists when team members can freely express their thoughts and ideas to one another in a psychologically safe environment where people 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 the trust, transparency, inclusion, and innovation necessary to solve problems, make decisions, and implement new strategies.

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, when appropriate, and contribute unique ideas. Honest and open conversations can foster growth, spark innovations, and help bolster the competitive advantage of your team and business.
  • Alignment: When ideas are openly expressed, individuals have the opportunity to discuss their ideas and make decisions together. This process drives collaboration across teams and departments. There will be a greater likelihood that people will be focused on the same outcome and promote constructive feedback.

8 Ways to Establish Open Communication in the Workplace

manager pointing at employees monitor screen

Fortunately, there are practical strategies and skills you can use to foster open communication in your workplace. Although this framework is not exhaustive, here are eight essential practices 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 psychologically safe space for them to feel comfortable sharing their points of view.


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 feedback in front of others.

  • Anonymous surveys: Periodically circulate anonymous surveys to team members. Allowing individuals to be anonymous encourages employees to practice expressing their feelings more freely.
  • One-on-one meetings: Set up weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one meetings with each of your team members. These conversations can allow your team member to share their ideas and address any concerns.
  • Team meetings: Leaders can ask for opinions, input, and feedback during staff meetings. This can be an excellent way to have team members collectively discuss and come up with a decision and solve problems. Team environments also provide opportunities for individuals to understand one another and build camaraderie.

2. Share Updates with Teams

It is not unusual for people to feel siloed or alone in the workplace. Staff members may not receive updates on time or simply hear only whispers in the break room.

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


Some companies shield acquisitions and sensitive financial data from workforce members. This creates an unnecessary divide between leadership and the workforce. An open communication workplace values ownership mind-set—every person is treated like an owner or entrepreneur of the company and should, thus, have information that impacts the success of the enterprise. 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 genuinely listening respectfully and attentively and by acknowledging their input.


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 the emotions of others. See our digital course for more information about the importance of empathic leadership and strategies on how to use it.

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


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 how people might be reacting to 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 and set expectations.


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

  • The value and benefits that 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 leaders.

6. Practice Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies

Differences are inevitable in the workplace—workforce members spend about 2.8 hours each week resolving issues. Leaders should help team members manage conflict through a healthy conflict resolution process. Conflict resolution can promote open communication and strong relationships.


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.
  • Stepping back and looking at common goals and a broader perspective.

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.


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 or initiatives forward, and they will have the humility and maturity to own their limitations and blind spots.

People who don’t practice self-awareness may be overly emotional, too competitive, and react in 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.


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 essential skills such as open communication. Reach out to our team to learn more about this workshop and other offerings.

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About the Author
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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