With so many ways to communicate, the high cost of poor communication in the workplace just gets steeper.
Communicating with colleagues and employees should be a breeze, considering all the channels we have – email, Slack, Teams, text, chat, phone calls, etc.
But poor communication continues to plague workplaces to the tune of $12,000 per employee every year, according to research by Grammarly and The Harris Poll. Meanwhile, more than 90% of the leaders feel effective communication is the backbone of the business.
In HR alone, think about the impact of poorly communicated information: Employees don’t understand policies, procedures and paperwork and misunderstandings, mistakes and missteps follow.
This isn’t just an employee issue. Sure, they sometimes don’t listen to or read information. But sometimes leaders don’t communicate well, forcing everyone to tune out or scroll over.
HR pros and all leaders want to avoid poor communication habits, especially those that prompt employees to zone out or skim over.
Here are the six biggest and tips on how you can avoid them.
1. Failed to grab attention
Our attention spans aren’t what they used to be. Although one study that suggested our attention lasted just 8.25 seconds was rebuked, there’s still proof our attention spans have shrunk. Half the people – of all ages – couldn’t stop checking their phones every few minutes even when they needed to focus on work, a study from the Policy Institute and Centre for Attention Studies at King’s College London found. And a Technical University of Denmark study found people’s attention to headlines in social media drastically decreased in just three years.
If the headline – or your first few words – doesn’t grab attention, you won’t likely gain or keep anyone interested.
Tip: Tease employees with a cliff hanger in the first 30 seconds of speaking or line of content. For instance, “We’ll explain how you can save as much as $100 a month on coverage.” The key is to quickly explain how the information you want to share affects employees.
2. Gave too much info
Employees are overwhelmed with information all day, every day. Giving them anything that’s less than relevant to the task at hand will dilute – and potentially pollute – your message.
Tip: Keep directions simple. Keep your message short. If they need more information, they’ll ask for it.
3. Focused on the wrong person
Leaders might be interesting and respected, but employees are still mostly interested in themselves.
So if your message focuses too much on you, the company or group, it will be mostly ignored.
Tip: Focus on why the information you share is important to the people who get it. If you hear yourself saying “I” and “we” more than “you” – or see those in writing – it’s time to change the message.
4. Timing was bad
Some messages aren’t heard and heeded because they come at a bad time. On a daily basis, that’s just before a meal or coffee breaks, and about an hour after those breaks, when blood sugar drops.
Tip: Deliver important messages right after employees have fueled up.
5. Set up suffered
Researchers have found that people listen better to those who are in the “right” position. In a meeting, that tends to be the head of the table – a “high status” seat. The foot of the table also gets attention, but often it’s for opposition to what happens at the head. People sitting on the middle sides tend to get heard the least from their “low status” seats.
Tip: So when the message is important, position yourself in one of the “high status” end seats.
6. Spoke poorly
Sometimes the problem with getting a message across is no more complex than this: The speaker didn’t speak clearly.
Tip: Follow these three keys to clear speech:
- Speak up. If they literally can’t hear you, nothing will sink in.
- Stop short of yelling. If you’re full of emotion, they’ll ignore the content.
- Slow down. If you talk too fast or say too much, employees won’t keep up