Teaching soft skills in the workplace: soft skill 1, communication
Communication can be a sticking point in many organisations. Whether it comes down to the tone of emails, confusing management styles, or lack of visibility across teams, how your employees communicate often shapes productivity, morale, and staff retention.
According to The Holmes Report, "the average cumulative cost per-worker per-year due to productivity losses resulting from communications barriers is £19,666". More than just a nice skill set to have, soft skills like communication have a real business impact.
This is where L&D can help. Whether you have a team of 10 or ongoing L&D sits with line managers and your HR teams, there are a wide range of things you can do to improve communication in the workplace, both on an organisation-wide and individual level.
But there isn’t the time or resources to speak to every individual you might say. The good thing is, you don’t have to. There are a number of ways you can tap into communication in your organisation in a productive and meaningful way. Here are some ideas from our teams here at Kallidus.
Leading by example: communication in your organisation
1. Increase face-to-face time with line managers
It’s a well-known fact that written text, tonally, can be hard to read. While one person may think their email is full of useful advice, the person(s) on the receiving end may feel they have been unfairly criticised.
While email is a vital part of communication within the modern workforce, an uplift in face-to-face communication is shown to increase trust and decrease workplace confrontation.
What about my employees who work remotely?
We’ve thought about that too. Introduce weekly 1:1s between direct line managers and their remote employees over a Skype call, Microsoft Teams, or other video calling software. This will help to ensure remote employees feel heard, valued, and stay on track with upcoming deadlines.
2. Improve transparency
When it comes to doing your job well, context is everything. Whether a shop floor team member is conducting a stock take in the warehouse or a software developer is fixing a bug on a new feature, understanding what is being done and why can provide a huge boost to productivity.
This doesn’t mean every employee needs to know everything that is going on, but it can be great to develop a culture of sharing within the individual teams in your organisation. For example, holding a daily stand up where everyone shares their current projects/workloads/tasks is a great way to keep everyone on the same page.
Improving transparency on a team-by-team level, whether through project management tools, open conversations, or daily stand ups keeps the team moving in a single unified direction towards your goals, and enables employees to gain support from their managers and teammates where needed.
3. Run workshops
Involving employees in company-wide decisions can seem like a political nightmare. But a great way around this, that also improves organisational communication, is to run workshops. These can cover pretty much anything from updating company values right the way through to getting feedback on recent developments in the organisation.
Allowing your employees to be the voices of change is a great way to introduce new things to your organisation in a way that helps everyone feel included. These workshops can also be a great way to close the gap between C-Suite/upper management and employees on the ground floor.
My organisation is spread across the country, how can we manage this?
It’s simply a case of breaking it down to a location-by-location basis and bringing your findings together.
Take Waitrose & Partners as an example. With over 52,000 members of staff, they manage wide-scale communication through the Partnership Council which allows staff (or “Partners”) to be involved in the decision-making process with representatives from each store invited to take part in wider discussions.
Improving individual communication skills
4. Introduce communication training through blended learning
Now we’ve covered some ways to manage communication at an organisational level, it’s time to step in a bit closer and see how L&D can really step in and work with individuals.
eLearning is a fantastic way to roll out training across your organisation, but screen-based learning won’t necessarily improve communication on its own. This is a fantastic opportunity to make use of blended learning to your organisation.
Combining the efficiencies of eLearning with a face-to-face element is a fantastic way to broach the subject of communication. This isn’t something that just sits on the shoulders of line management and the C-Suite. Everyone can benefit from communication skills.
5. Provide opportunities for practical experience
So you have a few employees who are a little shy or struggle speaking in front of crowds. Give them opportunities to speak in front of team mates, get involved in meetings with clients, and slowly integrate them into the world of public speaking.
Throwing them in at the deep end won’t necessarily help them find their feet, but if you let them take smaller steps on their way there, and ensure someone they trust is present for their first big presentation, you’re much more likely to keep up morale and help them develop into a strong public speaker.
6. Encourage second opinions on written comms
When it comes to sending emails or approaching difficult topics, you can encourage line management and more experienced members of staff to buddy up with those who may have trouble communicating via the written word.
Emails, instant messages, and reports are a normal part of many jobs, especially office-based ones. Help to create a culture of sharing and teamwork when it comes to communication and make sure employees don’t feel scared to ask questions or ask their team mates for help.
Taking a step back from your written communication before you proofread it, or getting someone else to proofread it is a fantastic way to ensure the message is serving its purpose.
Communication is vital in any workplace. Introducing soft skills training or facilitating support on a team-by-team level can be a great way to improve morale, productivity, and efficiency in the workplace. Spoken and written communication are two key parts of many people’s day-to-day working lives, so getting involved and helping to create a culture of sharing can be a great step towards a healthier and more open work environment.