Key Points about effective written communication:
- Miscommunication can make understanding projects, deadlines, and goals unnecessarily complicated.
- Improving communication in your workplace can save time, increase productivity, and more.
In an ideal world, communication would be easy. We’d know exactly what to say or write, and there’d be no confusion about what anyone meant, ever. Of course, communication rarely works that way. We stare at the computer screen trying to decide how to begin an email. We misunderstand, overlook, or forget information we’ve been given.
According to Salesforce, 86% of employees and executives attribute workplace failures to a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication. Written communication often exacerbates these issues, especially in a remote environment where many employees rely on emails to do their jobs.
You can significantly improve effective communication in your organization by asking everyone (yourself included) to consider the following practices.
Tips for Effective Communication in the Workplace
Break up long sentences and paragraphs
A big block of text can overwhelm a reader before they even get to the first word. Long sentences and paragraphs also make it harder to comprehend and retain information. Note the differences in these two communications:
Sample 1: I support the goals outlined in the proposal you sent to me yesterday, especially the need to better define appropriate metrics around the solicitation of customer satisfaction scores, and I want to thank you for the thought you gave to proposing workable solutions, but I’m not sure if all of the proposed solutions will work at this time. Let’s discuss it all at our next check-in.
Sample 2: Thank you for sending the proposal yesterday. I appreciate the thought you put into it. I agree with you about the goals, especially what you wrote about customer satisfaction scores. The solutions you proposed, however, may be a challenge to implement right away. Let’s discuss the proposal at our next check-in.
These samples provide the same information, but the second uses shorter sentences that make it easier to follow.
Use clear, concrete terms
Vague words and broad generalizations make for easy miscommunication. Readers will be more likely to understand your meaning if your language is specific. Just because something is clear to you doesn’t necessarily mean it will be clear to your reader. Compare these two statements:
Sample 1: Would you be able to review the thing I sent you earlier?
Sample 2: Here’s the letter for Anil I told you about this morning. Would you be able to proofread it for typos by the end of the day?
The first sample can cause confusion and frustration if the recipient has recently received a lot of “things” from the writer or other people. In contrast, the second sample provides context and clearly defines the requested task.
Provide context and direction when adding someone to a conversation
Many of us have received a forwarded email that we’re not immediately sure what to do with. Should we keep it as a reference? Read through the thread? Respond in some way? When forwarding an email, explain the conversation to the reader and tell them what they need to do in response. Compare these two examples:
Sample 1: Please see below. What do you think?
Sample 2: Please read through the conversation below and note the product request from Oliver. Is that something you can add to your work this week?
The first sample may prompt the reader to weigh in on the wrong subject. They may also need to ask the writer for clarification before responding. The second sample saves time by giving clear instructions.
Avoid unnecessary details
While some context is useful, too much can overwhelm the reader and take longer to read.
Sample 1: I ran into Lindsay in the lunchroom and asked her about the Paterson deal. She asked me to follow up with her after her lunch break, which I did, and she gave me permission to start on the outline. She seemed a little aggravated that I interrupted her lunch. Anyway, I need to respond to a few emails before I get started on it, but I will get to it after and have it to you and her by close of business today.
Sample 2: I got the go ahead from Lindsay on the Paterson deal. I’m working on the outline and will email it to you and her by close of business today.
The first sample likely has too much information. The writer may have included the extra details because they felt bad about asking Lindsay to work on her lunch break. But unless there’s a good reason for the recipient to know those details, they’re best left out.
Save difficult or emotionally intense conversations for calls, video conferences, or in-person meetings
Tough conversations usually require more finesse than written text can provide. If you anticipate a strong emotional response to what you have to say, don’t write it out. Talk it through with the person instead. Let them hear your voice and listen carefully to theirs.
The Benefits of Effective Communication
Effective communication can save everyone in your organization time and frustration. It also drives real, tangible results. Clear communication improves:
Miscommunication can literally cause employees to feel disconnected from those around them. According to one survey, 38% of HR managers believe that communication is the most effective way to raise employee morale. When employees understand each other, they’re more likely to have a positive outlook and higher workplace satisfaction.
Effective communication leads to greater engagement, and more engaged employees are 59% less likely to look for a job with a different organization.
Organizations that enhance communication see productivity increases of 20-25%. Effective communication reduces the amount of time spent clarifying goals and requests, giving everyone more time to complete the task itself.
Along with increased productivity, effective communication can save your company a significant amount of money. Miscommunication can cost companies with around 100 employees an average of $420,000 per year.
Effective Communication with an HRIS
Effective communication will take time and practice. To get started, lead by example and establish a frequent channel of communication for you and your employees. You can use an HRIS like SentricHR to share company news, send automatic notifications for important updates, and otherwise keep employees informed. To learn more, speak with one of our product experts today!
Blog content provided in part by Sentric’s online HR Support Center. For more information, please reach out to our sales team.