Open Communication: Tips and Examples for the Workplace

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Saphia Lanier
Saphia Lanier

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Creating an open-door policy. Promoting team departments to be transparent. Eliminating silos. Companies that take these measures understand the importance of open communication. 

Open communication: a hand holds a telephone.

Unfortunately, many companies aren’t implementing these measures and are struggling with communication issues in the workplace. This doesn’t just hurt productivity; it also diminishes their bottom line. 

The good news is there are tactics you can use today to fortify your open communication strategy. 

Open communication definition

Open communication is a concept where individuals can freely express their thoughts, concerns, and ideas to one another. It includes actively listening and showing empathy to those with something to share. Open communication is about accepting feedback and being available to those who need to connect. 

In the workplace, this can mean managers being available to listen to their employees, and sharing their insights to keep everyone in the loop. 

Why is open communication important?

Open communication is critical to have in the workplace. When companies don’t promote an open communication style, it can lead to various issues. For instance,  in the State of Business Communication report, 43% of business leaders say poor communication reduces productivity. 

And one of the worst consequences of miscommunication is missed and extended deadlines and timelines. According to 38%, poor communication also has a financial impact on the business. 

Here’s a look at some of the other ways poor communication can harm the workplace:

  • Professional failures: Ineffective communication leads to misunderstandings, confusion, and mistakes that can hinder the ability to excel. For example, employees may misunderstand instructions and get assignments wrong, giving them a bad look. 
  • Missed performance goals: Without proper communication, it’s challenging to be on the same page and accomplish goals. For example, an employee may miss a deadline because they didn’t understand the task or didn’t know it was coming.
  • Reduced employee morale: When everyone’s on a different page, it’s difficult to feel confident and motivated because there’s no north star guiding everyone’s direction. For example, an employee may feel like they’re not working toward the same goal as their peers and feel less team-oriented.
  • Lost sales: When morale is low and burnout is high due to poor communication, it can hurt customer service, sales and support, reducing your business’s revenue potential. Lack of communication can also prevent sales teams from working efficiently. For example, an employee may struggle to answer a customer’s question because they don’t have all the information they need to be helpful.

On the other hand, when companies create a work environment that promotes open communication, it can lead to the following benefits.

Benefits of open communication

Here’s an overview of the benefits of implementing open communication in your business:

  • Enhanced productivity: A McKinsey report shows co-workers who feel included in detailed workplace communication are 5x more likely to see increased productivity. This is especially true for remote teams. 
  • Increased engagement: A Gallup study shows disengaged workers cost American businesses $8.8T in lost productivity. So by enforcing open communication, you may see teams more proactive in solo and team activities.
  • Higher talent retention: A Microsoft 2022 Word Trend Index report shows 43% of workers were more likely to consider changing jobs in 2023. And an astounding 59% are quiet quitting.  Nearly 80% are willing to stay on the job when they feel supported and valued, which is possible when open communication is in place. 
  • Build trust: A Workforce Institute report shows 74% of workers desire working for a trustworthy employer. When there’s low trust, it negatively impacts performance. And one way to foster trust is to be transparent via open communication. 

If you’d like to reap the advantages open communication offers, then the next step is to build a strategy to promote open communication in your organization.

11 ways to promote open communication in your team

There’s no right or wrong way to guide your teams to become more communicative. Here are 11 methods you can use today to drive open communication across your organization:

  1. Encourage active listening: Train employees to actively listen to their colleagues and understand their perspectives without interrupting or judging them. This creates an environment where everyone feels heard and valued.
  2. Foster a culture of respect: Establish a workplace culture that values and respects diverse opinions and encourages open dialogue. Encourage employees to express their thoughts and ideas without fear of judgment or retribution. 
  3. Hold regular team meetings: Conduct regular team meetings to provide a platform for open communication. Encourage employees to share updates, ask questions, and provide feedback on ongoing projects or issues.
  4. Use collaborative tools: Use collaborative tools like project management software, intranets, or messaging platforms to facilitate open communication. These tools can help employees easily share information, collaborate on tasks, and provide feedback.
  5. Provide feedback channels: Establish formal channels for employees to provide feedback, suggestions, or concerns. Encourage employees to use these channels and assure them that their input will be considered seriously.
  6. Lead by example: Managers and leaders should lead by example by actively engaging in open communication. They should demonstrate active listening, encourage diverse opinions, and be open to feedback from their team members.
  7. Conduct team-building activities: Organize team-building activities that promote open communication, such as group discussions, brainstorming sessions, or problem-solving exercises. These activities help build trust and encourage employees to freely express their thoughts.
  8. Offer training on communication skills: Provide training programs or workshops on effective communication skills. This can help employees improve their communication abilities, including active listening, conflict resolution, and assertiveness.
  9. Create an open-door policy: Implement an open-door policy where employees feel comfortable approaching their supervisors or managers with any concerns or ideas. This policy ensures communication channels are always open and accessible.
  10. Celebrate transparency and honesty: Recognize and reward employees who demonstrate transparency and honesty in their communication. This reinforces the importance of open communication and encourages others to follow suit.
  11. Use clear and simple language: Avoid using jargon or complex language that may be difficult for some team members to understand.

Open communication examples

Open communication may look different from company to company. How it’ll be in your organization depends on the needs of your teams and its leaders. 

Here are several examples of how open communication can be implemented in your business:

  • Discussing a project: During a team meeting, a project manager openly shares the challenges they’ve encountered in a project and asks for team members’ input and solutions. The team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas and suggestions, leading to a constructive conversation and effective problem-solving.
  • Reviewing a worker’s performance: In a performance review, a manager provides constructive feedback to an employee about their performance. The employee feels comfortable discussing their perspective, expressing their concerns, and setting goals for improvement. Both parties leave the conversation clearly understanding expectations and next steps.
  • Handling conflicts: Two colleagues disagree about how to proceed with a task. Instead of ignoring or escalating the issue, they sit down and openly discuss their viewpoints. They listen to each other’s perspectives, and together they find a solution that satisfies both parties.
  • Creating an open-door policy: A leader maintains an open-door policy, encouraging their team members to come forward with any issues or ideas they might have. An employee walks into the leader’s office and shares a suggestion for a process improvement that could save the team a lot of time. The leader appreciates the input and implements the suggestion.
  • Conducting a town hall meeting: During a companywide town hall meeting, the CEO openly discusses the company’s financial status and future plans. Employees are encouraged to ask questions and share their thoughts, fostering a sense of transparency and trust within the company.
  • Providing feedback to teams: After completing a project, a team holds a feedback session to discuss what went well and what could be improved. Everyone feels comfortable sharing their opinions and learning from the experience.
  • Conducting team-building exercises: Team members are encouraged to share personal experiences and interests during a team-building activity. This opens up communication and helps build stronger relationships and understanding among the team members.
  • Collaborating across teams and departments: A cross-functional collaboration where different teams work together on a complex task. The teams communicate regularly using collaborative tools, share information and resources, and coordinate their actions. The teams also respect each other’s expertise, roles, and responsibilities — and have a high level of trust for each other.

Open communication requires ongoing training, feedback, and improvement for everyone. When your leaders get it right, it’s more likely their teams will do the same. So start from the top and work your way down to build a culture of open communication in your company.

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