George Bancs
Nov 12 2020

Workplace communication tools: cutting through the chatter

How effective is the communication in your workplace right now?

Most businesses have tools and processes set up to make the lines of communication somewhat smoother, and there’s certainly no shortage when it comes to which tool to choose - but is any of it making a real, measurable difference to workplace productivity, inclusion and safety?

Let’s look at the stats. 97% of employees believe communication has an impact on everyday tasks. Efficient communication can be linked to higher employee retention rates, productivity , as well as competitive advantage . Yet 62% of businesses don’t have a long term strategy for effective internal communication between their employees.

The bigger question may be whether the plethora of communication tools at our fingertips are actually causing more damage than good. Miscommunication in the workplace costs companies with 100 employees an average of $420,000 per year, for larger companies this spirals into the tens of millions.

Since studies show that leaders spend around 80% of the working day communicating and on the flip side, just 17% of employees believe their line managers are effective communicators - something is amiss.

Today I want to explore workplace communication from the viewpoint of efficiency, inclusion and safety, to unearth what as employers and managers, we could be doing differently; doing better.

Communication and efficiency

Email overwhelm is real. Of the 205.6 billion daily emails sent globally, only a third are opened and around 25% of employees think email kills their productivity.

They might be right, because the stats show that 62% of the emails received by employees are not important. So email can be a time and efficiency suck, but what about other methods of internal communication?

Many large organisations spend thousands on intranets, however only 13% of employees use their intranet on a daily basis. Why?

It seems employees care about the user experience when it comes to professional communication tools, as much as they do about personal ones.

It’s important to take this into account when selecting the comms tools for your business. Are more workers remote than in the office? Are they working in a noisy construction site environment, or driving alone in a rural area? Are your teams large, small, multilingual? What is the average age ( 62% of employees aged 18–34 are motivated by team messaging). All these questions play a pivotal role on which communication tool to choose, and the level to which your employees will adopt it.

Communication and inclusion

An area that’s quite often overlooked when it comes to the workplace communication tools of choice, is inclusivity. How can we ensure the tools we provide offer an equal level of value to every single employee?

The most recent census data shows over a quarter of the population speak a language other than English at home. (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016).

Do the communication tools at your workplace take culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) workers into account? Do you make it easier for them to connect and feel included with their peers and colleagues, or add to a feeling of isolation?

These considerations expand as far as career progression. Do the processes you have in place make expanding the responsibilities within their roles easier to communicate - giving CALD workers much of a chance to progress, as their English-speaking workmates?

Considering these points are not only important from the employee-side “employees that feel their voice is heard in the workplace are almost five times more likely to feel empowered to deliver their best work”, but also at the bottom line, organizations with connected employees show productivity increases of 20–25% .

Communication and workplace safety

Almost any workplace miscommunication can have safety repercussions. It’s more obvious on a construction site, however risks can’t be underestimated whether your team works with forklifts or photocopiers.

Miscommunication and ineffective communication might include:

These issues are highlighted when considering a study from The Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), found 44% of Australians have literacy skills below the level required to operate effectively in the workplace. Do the communication tools in your workplace account for conditions such as dyslexia?

CALD workers are most at risk when it comes to safety; in NSW there were 5,368 workers compensation claims between 2013 and 2016. Of these, 85% of claimants' language was not English or Indigenous. Do your comms tools account for the needs of your multilingual workforce?

So, what can we learn? How can we make things better?

55% of employees feel that a mobile app would help them be more engaged with their company - and if that’s the case Talk 5 could be the answer.

In response to the communication challenges I saw in my own business, I built Talk 5 to address the categories we have explored above in these ways:

Talk 5 and efficiency: The talk and text feature within Talk 5 enables teams to quickly share issues and general information about tasks, without clogging up the inbox and with a user experience that suits the functionality of today’s ever-connected and digitally-savvy workers.

Talk 5 and inclusion: Information can be translated into over 50 languages in an instant and communicated in the best way possible, to elicit an accurate response from workers of all nationalities and varying literacy skills.

Talk 5 and safety: Users can complete audits and checklists via speaking and listening, as well as reading and writing (in their native tongue), meaning higher level of comprehension and therefore lower risk of misinterpretation, ambiguity or misunderstanding. The talk and text feature can be used to instantly warn others of a safety hazard onsite, pass on important weather information - the possibilities for effective communication of safety risks and processes really are endless.

To turn communication into a competitive advantage, you first have to ask a lot of questions. It’s only when you can confidently answer them, that you can begin to understand the true impact the right communication tool can have on productivity, inclusion and safety. Only then can you unlock the power of uniting your workforce behind a tool that drowns out the noise, instead of adding to it.

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