Collaboration, Communication, Culture – Organisational, Leadership

Effective Communication Skills


One of my clients was required, as part of her responsibilities, to undertake a major procurement assignment. After spending considerable time with preliminary preparations, the manager was ready to obtain quotes from relevant suppliers. Just by chance she mentioned in passing to a member of the relevant department she was about to get quotes but she was told, “Oh, that won’t be necessary now; we’ve changed our mind and are not going ahead!”

Failure to communicate that change of plan as soon as the decision was made to cancel the project, caused my client and her team to waste hours of valuable time. Had she gone ahead to obtain quotes once the project had been cancelled she would have risked damaging the company’s reputation with valued suppliers.

As in life, communication in the workplace is incredibly important. Yet I wonder how many occasions such as the one I’ve just described happen every working day. Communication in the workplace is essential because it boosts employee:

  • Morale,
  • Engagement,
  • Job satisfaction,
  • Collaboration and
  • Performance

What Is Effective Communication?

Communication that is effective builds a bridge of understanding between the communicator and the receiver. It is the communicator’s key responsibility to ensure that the content has been received the way the sender intended. To achieve that outcome for spoken communication, the sender needs to ensure their tone of voice, pace of speech, vocabulary and body language matches the purpose of the communication. Also it helps to seek feedback from the receiver by asking such questions as: “Any questions?” “How clear is that on a scale of 1 (clear as mud) to 10 (crystal clear)?” and then ask the reasons for their rating. “What are the key points you’ve taken from what I’ve been saying?” For written communication, “Please get back to me if you have any questions, or any concerns with what I’ve written”, or if it’s to your direct reports, “Please let me have your action plan together with the timeline by… (insert date).”

However, in addition to answering such questions, it is also up to the receiver to clarify anything they don’t understand or have a problem with. The receiver also needs to be clear that they understand the content of the communication and to check back with the sender if they’re unsure.

The end goal of communication is to ensure both sender and receiver are on the same page. While the receiver may not agree with what’s been communicated they should be able to clearly understand and reflect back the message itself.

Effective workplace communication helps to achieve the following results. It:

  • Enables a positive and co-operative relationship between managers and employees as well as among employees themselves;
  • Facilitates collaboration;
  • Aids problem-solving and the surfacing of new and alternate ideas;
  • Makes management less  stressful and more effective by giving employees clarity regarding their roles and responsibilities;
  • Facilitates conflict resolution as people experience they’ve been heard and understood;
  • Increases productivity by minimising confusion and misunderstanding;
  • Helps create positive and productive relationships between employees and clients/customers; and
  • Builds organizational loyalty, morale and commitment through transparency and openness.

Ultimately, in order to be effective communication needs to be authentic and respectful. Inauthentic and manipulative communication will eventually be exposed and will likely result in future messages being treated with cynicism and suspicion.

Eight Essential Workplace Communication Skills

1. Face to Face

In face to face communication pay close attention to the non-verbals. Research shows that 55% of what is actually communicated is expressed via the sender’s body language, 38% through tone of voice and only 7% through words.  Also ensure as communicator you use language, speed and volume of speech that are appropriate for your audience, context and situation.

2. Visit by Videoing

Research from the Gallup organization found 43% of survey respondents work virtually for at least some of their time. In one on one video communication, maintaining eye contact, appropriate facial expressions and use of visuals via screen share are important skills.

3. Confirm, Change or Cancel

Contrary to the story I shared in my introduction, make sure you inform everyone who needs to know all relevant decisions and actions that have taken place since your previous communication with them. So, be sure to confirm all requests (unless confirmation was implicit in your original message), communicate any changes that need to be made or, if the request no longer applies, ensure you tell the receiver it is no longer needed. It’s much better to over-communicate than to risk leaving someone who needs to know out of the picture. Consequences of such an omission can be embarrassing as well as costly!

4. Prepare and Practice PowerPoint Presentations

When preparing a presentation ensure your purpose or goal is clear to not only yourself but also your audience. As far as possible include real life stories and examples (and where appropriate especially ones you’ve experienced). For audiences who are not experts in the subject matter covered by the presentation keep it as simple as possible with the use of diagrams, pictures and a minimum of words. At the beginning of the presentation provide handouts of the slides with sufficient room for personal note-taking. (Where relevant, a more detailed handout could be available for those who need it.)

5. Telephone Technique

For phone based communication tone of voice, speed and modulation are critical. As unscheduled telephoning runs the risk of interrupting the receiver use it mainly when discussion is needed. If the receiver is in the same building it’s more relational to make an appointment to visit and discuss face to face instead.

6. Texting Tactics

As most staff get email overload, texting is an efficient and more accessible method to confirm, reschedule or send an apology for an appointment. The message should be short, concise and limited to one subject.

7. Email Etiquette

Emails are an effective way to send minutes or notes from a recent meeting, to confirm decisions made and identify follow up action items. Avoid using emails for communicating controversial information and where buy-in is needed. As stated previously, face to face is the best context for that. If it’s not possible to meet in person, video conferencing is a fall-back option. Furthermore, only cc those who need to receive the email. Receiving unnecessary emails can be extremely frustrating.

8. Meeting Maxims

Because they are time consuming for yourself and others, meetings should only be held when the required communication can’t be effectively processed otherwise. It’s important, especially in a work based context where time is money, that meetings open and close on time (late-comers will soon get the message) and there should be a clear purpose for the meeting that is communicated in advance. Unless the meeting is called to simply give information (and probably receive feedback), don’t preload the agenda (allow the agenda to emerge from surfacing key items, ideas and information during the meeting itself). Meetings are a major subject – too large to be covered in this article. For further information see my two blog articles, ‘Making Meetings Meaningful’ Part 1 and Part 2.


Research shows that one third of employees attribute lack of open and honest communication to be the main cause for low employee morale. Organizations that encourage communication and collaboration among employees, have improved productivity and employee job satisfaction. The end result of all communication should be to leave the receiver with an experience of clarity, authenticity and respect in relation to the communicator. By so doing, a positive and receptive context is created for receiving future communications from that sender. A salutary and instructive project may be to undertake a communication survey in your organization.

Graham Beattie

1 thought on “Effective Communication Skills

  1. Thanks for this latest blog – lots to think about and more reading and re-reading and then action my thoughts.

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