Anyone who’s ever managed a team can tell you why proactive communication in the workplace is essential. Colleagues, managers, and customers all appreciate proactive staff members. Employees’ level of satisfaction, happiness, and self-esteem at work rises when they are on top of things and answering questions before they are asked.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to tell employees, “You need to be more proactive,” but the reality can be quite different. Lack of support, restricted time, and conflicting priorities can cause personnel to take the reactive route. The good news is there are ways to improve proactive communication in the workplace, and you can effectively lead the way. Here’s what you can do:
1. Help Employees Lead Change
One of the biggest roadblocks to proactive communication is discouragement. Employees feel unmotivated when they think they can’t improve their work. Try finding out what is bothering employees or causing extra stress. Maybe it has something to do with a workflow process or the technology that you use. Whatever it is, let your personnel know that you’re willing to make improvements if they will approach you with an issue and a game plan for resolving it.
Before, employees felt helpless. With the new approach, they’ll start to realize that they have some control in the workplace and what happens in the company. The outcome? Team members will be more vocal about the challenges they are confronting and less afraid to start working on potential solutions. As a company, this is what you want.
2. Create a Judgment-free Culture
Whether you have a small or large team, there are ways to create a judgment-free culture that encourages proactive communication. This should get staff members who lack confidence or are newer to the team to speak up. One way to do this is to make clear that there are no bad questions or ideas. Plus, it helps to encourage feedback early.
Speaking of feedback, feedback tools are excellent for getting staff members to open up. Vevox is one such tool – it allows you to create surveys or pools within a few minutes and gather feedback, which goes straight from employees to the management. These surveys can be returned anonymously so that employees don’t worry about potential repercussions for expressing their true opinions. If that sounds too high-tech, there’s nothing wrong with an anonymous opinion box for collecting honest feedback.
It’s also important to leave the door open for informal feedback. A casual “what do you think of this strategy?” while taking a stroll in the office or during a Zoom meeting will signal to employees that you’re open to hearing what they think.
3. Improve Cross-Cultural Communication
A team consisting of talent from different countries, cities, or even continents might have communication silos due to language and cultural barriers. Open up frequent communication through channels like Skype or Teams. Don’t gravitate toward the team from your own country simply because they are most familiar to you – make sure to give all representatives equal attention.
Consider offering some basic classes or training that assists your team in more effectively understanding one another—their customs, language, work culture, etc. In group conversations, ask questions that allow people to share what is going on in their respective countries and lives. If you’re collaborating with people that English might not be a primary language choice, make sure that your communications are clear and easy to understand. Go easy with idioms and cultural jargon.
4. Arrange Team-building Exercises
These don’t necessarily need to involve costly retreats. Rather, think of short and fun tasks for cross-functional teams that take 10-15 minutes to complete. Before finalizing a team-building exercise, analyze the specific challenges your staff members are facing.
For instance, do they need to resolve a specific conflict, or does your team need to better understand a project’s context? You may design various exercises to help address these situations. Arranging extracurricular activities will help everyone on your team get familiar with each other on a relaxed level, which will enhance communication and productivity back in the workplace.
Another important thing to consider is the frequency of the team exercises. Just like physical exercise, engaging in team-building exercises can bring long-lasting benefits. Teamwork requires coordination and practice, just like building muscle does. If you want your team to contribute to your goals, find a way to incorporate exercises into your monthly meetings (whether in-person or online).
Pro tip: Clarify the purpose of your team-building exercises. If a team doesn’t understand why they need to collaborate on non-work tasks, their enthusiasm and motivation can dwindle. Be transparent about why you’re arranging these exercises and what you hope to achieve at the end.
5. Celebrate Mini-achievements
You don’t have to wait for your team to finish a big project to congratulate them. Do it whenever they achieve a small milestone, like solving a co-worker’s issue or finding a more effective way to get a task done. You can congratulate people through personalized notes, an announcement at a team meeting or simply with words of encouragement as you stop by their office or cubicle.
Proactive workplace communication can have a tremendous impact on organizational growth. When you encourage employees to actively contribute – either by voicing their opinions or supporting co-workers who are driving change – they feel empowered, motivated, and valued.
The bonus to these strategies is that they will not only help you with employee retention but also with recruiting—whether for administrative staffing, customer service, tech, etc. Your reputation as a company where employees’ opinions are solicited and valued will help make you a magnet for top talent.