Communication can be simply defined as, “The act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else.”
Data indicates employees spend 80% of their time communicating. Harnessing the power of communication is the key to the success of any organization,
Amount of Time Spent Communicating – How much time do people spend in meetings, on the phone, and responding to emails? At many companies the proportion hovers around 80%, leaving employees little time for all the critical work they must complete on their own. – https://hbr.org/2016/01/collaborative-overload
Spending on Communications Training A study from CollegeBoard, a panel established by the National Commission on Writing, indicates that blue chip businesses are spending as much as $3.1 billion on remedial writing training annually. Of this budget, $2.9 billion was spent on current employees, not new hires. – Writing A Ticket to Work
Cost of Poor Communication Skills to Organizations – A report from the Partnership for 21st-Century Skills noted that according to employers, 26.2 percent of college students had deficient writing skills. What’s more, employers said more than one-fourth of college graduates were not only poor writers, but also lacked proper communication skills across the board. –
How Enhancing Communication Skills Improves Bottom Line Results
Companies that are thriving in today’s economy all have one thing in common: productive, motivated and excellent employees. The people within an organization make organizations unique. The knowledge and skill of employees are their biggest and most valuable assets. So it’s not surprising that the organization’s staff is its largest expense, but it’s an expense that can yield the highest return on investment (ROI)—as long as that investment goes into something that maximizes an employee’s potential.
According to the US Department of Labor, organizations usually measure their payroll as a percentage of gross revenue. In service industries, the ratio might be as high as 50%. Manufacturing organizations usually have lower ratios (30% or so) due to the capital investments common to manufacturing.
Such knowledge increases productivity because it enhances shared knowledge and mental models transactive memory [“who knows what”]; and contributes to the formation of organizational routines.
This lesson will examine ways to improve communication skills so you can improve your organization’s bottom line. By empowering employees and investing in your team’s communication skills, you can build a more profitable and successful organization.
Why is Something so simple, so difficult?
The process of communication is not something that just happens. We all learn and develop communication skills over time.
In face-to-face communications, two parties are communicating with one another, sending and receiving messages. But there are subtle communications that go beyond the words that are passed between them, such as gesture and tone. Over the phone, communication is more difficult because of the limited bandwidth.
While advances in communication technology have helped companies communicate with their customers, vendors, and employees without the need for face-to-face communication, these same advances in technology left employees without access to nonverbal communication cues. Phone, email, and video chat communications make the process of customer service and sales more difficult and remove many of the cues we use to communicate.
But communication challenges go beyond the outside world. Within an organization, there is a distinct communication gap between employees and management. Information communication technology creates a multitude of opportunities for employee distraction and dips in productivity.
According to a 2016 study released by CareerBuilder, 75% of employees say they lose 3-4 hours per day to distractions and the biggest source of distraction is the smartphone. The issue for most people and organizations is that mobile communication technology makes communication easier, but suffers from other problems.
Organizations need to teach their employees to communicate more effectively with their clients, peers and managers. Finding a training solution that covers these challenges, however, is not easy.
The Importance of Investing in Employees:
Communication Training Goes Beyond a Simple ROI
An organization is only as good as the employees that work for it. While people look at a company as a whole, a company is not what generates new ideas—it’s the people working for it that do.
Organization spend a lot to retain good employees, but they often don’t provide the right training to give their employees a competitive edge or even help them be more productive within their position.
To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace. -Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup
Measuring the business benefits of employee training goes beyond a simplistic look at ROI (costs of training ratio to perceived benefits of training program). The true value of employee training also involves looking at how increases in employee skills, knowledge and ability will improve an organization as a whole.
Most of us in the training and development profession know in our guts that what we do is valuable and worthwhile—we wouldn’t have stuck with this job if we didn’t believe we were doing good. The problem is that often our clients and customers are highly skeptical, and when there is pressure on resources, we usually get the short end of the budget stick. Customers and senior executives but most of us can only offer promises
According to Bruce Rayton of the University of Bath, School of Management, 70% of engaged employees understand their clients’, while only 17% of disengaged employees understand their clients. That means customer satisfaction ratings increase when employees are engaged and effectively communicating.
Investing in employees’ communication skills will improve their ability to communicate with colleagues and customers. One of the most focused and comprehensive studies on the specific business benefits of communication training reports that improved communication skills leads to:
- An increase in client and customer satisfaction and retention
- Higher annual revenue
- Savings from employee retention
- Improved quality of work and reduced errors
To understand the full ROI, a company needs to look at the benefits of improving employee communication skills, and the cost of allowing poor communication to continue.
The Cost of Poor Communication
As you can see from the data cited throughout this paper, poor communication costs money in terms of employee issues and lost revenue from reduced sales and client retention. While some of the damage can be corrected, most cannot. In our experience with over 30,000 clients, we’ve observed the following costs of poor communication.
Say, for example, you have a sales representative taking an order from a client. The client content says they want an adjustment made to the size of the order—making it larger. Your employee writes down the adjustment but doesn’t indicate that the adjustment is larger. Because the employee was not actively listening to the client (a basic communication skill), the employee mistakenly makes the size of the order smaller. The client receives the product, but the quantity is wrong. The client then cancels the order and demands an immediate refund.
Missed Opportunities for the Organization
The consequences may go beyond one lost sale. Clients treated as the above scenario depicts rarely come back or refer new clients — resulting in missed opportunities. The client that received the incorrect order could have planned to make a larger, more significant purchase in the future, but is now taking its business to a competing company.
Workplace Tension Considerations
Production suffered when there is poor communication.
When misunderstandings occur between co-workers, it’s not easily forgotten or set aside. Even if both parties want to move past the incident, it frequently spills over into future interactions between the same employees. On top of that, the tension easily spreads to other employees within the same workplace—including employees who were not part of the original incident that leads to tension. However, if both employees had better interpersonal communication skills, the initial misunderstanding might have been avoided, or they would have learned the communication skills to resolve the problem later.
The cost of poor communication can be devastating to an organization’s productivity and its opportunities, and reduce employee tension.
Before you can improve communication you must understand the barriers to communication.
Uncovering the Common Barriers to Communication
There are numerous reasons why employee communications fail. In some cases, it could be as simple as the individual receiving the message (referred to as the “receiver”) not understanding what the person sending the message (also referred to as the “sender”) is trying to say. Therefore, it is important that the sender learn how to get feedback from the receiver to ensure that their messages are being understood properly. Basic skills like active listening, reflection, and clarification can help with these barriers, but if an employee is not aware of the communication
Common barriers to communication include:
- Jargon (including acronyms) – Employees who use industry-specific or even internal the employee speaking may understand what they’re trying to communicate, the receiver does not, leading to an instant communication breakdown.
- Emotional Barriers – A communicator may find it difficult to communicate feelings and there may be topics he is uncomfortable talking about, which prevents him from communicating or receiving a message properly.
- Distraction and/or Lack of Attention – When employees are unable to give their full attention to a conversation (whether that is with a client, employee or manager), they cannot listen or communicate properly.
- Technology – While we all love our smartphones and tablets, these devices represent clear opportunities for distraction and miscommunication. How many times have you been in a meeting when someone is looking at a screen and not paying attention? Also, there are times and places for text messages and email, but not all electronic communication is clear to the recipient.
- Physical Barriers – Phone conversations, for example, provide numerous physical barriers. Your employees are unable to see hand gestures or facial expressions while speaking to another employee or client, so they may miss visual communication.
- Expectations – Sometimes your employees will hear what they want to hear—rather than what the sender is trying to communicate—and a receiver will jump to incorrect conclusions.
- Time – When an organization pressures its employees with time constraints, they may be rushed and not communicate the entire story.
Benefits of Communication Training
Communication skills training does more than teach your employees how to communicate—it teaches them to think differently too. Communication training also teaches to organize and express their thoughts more effectively. Active listening is a critical element of effective communication and we should all learn the skills needed to engage in active listening. But even more importantly, all of the benefits below directly relate to improving your organization’s bottom line.
- Reduce Employee Stress Levels – Helping people communicate what they are thinking or feeling, management can better anticipate and fulfill the employee’s needs. When it comes to employee relationships inside the company, you will notice less workplace drama and employee complaints. Teams with well-developed communication skills are able to work better together because they understand each other better. This reduces workplace tension and, when an incident does occur, everyone involved will be able to overcome the incident faster and easier—which means less of an impact on productivity.
- Increase Customer Retention Rates – Giving customers the right amount of attention starts with communication. Dissatisfied customers or customers who feel like they’re just a number won’t continue to work with your organization. Also, when customers have products and/or services, policies, and even payments explained to them clearly, they appreciate the transparency and are more likely to continue doing business with you in the future.
- Increased Success – Successful people are able to communicate clearly with their peers and customers. They have a firm understanding of interpersonal and organizational communication. With the right interpersonal skills, they are able to connect with other people and relay their messages more effectively. This will help your employees maintain a positive conversation. Also, by improving organizational communication, management can provide clear and defined policies and procedures, employee expectations, and goals within the organization.
- Increase Employee Retention Rates – Employees who receive training feel as though they’re more valued—especially when they’re provided with portable skills training. Because employees can use their communication skills anywhere, they appreciate the training more than specified on-the-job training. They can then apply their newfound skills in their personal lives as well as their professional lives.
- Convenient Training for Even the Largest Corporations – Online training is more convenient than classroom-based training courses and workshops. Your employees can train when it is convenient for them, rather than scheduling a company-wide training date. This is especially helpful if you have employees working multiple shifts (such as dayshift, graveyard, etc.) or at various branches. All employees will be able to participate in training without loss of productivity, working around their own schedules. You will also avoid the costs of hosting live training sessions and travel expenses.
- Improved Self-Satisfaction – When people are able to communicate and be understood (as well as understand others), they earn a level of self-satisfaction. Employees can communicate their thoughts, feelings, concerns, better, which leads to healthier relationships. Their newfound satisfaction may also help
- Better Skill Sets for Life – Improving communication skills improves an employee’s professional value. Communication is often identified as a key growth area for all professionals—regardless of how well they currently communicate or think they communicate. It’s even more critical for organizations that do a great deal of work in engineering or sciences (areas that traditionally do not put much emphasis on communication). Communication skills training can improve the chances employees will contribute more to the organization’s success by giving them such essential skills as learning how to organize their thoughts, learning how to appropriately react in high-pressure situations, and taking charge of discussions.