Effective Communication Skills for the Workplace

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Effective communication skills impact every aspect of the workplace. They drive collaboration and teamwork, foster transparency and trust, and boost productivity and performance. They also help to build positive, professional relationships. 

Poor communication, on the other hand, can quickly lead to misunderstandings, wasted time, conflict, and stress. 

Developing strong communication skills across your organization is key to business success. Read on to learn how to improve communication skills and why your company cannot thrive without it.

Table of Contents

The Importance of Communication Skills

Communication is all about how we share and receive information. Effective communication skills facilitate this exchange, allowing us to convey our thoughts, feelings, knowledge, and ideas clearly. They also enable us to receive information from others and respond appropriately. 

Communication is the foundation of a successful workplace. It affects everything: collaboration and teamwork, the ability to do one’s job, interpersonal relationships, individual well-being, and the wider company culture. 

So what happens when communication is poor? According to Grammarly’s 2023 State of Business Communication report:

  • 38% of business leaders report that ineffective communication increases costs
  • 43% of business leaders say that poor communication decreases productivity
  • 42% of leaders cite missed deadlines and extended timelines as the worst consequences of miscommunication

Another report by Project.co found that the main consequences of poor communication at work are:

  • Wasted time (68%)
  • Missed messages (53%)
  • Burnout, stress, and fatigue (42%)
  • Lost/missing files (35%)
  • Bad customer experience (30%)
  • Lost employees (10%)

But what do employers gain when they foster effective communication and invest in developing their employees’ communication skills?

Young business people are having a meeting in a coffee shop and communicating about a project.

The Benefits of Effective Communication Skills

Developing communication skills within your organization helps to:

  • Increase transparency and build trust
  • Enhance collaboration and teamwork
  • Minimize conflict and misunderstandings
  • Foster connectedness and positive relationships
  • Boost engagement, productivity, and performance
  • Create psychological safety

To put it into numbers:

  • 72% of leaders say that effective communication increases productivity 
  • 60% of leaders notice more employee confidence when communication is good
  • 41% of leaders say that effective communication decreases their own stress

Now we know why communication is so important, let’s explore how to improve communication skills at your organization.

How to Improve Communication Skills in the Workplace

At work, we communicate with many different people all the time — whether it’s with customers, teammates, or supervisors. 

It’s crucial to develop a robust set of effective communication skills that help team members navigate different contexts and professional relationships.

Here are some of the most important communication skills in the workplace.

Ultimately, effective communication is key for building a healthy company culture, fostering employee well-being, and driving business results. 

1. Active listening

When someone else is speaking, how often do you find yourself already formulating your response or mentally preparing for your own turn to speak?

We all do it, but this usually means that we’re merely hearing the other person rather than truly listening to them. This can result in misunderstandings, missing key parts of the other person’s message, and making the speaker feel like you don’t value their insight. 

Active listening requires you to give the speaker your full and undivided attention and to resist the urge to form a conclusion or counterargument before they’ve finished speaking.

Happy young business woman is confidently giving a presentation.

2. Storytelling

Storytelling is an extremely powerful communication tool. The human brain is wired to engage with stories; our neural activity increases significantly when we hear them, making the content more engaging and memorable. 

As such, communicating with storytelling can increase your chances of captivating and persuading your audience. 

You might use storytelling to communicate the company’s mission and values in a way that resonates with your employees — or you might use storytelling to present key insights and data in a way that inspires action.

3. Giving and receiving feedback

Most roles and career paths require you to both provide constructive feedback and receive feedback from others. 

The art of giving feedback lies in focusing on the issue rather than the person, remaining objective and solution-focused, and providing examples. Feedback should be delivered clearly and with empathy.

Receiving feedback is also an effective communication skill, requiring you to listen, remain open-minded, and ask questions to better understand the feedback and determine the next steps.

4. Empathy

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand other people’s feelings and emotions, and to consider different perspectives besides your own. 

Empathy is an important communication skill because it helps you pick up on nonverbal cues and read how other people are feeling. You may deduce that someone is nervous based on their body language, for example, even if they don’t explicitly tell you that’s how they feel. 

With empathy, you can adapt your communication style and respond appropriately.

5. Digital communication skills

With the rise of remote and hybrid work, the importance of communication skills has significantly increased. 

There is a lot of focus on workers being proficient in a variety of digital communication tools such as Slack and other instant messaging platforms, video conferencing tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, and remote workshopping and collaboration tools. 

Besides mastering the tools themselves, it’s necessary to understand the etiquette and expectations associated with each channel within the context of your company. For example, some companies may only use instant messaging for urgent communication, while others may use it as their main communication tool on a daily basis.

6. Asking questions

Communication isn’t just about how we convey and share information — it also relates to how we receive and interpret information from others. 

Asking questions is essential for obtaining clarity and making sure we fully understand the message being delivered. If we don’t understand something but fail to ask questions or seek clarification, this is a recipe for confusion, misalignment, and errors.

7. Public speaking and presenting

This is a communication skill that many struggle with: an estimated 75% of the population has a fear of public speaking. 

Given that a fear of public speaking hinders promotion to management by 15%, this is a fear worth fighting — and a skill worth honing. 

Effective communication skills for public speaking include clear and coherent articulation, storytelling techniques, maintaining eye contact, and using body language to convey positivity and confidence.

8. Body language and nonverbal cues

Even when you’re not speaking, it’s important to consider what kind of nonverbal cues you might be giving out. 

For example, folding your arms across your body might make it seem like you’re unhappy, frustrated, or not open to discussion.

On the other hand, smiling, nodding, and maintaining an open body posture can convey openness, enthusiasm, and interest.

9. Conflict management

Conflict management helps us to reach a solution when two or more parties disagree, and to maintain professional relationships even if we don’t see eye to eye. 

Key communication skills for conflict management include active listening, practicing empathy, providing feedback, expressing your thoughts and feelings without attacking the other person, and, sometimes, being assertive and setting boundaries.

10. Responsiveness

Being an effective communicator is also about responding in a timely manner.

You don’t need to reply to every email within five minutes or stop what you’re doing every time you get a Slack message — nor do you have to take action immediately. You can simply acknowledge that you’ve received the message and let the sender know that you’ll get back to them shortly. 

Being responsive builds clarity, transparency, and trust, and facilitates effective collaboration.

Happy young business people are walking in an office and communicating about a project.

4 Key Strategies for Effective Communication Skills in the Workplace

1. Create a communications playbook

A communications playbook is an internal document that sets clear communication guidelines for employees. 

It can include guidance regarding how different communication tools and platforms should be used — for example, which channels are most appropriate for different types of communication. 

Your playbook can outline processes and protocols to follow in different scenarios — for example, what should an employee do if they want to give feedback or make a complaint? — as well as an org chart to provide clarity as to who is responsible for what within the organization. You may also wish to include some communication dos and don’ts, as well as guidelines for inclusive and respectful language.

2. Encourage risk-taking to build confidence

Some of the most important communication skills remain underdeveloped simply because people aren’t encouraged to hone them. 

Public speaking and presenting are prime examples here. Many people avoid it at all costs — but this means that they never get the chance to overcome that fear and develop critical communication skills. 

As a leader, encourage those on your team to take risks and step beyond their communication comfort zone. If you’ve got an employee who loathes public speaking, encourage them to start with a short presentation in front of a small group. If you’ve got a team member who lacks assertiveness, encourage them to advocate for their needs in the next cross-team meeting. 

While no one should be pushed to do something they really don’t want to do, try to provide opportunities for growth and development.

3. Build a healthy feedback culture

Feedback is one of the most important aspects of workplace communication, but it can be one of the most challenging. 

There are several ways to foster a healthy feedback culture. First, welcome and encourage feedback from your team — and enable feedback through a variety of channels. You might set up an anonymous suggestion box or have weekly office hours where team members can drop by. 

Another helpful strategy is to provide guidance and tips on how to give constructive feedback (for example, providing a feedback framework) as well as how to receive it. 

Finally, make feedback an ongoing part of your team communication. Don’t limit feedback to official performance reviews; take the time to have regular check-ins with your team members and ask how things are going. 

As you work towards building a healthy feedback culture, giving and receiving feedback will become a natural and comfortable part of workplace communications.

4. Invest in corporate language training

Another highly effective method for improving communication? Learning a new language

When we learn a new language, we’re naturally prompted to think more consciously about how we use the language(s) we’re already proficient in. This teaches us the important skill of communicating more intentionally and articulately. 

Not only that: the very process of attending language classes, interacting with fellow learners, and practicing communicating in a different setting all help to build confidence and make us better communicators. 

Studies have also shown that being bilingual, or simply being exposed to other languages, improves non-verbal communication — another key aspect of effective communication skills in the workplace. If you’re not sure where to begin with corporate language learning, this guide will help you: How to Find the Best Corporate Language Training for Your Business.

5 Scenarios in Which Babbel for Business Is Essential for Effective Communication Skills

In our interconnected world, the lines between countries, cultures, and continents are becoming increasingly blurred. It’s possible to have calls or meetings with teams in China, colleagues in Peru, or clients in Spain all in a working day. But within this business environment, language isn’t just a means of communication — it’s a way of making connections.

So whether you need to brush up on your English or tap into Spanish, here are a few reasons why language skills are invaluable to your business:

1. Teamwork makes the dream work

Nothing says “collaboration” more than learning a new language. Many companies across the world are adjusting their internal policies to make room for an international workforce and cater to employees from many different nationalities.

Scout24 is an online marketplace that serves as a guide to help consumers make informed decisions when it comes to relocating. The company grew quickly, and simultaneously so did the number of international employees. The company’s language learning manager soon found that people were struggling to communicate and noticed an increase in misunderstandings within teams. So Scout24 trialed Babbel as a means to unite company culture and foster an inclusive and adhesive spirit.

After several months, the company achieved its goal of streamlining communication and boosting the motivation and confidence of its employees. 

2. Relocating abroad

There are few things more life-changing than relocating for work. And when the opportunity arises, Babbel is there to support you all the way. 

A couple of years ago, Babbel teamed up with ESMT Berlin, an international business school that trains students from all over the world. Even though all programs are taught in English, the school encourages students to learn German to give them greater access to the culture and to encourage and motivate them to live in Germany once the course is over. 

3. Business trips

Traveling abroad can be stressful, especially without the language tools needed to order a coffee, let alone pitch a presentation. Besides, business trips are about more than just meetings — they’re an opportunity to connect, network, and build relationships. So being on the same language page is vital to successful business travel.

Insight is a leading provider of IT products and services. Their learning manager chose Babbel as the best format to improve employee competency and efficiency in English. The team was able to start at their individual levels and select the appropriate lessons within the language app. As the trial continued they were able to use their new language skills in meetings abroad, building new relationships with international clients, and strengthening their communication within meetings. 

4. Customer service

Strong communication and mutual understanding are at the forefront of good customer service. Without it the customer feels frustrated and the employee can feel demotivated. That’s why introducing language learning to the customer service team can be hugely beneficial to your business.

For example, we worked alongside the food services and facilities management company Sodexo to help solve a unique problem. The company is one of the world’s largest multinational corporations — they employ over 420,000 people of over 120 nationalities. The two core languages used to communicate within Sodexo are Spanish and English. Sodexo’s challenge was that frontline employees had low proficiency in English and struggled to communicate with customers, while some of the managers had a poor grasp of Spanish and therefore couldn’t communicate with their teams.

And that’s where Babbel came in. Our flexible, personalized lessons addressed the diverse language issues of their employees, so in just one contract the entire company could work on their individual needs. After several months of usage, staff were communicating much better with customers.

5. International meetings

Of course, language learning is about strong communication — but it’s also about feeling comfortable in a different country. That’s why Babbel makes the perfect travel companion because we get our learners to speak confidently in no time. Plus, our flexible and personalized lessons can be used offline, so down-time on a plane can be used to brush up on skills.

The Takeaway

Effective communication skills drive productivity and collaboration, foster trust and engagement, and enable us to enjoy positive workplace relationships. Without good communication, you’ll struggle to build a healthy workplace culture and achieve key business objectives. 

Want to learn more about how to improve communication in the workplace? Check out our eBook Speaking for Success: Elevate Your Internal Communications & Break Language Barriers.

Kara O'Rourke

Kara O'Rourke