Building a culture of two-way communication?

Two-way communication in the workplace

Communication is the core of every business function. Without effective communication, businesses fail to survive. And, in the era of remote and hybrid work, nothing is more important than communicating clearly with your employees.

But it should be a two-way street and not a one-directional one. No one likes to work for an organization where they feel unheard or ignored. Two-way communication improves employee engagement by bridging the gap between employees, managers, and the organization.

Effective teamwork begins and ends with communication.

Mike Krzyzewski

What is Two-Way Communication?

Two-way communication is simply defined as the two-way flow of information or exchange of ideas between two parties. In the workplace, two-way communication enables the exchange of ideas, thoughts, expertise, and feedback between employees and managers, or vice versa.

It increases employee morale, promotes active listening and open dialogue, and fosters collaboration and transparency in the organization. Employees are more productive and engaged at work, reducing employee turnover.

Benefits of Two-Way Communication

The benefits of two-way communication are manifolds and are critical to the success of each and every organization. Here are some of the key benefits to keep in mind:

Alignment and Collaboration

A culture that promotes two-way communication, it breakdowns the silos between teams and ensures everyone is aligned toward the same goal. Encourages employees to openly share ideas, feedback, perspectives, and their knowledge with each other and the leadership.

This, in turn, creates an environment for employees where they more actively collaborate with each other and promote teamwork.

Better Ideas

Employees, when they are not working in silos, take part in active conversations and engage in brainstorming sessions with their peers. When everyone with diverse experience and knowledge is working together, they bring fresh ideas and innovative solutions to the table.

A culture of two-way communication allows innovation to thrive and helps businesses stay ahead of the curve in this ever-changing business landscape.

Conflict Resolution and Management

Two-way communication promotes active listening and open dialogue in the workplace. This helps to avoid misunderstandings and nip conflicts in the bud before they become bigger, organization-wide issues. Consequently, this helps employees stay focused on their work and the organization’s goals.

Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement - Team people stacking hands together table engaged team building
Employee Engagement – Team people stacking hands together table engaged team building.

Employees are willing to stay in an organization and be engaged in a supportive work environment. Two-way communication creates a culture where employees share their opinions and feedback openly.

It encourages open dialogue, and people are frequently involved in engaging in conversations with each other. This communication framework eliminates the feeling of isolation and disconnect and promotes a deep sense of belonging and camaraderie among employees.

As a result, employees feel involved and valued, increasing their overall engagement and productivity, benefiting both the individuals and the organization.

Improved Performance

In an organization where employees communicate better, they work like a well-oiled machine. This creates a work environment free of miscommunication or obstacles. Clear and efficient communication channels ensure that employees feel connected, improving collaboration and enhancing productivity. This results in improved overall performance for the employees and the organization as a whole.

Barriers to Two-Way Communication

To establish two-way communication at the workplace and reap its benefits, it is essential that the barriers are identified and addressed. Here are five common barriers:

  • Physical barriers: Physical barriers occur when communication is affected due to the physical environment in which the employees work. Some common factors include geographical differences, noisy surroundings, lack of privacy, etc. Even employees in the same location are located in different buildings and floors. Physical barriers affect face-to-face communication and impact non-verbal cues.
  • Language barriers: Language barriers occur in the workplace when all the employees are not proficient in a common language. The communication gap often results in miscommunication, confusion, misinterpretation, and misunderstanding at work. Often in global organizations with a widely dispersed workforce, this is a common problem.
  • Psychological barriers: Often, the human mind knowingly or unknowingly blocks out people. Psychological factors act as a major barrier to effective communication. This may be a result of personal biases, negative experiences, differences in cultures and opinions, and fear. Employees are often scared and feel intimidated to voice their thoughts and concerns due to psychological barriers.
  • Cultural barriers: Cultural barriers crop up when employees from around the world with different cultures work together. Every culture is different, as are its norms, expectations, and values. They differ in the language they speak, body language, and overall mannerisms. This, again, leads to miscommunication and misinterpretations.
  • Hierarchical barriers: Hierarchical barriers occur in organizations with hierarchical team structure and a difference of power and authority exists between employees. Subordinates hold themselves back from sharing ideas and opinions for fear of being reprimanded or rejected. On the other hand, leaders might not be so open to listening to subordinate employees. This creates a one-directional communication channel.  

Although common, organizations need to learn to identify the barriers and implement strategies to build a culture of two-way communication in the workplace. Let us look at some of the common strategies that organizations around the world are implementing.

8 Ways to Build A Culture of Two-Way Communication

Wondering what is the best possible way to establish a two-way communication channel at the workplace?

Don’t worry! Here are some tips to help you.

Open-door Policy and Psychological Safety:

In the latest research by HBR, 42% of respondents who shared work problems or offered ideas had withheld them on other occasions. They did it mainly because of two reasons:

  • They thought they would be ignored and it would be a waste of time
  • They feared personal consequences

It is quite clear from the research that most employees do not speak up. Create a sense of psychological safety and an open-door policy. Make yourself approachable and encourage your employees to share feedback, ideas, concerns, or individual perspectives. Even if an individual has an opposing viewpoint or thought, let them know it will be acknowledged. 

Utilize and Invest In Tools

Two-way communication will only be possible and effective when employees have the right tools to collaborate and communicate in the workplace. But before you implement any tool, we would suggest first understanding your employees.

It would help you develop an effective communication strategy. When a communication strategy is developed with employees in mind, it improves the adoption rate of the tool and also doesn’t feel forced.

There are several tools that can help employees communicate with each other synchronously and asynchronously. Here are a few examples:

  • Instant Messaging Platforms: IM platforms such as Slack, Google Hangouts, or Microsoft Teams allow employees to communicate with each other in real-time and share documents and files. 
  • Project Management tools: They make collaborating and tracking the progress of projects simple and easy. Tools such as Basecamp, Jira, Trello, and Asana enable teams to assign and collaborate on tasks.
  • Video-conferencing tools: Video-conferencing tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts are a great way to communicate with your employees. They allow face-to-face communication and help connect with your virtual or remote teams.
  • Feedback and Survey Tools: They help promote a culture of openness and transparency in the organization. Employee performance management software such as Engagedly has in-built feedback and survey modules that allow organizations to gather feedback and conduct surveys. Some other tools include Typeform, SurveyMonkey, and Google Forms.
  • Email Platforms: Employees should have access to company email platforms such as Microsoft Outlook or Gmail for their day-to-day conversations.
  • Other Collaborative Tools: Real-time collaboration has increased with remote work. Employees must have access to tools such as Google Sheets, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.

Create A Culture of Feedback

Fostering a culture of feedback is one of the best ways to promote two-way communication in the workplace. Solicit monthly or quarterly feedback from your employees. Implement upward feedback mechanisms such as 360-degree feedback or employee surveys.

When, as an employer, you ask for feedback from your employees; it shows that you are concerned and committed to solving their issues. They feel included, and it improves their morale and job satisfaction.

For managers, soliciting feedback from employees helps them have diverse viewpoints and make informed decisions while keeping in mind the welfare of the organization and the employees.

Furthermore, employees should be encouraged to share feedback about their peers. It helps seamlessly collaborate with peers, which helps improve productivity as a team.

Have Regular Team Meetings & Town Halls

Regular team meetings and town halls are a great platform for promoting two-way communication at the workplace. Regular team meetings enable employees to share concerns, opinions, updates, and challenges with their managers.

It provides a safe place for them to open up easily with their managers. Managers, on the other hand, get to share feedback on projects and company-wide updates. These regular meetings ensure that managers and employees are on the same page and help establish a connection or bond.

Town halls are not only a platform to share company-wide updates but also encourage employees to connect with each other, collaborate, brainstorm, and solve problems quickly as a team.

When employees are a part of these meetings and are involved in the decision-making process, they feel a sense of ownership, which promotes a transparent and inclusive culture.

Active Listening

Build business communication skills
How to build business communication skills.

The next important step in two-way communication is active listening. Active listening is more than just passively listening to the words of the person in front of you. It is actively taking part in it, acknowledging them, and understanding the intent and meaning of what the speaker is trying to convey.

One can be actively present in the conversation by making good eye contact, noticing and making nonverbal cues such as head nods, asking questions, listening without judging and not interrupting, and making notes.

In the workplace, showing respect and empathy towards each other is crucial, and active listening exactly does that. Moreover, it helps the listener to clearly understand and comprehend things without any misunderstandings or misinterpretations.

Recognize and Reward

In recent HBR research, it was found that employee recognition lowers employee turnover by 31%, and 72% of organizations agree that it increases employee engagement.

Let your employees know that you value them and that they are doing a good job. Recognition and rewards create a positive and supportive work culture for the employees. It will let them know that they are on the right track. When employees receive appreciation for their ideas and work, they feel valued.

They actively take part in knowledge-sharing sessions and discussions in the organization. It promotes a sense of trust, respect, and belonging in the organization for the employees. Ultimately, it improves morale and engagement, which leads to higher productivity.

Training and Mentoring

Online courses, online coaching, online training
Online courses, online coaching, online training

Mentoring and training programmes at the workplace serve as a platform for two-way communication. Launch a mentoring programme by pairing new employees with experienced employees and vice versa. Both mentoring and training programmes offer opportunities for employee upskilling and development. 

They help in two-way communication through the continuous exchange of expertise and information, frequent catch-ups for mentoring sessions, and sharing feedback.

Mentoring relationships provide a supportive and collaborative environment for employees and create a culture of continuous learning. They help improve the communication skills of the employees and provide them with guidance on a wide range of topics.

Lead By Example

A leader leads by example, not by force. – Sun Tzu

Employees look up to their leaders for inspiration; lead them by example. Take part in active communication with your employees. Share ideas and opinions with your employees and encourage them to do the same.

Be receptive to feedback from your employees and act on it. Have virtual water cooler breaks and take your team for office lunches that act as an icebreaker for two-way communication. When employees see that leaders are actively involved in promoting two-way communication, they follow suit. Every employee works towards creating a culture of trust and transparency where everyone feels valued and heard. 

To conclude, we would say the list of ways to promote two-way communication at work doesn’t end here; it is a never-ending list. It is one of the core pillars of organizational success. Innovation and teamwork thrive in a culture where two-way communication is given importance.

Additionally, it helps reduce conflicts and misunderstandings and facilitates quicker problem-solving. Overall, it creates a productive and engaged environment for work.

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