Every day, you consume approximately 34 gigabytes of information via emails, texts, billboards — even body language. Some of this information sticks, and some doesn’t. What’s the difference?

You filter data based on need or interest and don't typically retain messages you're not actively paying attention to. When you do, the sender likely leveraged effective communication principles.

Communicating well doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Luckily, you can develop this skill set by incorporating various techniques and habits. And as your communication skills grow, so will your confidence. You'll know that a listener receives your message as intended while absorbing any mission-critical information that comes your way.

What’s effective communication?

Communication is the exchange of knowledge, data, and emotions. You transfer this information through various forms, like:

  • Verbally
  • Nonverbally
  • Through writing
  • Visually

Effective communication satisfies the needs of both the sender and the listener. To achieve this, it’s typically:

  1. Clear
  2. Correct
  3. Complete
  4. Concise
  5. Compassionate

The importance of effective workplace communication

By its nature, work is a communal activity — even if you freelance or telecommute. Because every job relies on at least one other person, like a client or supervisor, you must communicate. There’s no way around it.

And you don’t just need to communicate — you need to do it well, because poor communication is costly. Teammates waste time asking clarificatory questions, poorly-documented policies lead to expensive legal action, and employers spend money fixing employee mistakes.

Effective communication in business is vital to growth and success. When you and your team communicate well, everyone enjoys a productive and conflict-free workplace where they accomplish more and collaborate efficiently with colleagues.

6 benefits of effective communication

Communicating effectively to colleagues, external stakeholders, and customers impacts more than your employer’s bottom line. It has the power to transform an entire organization.

Here are six benefits of learning to be an effective communicator.

1. Increased productivity

When you communicate effectively, your team understands expectations and can complete more work without asking questions or spending time on the wrong tasks. And if you share a workplace communication cadence, everyone knows who to ask for what to further increase productivity levels.

2. Better collaboration

While increased remote work opportunities improve employee work-life balance, they also introduce unique communication challenges. It might be harder to ensure off-site employees can collaborate as well as in-office teams since time zones and locations differ. But you can acknowledge this difficulty by leveraging the latest communication technologies, bringing everyone together under the same virtual “roof” to collaborate effectively.

3. More motivated teams

When employees understand the “Why>?” behind their work, they feel more purposeful and motivated to contribute meaningfully. But you must know how to effectively communicate this “Why?” to inspire your team to perform their best and feel fulfilled by their work.

4. Reduced conflict

Poor workplace communication contributes to negative relationships, hostile work environments, and increased conflict. Building clear communication channels while refining your communication style helps you deliver your messages empathetically, encourage respectful conversation, and significantly reduce the number of misunderstandings between you and your colleagues.

5. Increased engagement

Affirming someone’s value encourages them to keep working hard, but not everyone knows how to share appreciation effectively. And each teammate likely receives gratitude differently, so you’ll need to understand how to communicate compliments and kudos so they know they’re a valuable part of the team.

6. Decreased turnover

On average, replacing a worker costs roughly 50–200% their salary. If you effectively communicate an employee’s value and provide meaningful work with purpose, you can retain employees with valuable skills and experience while reducing operating costs.

How to improve your communication skills: 9 tips

While improved communication greatly benefits your team, it also contributes to your personal and professional wellness. Knowing how to clearly communicate your needs means you can effectively advocate for yourself to receive what you want — like a raise or promotion. And becoming a better listener means developing deeper relationships and lessening misunderstandings.

Keeping the five characteristics of effective communication in mind — clear, correct, complete, concise, and compassionate — follow these nine tips to become a better communicator.

1. Plan ahead

When possible, prepare for upcoming conversations (a meeting, a networking event) by asking yourself these questions:

  • Who’s my audience?
  • What format is best for this communication?
  • Why are we communicating?
  • What’s my conversational goal?
  • How do I hope my audience responds?

These answers help you craft a meaningful discussion that’s a win-win for all.

2. Avoid distractions

Having meaningful conversations means offering your full attention, so put the phone down and close your laptop. These small gestures allow you to offer eye contact and properly listen to retain important information and make the listener feel heard.

3. Develop active listening skills

Most people think listening is a passive skill — it’s not. Listening takes effort to ensure you connect with the speaker and retain what they’re saying.

Here are a few active-listening practices:

  • Making eye contact
  • Responding with open-ended questions to glean more information
  • Not interrupting
  • Conveying interest through your posture, like leaning forward, nodding, and offering open, receptive body language

4. Choose the right method

How you relay a message is often just as important as what you say. Significantly improve your message’s impact by choosing the correct way to connect with your audience. You might use:

  • Visual communication: illustrations, charts, maps, graphs
  • Verbal communication: spoken word via face-to-face or communication technology like phones and video conferencing
  • Nonverbal communication: body language, eye contact, touch, movement
  • Written communication: letters, emails, books, blogs, text messages

5. Consider your audience

Understanding your listener lets you increase the efficacy of your message. You’ll likely use different language when chatting with a colleague as you would with a close friend. And your grandmother might not understand the lingo used with a 15-year-old. Thoroughly consider the person on the other end, especially if you have time to do so, like when crafting an email.

6. Keep it simple

Clear language increases the chance the listener catches important details since you haven’t hidden them away in extraneous information. Keep your message simple, avoiding irrelevant anecdotes and flowery language.

7. Don’t neglect nonverbal communication

A single facial expression conveys so much. Always consider your nonverbal cues and those of your audience. Inappropriate or vague gestures, expressions, and body language might muddy your message and confuse your audience.

Here are some common nonverbal cues and their message:

  • Smiling: congenial
  • Crossing arms: defensive
  • Leaning forward: receptive
  • Adjusting clothing or accessories: nervous
  • Clasping your hands behind your body: confident
  • Clenching your fists: angry
  • An upright posture: assertive

8. Show, don’t just tell

Back your words up with actions that reinforce your message and ensure everyone understands. If you offer verbal appreciation to your team, support this with a physical token like a free lunch. And if you delegate action items in a meeting, create a virtual to-do list to reinforce everyone’s responsibilities.

9. Encourage feedback

The best way to become an effective communicator is to solicit feedback from your team. Request ratings on your verbal and written communications from 1–10. Then ask for specific information regarding what you can and can’t improve. Set a deadline, work on these skills, and ask for feedback again for continuous improvement.

Communication tools for project management

Project management requires effective communication. You must share goals, progress, and schedules so every teammate understands expectations. And you need to reassure stakeholders a project is on the right track.

That’s where Roadmunk by Tempo comes in. Roadmunk creates organizational alignment by tracking dependencies, communicating upcoming work, and presenting timelines through a single point of contact accessible to team members and sponsors. And workers can keep you updated on their progress with Jira-enabled timesheets, so you’re always on top of time spent on critical tasks.