Communication is the act of transferring information from one person to another. While it’s simple enough to say, it’s not always easy to do. Communication is a lot more complex than the definition, which is why organizations around the country are allocating funds to teach their staff how to communicate more effectively. Harnessing the power of communication is the key to the success of any organization, from office interactions to increasing revenue.
Companies that are thriving in today’s economy all have one thing in common: excellent employees. The people within an organization are what make a company unique. It’s their biggest and most valuable asset. Surprisingly, an organization’s staff is its largest expense, but it’s an expense that can yield the highest return on investment—as long as that investment goes into something that maximizes an employee’s potential.
This white paper looks at how improving communication skills can improve an organization’s bottom line. By empowering employees and investing in your team’s communication skills, you can build a more profitable and successful organization.
Communication: Why Is Something So Simple, So Hard?
The process of communication is not something that just happens. In fact, for most people, communication is something that is learned 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 gestures and tone of voice. Over the phone and virtual communications are considerably more difficult.
While advances in communication technology have helped companies communicate with their customers, vendors, and other employees without the need for face-‐to-‐face communication, the advancement in technology has left employees without access to non-‐verbal communication cues. Phone, email, and video chat communications have made the process of customer service and sales more difficult, and have removed the personal factor that makes communication more natural.
But communication errors go beyond the outside world. Within an organization, there is a distinct communication flaw between employees and management. Employees are easily distracted and unable to communicate with fellow employees and management staff, leading to a breakdown within the company itself. Organizations need to teach their employees how to communicate more effectively with their clients and peers as well. Finding a training solution that covers both, 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. Organizations pay competitive wages and offer benefits to attract and retain their 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.
Companies measure their expenses in ROI. When an organization spends money, it measures the total costs saved or efficiencies gained, and compare that to how much was spent to receive it. But assessing the total cost of training employees goes beyond assessing how much more efficient they will become. It also involves looking at how it will improve an organization as a whole.
According to Bruce Rayton of the University of Bath, School of Management, 70 percent of engaged employees understand their clients’ needs better, while 17 percent of disengaged employees understand their clients. That means customer satisfaction ratings increase when employees are engaged and effectively communicating.
Investing in employees’ communications skills not only improves their ability to communicate within the company, but to effectively communicate with its clients. By increasing customer satisfaction, an organization has the potential to retain more clients, increase annual revenues, and save money on employee retention—all from focusing on one core competency.
To understand the full return on that investment, a company needs to look at the benefits of improving employee communication skills as well as the cost of allowing poor communication to continue.
The Cost of Poor Communication
Poor communication costs money—both in the immediate and long-‐term scope. While some of the damage can be corrected, most of the damage done by poor communications cannot, costing organizations hundreds to thousands of dollars each year in preventable costs.
Time and Effort Considerations
Communication between employees or between employees and clients is critical to the success of a business. When communication breaks down, so does the time and effort employees put into a project. Say, for example, you have a sales representative taking an order from a client. The client states that it wants 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; instead, he notes that it is smaller, because he was not actively listening to the client (a basic communication skill). The client receives the product in the wrong size, demanding an immediate refund. Not only will the client be unlikely to use the company in the future, but the time and effort the employee put into that sale is now wasted as well.
Workplace Tension Considerations
Production suffers when there’s tension in the workplace. Interpersonal tension can almost always be traced back to poor communication. When misunderstandings occur between management or coworkers, that tension is not something that is easily forgotten. Even if both parties want to move past the incident, it spills over into future interactions with one another and the tension spreads to other employees within the same workplace—including employees who were not part of the original incident that lead to the tension. If those two employees must be in constant communication in order to do their jobs, it can also hinder their performance.
Missed Opportunities for the Organization
Ineffective communication can also lead to missed opportunities. For example, the employee who ordered the wrong size for his client may not get repeat business, but he may also not get any further referrals from that client as well—resulting in missed opportunities. The client that received the wrong size could have planned to make a larger, more significant purchase in the future based on its initial experience. But because of a simple miscommunication, that client is now taking its business elsewhere, and a competing company is now taking advantage of the opportunity.
The cost of poor communication can be devastating to an organization’s productivity and its bottom line. By using effective communication, companies can improve relationships, seize opportunities, and reduce employee tension.
Before an organization can effectively correct its communication damages, it must first 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 giving 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 sent properly.
Basic skills like active listening, reflection, and clarification can help with these types of barriers, but if an employee is not aware of the communication barriers, he may not know how to overcome them and communicate more effectively.
Common barriers to communication include:
- Jargon – Employees who use over-‐complicated or unfamiliar terms with other employees or customers can make communication difficult. While they may understand what they’re saying, the receiver does not, leading to an instant communication breakdown.
- Emotional Barriers – Sometimes emotions get in the way of communication. A person may find it difficult to express how he feels or 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 – This is a common barrier to effective listening, which is a key part of communication. When employees can’t give their full attention to a conversation (whether that is with a client, employee, or manager), they’re not going to listen or communicate properly.
- Physical Barriers – Phone conversations, for example, provide numerous physical barriers. Your employees can’t see hand gestures or facial expressions while speaking to another employee or client, so they may experience a less effective conversation.
- 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 too rushed to communicate effectively. Time pressure results in cutting corners, too, which means staff may not communicate the entire story to clients or even other peers because they can’t afford to take the time to do so.
- These barriers can be easily overcome with effective communication skills training. Whether your employee is speaking with management, a client, or another employee, understanding the barriers and overcoming them is the first step in effective communication.
Benefits of Communication Skills Training Online
Communication skills training does more than teach your employees how to communicate—it teaches them to think differently, too. When employees go through communication skills training, they are taught to relate their thoughts more effectively and listen actively. But even more importantly, all of the benefits below directly relate to improving your organization’s bottom line.
While classroom training is effective, it doesn’t offer the same benefits as online training, nor is it as popular for the modern workforce, which is why we will focus solely on the online aspect.
Reduce Employee Stress Levels
Effective communication provides both parties with clarity. When an employee can accurately communicate what he’s thinking or feeling, management can better anticipate and fulfill the employee’s needs. The same goes for client relationships, especially in the sales and customer service sectors. Employees that can communicate more effectively with the customer (both as a sender and receiver) will know how to handle customers properly—including hostile customers.
When it comes to employee relationships inside the company, you will notice less workplace drama and employee complaints because teams are able to communicate and understand one another more efficiently. Employees will experience less 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.
Effective communication provides your employees with clarity and direction, too. Clarity leads to fewer misunderstandings and arguments, not to mention less tension and frustration. The right communication skills will teach your employees how to give simpler messages, be easier to understand, and keep messages direct.
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.
People who are successful 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 efficiently. Interpersonal communication skills, like active listening and keeping eye contact, will help your employees maintain a positive conversation. Also, by having organizational communication, management can provide more 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 specific on-‐the-‐job training. They can then apply their newfound skills in their personal lives as well as their professional lives, making them appreciate your training efforts even more.
Also, when management knows how to communicate more efficiently with employees, they can have better discussions, less stressful open forum meetings, and be able to identify which employees need assistance. By noticing the cues of staffers, management teams can prevent employee frustration, offer additional training to those who need it, and help provide employees with a sense of direction.
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 companywide training date. This is especially helpful if you have employees working multiple shifts (such as dayshift, graveyard, etc.). All employees will be able to train, and you will not have to pay for the costs of hosting live training sessions throughout the day.
Employees who travel away from the office or work in separate branches can still train online without the organization enduring travel expenses to bring those employees into the office for training sessions. There is limited productivity loss with online training, too, because management can plan an employee’s training time around down times in his or her schedule.
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, and emotions in a more effective way. They feel more satisfied because they also understand people better, which leads to healthier relationships. Their newfound satisfaction may also help them negotiate more effectively and gain confidence in their professional and personal decisions.
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.
ServiceSkills.com: A Proven Solution for Improving Communication
ServiceSkills.com offers an online training solution for organizations that want to improve communications within the workplace. Using the principle that people are not born with the proper skillset to effectively communicate with others, ServiceSkills.com provides your employees with the foundation for effective communication—all through a powerful web-based training platform.
The costs associated with poor communication alone can bankrupt a small organization. It can result in:
- Missed business opportunities
- Workplace tension that results in lower productivity
- High employee turnover
- Returned client orders
- Waste of time and effortServiceSkills.com offers ninety performance-‐enhancing training modules that are presented in eight easy-‐to-‐complete sections. Employees work at their own pace and train around their own schedule, and management has access to a comprehensive tracking system to monitor how well staff is performing. ServiceSkills.com takes an organization’s training beyond general communication, covering all aspects of organizational and interpersonal communication skills, including:
- But these costs can be easily overcome with effective communication skills training.
- Customer service essentials
- Peer communication and improving communication within the workplace
- Teaching effective organization of thoughts, and teaching employees how to think before they speak
- Team building essentials
- Conflict resolution
- Leadership and mentoring solutions
- Management training and communicationServiceSkills.com is your organization’s one-‐stop solution to poor communication. Improving communication skills enables you to not only reduce preventable losses, but also to maximize business opportunities, client satisfaction, and employee retention—increasing your organization’s bottom line results on all fronts.
- Each training module comes with course quizzes to ensure employees are retaining what they have learned, as well as a list of key points to reinforce each module’s core message. To give employees a sense of accomplishment, certificates of completion are issued when employees complete their course.
ServiceSkills.com is a proven, affordable, and highly effective online learning system that empowers employees with the relationship skills they need to raise service levels, improve teamwork, and manage more effectively. The powerful web-‐based platform gives your team access to 90 skill-‐driven communication training modules. There’s no hardware to buy or software to install. The interactive system features streaming video chapters, quizzes, post-‐quiz feedback, key point reminders, and certificates of completion. A robust administrative management system is included to allow your managers to monitor performance, recognize gaps, and track progress.