Open communication is like the calcium in your bones. When it’s there, you never notice, or consciously think about it. You take it for granted and go about your day.
But when it’s not there, every moment is painful. You see each and every part of your body breaking down. The same happens to your organization in the absence of open communication.
When your teams don’t engage in open communication, workers keep acting on mixed signals and ambiguous messages. And that can only lead to poor business results.
Whether your workers consist of frontline or desk-based employees, open communication can deliver a significant boost in collaboration, along with numerous other benefits.
So in this post, we’ll take a look at the meaning of open communication and the reasons you should invest in it. And once you’ve seen why it’s so important to develop a culture of open communication, we’ll also show you the main drivers to take into account when implementing open communication.
What is open communication?
Open communication refers to the ability of individuals to freely convey their thoughts and ideas to each other. Within a corporate environment, an organization can foster open communication by actively promoting all employees to share their feedback and opinions.
For example, when senior managers and other workers in an organization express their ideas, issues, and thoughts with one another in a steady, honest, transparent, and reliable manner. This way, teams can avoid surprises, resolve conflicts, and collaborate better.
Open communication also encourages employees to communicate their feelings, challenges, and feedback confidently. This behavior is a better alternative to the passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, or non-verbal cues that people resort to when they want to express a disagreement or avoid confrontation.
The point is, open communication is an approach that values every workers’ unique perspective, helps them see things differently, and improves collaboration.
But that’s not all. Let’s go over all the advantages of open communication in more detail.
Why is open communication in the workplace important?
Open communication is the lifeblood of your company. And no internal system can run smoothly in its absence.
For example, imagine a workplace with silos among different departments and teams. When no one is openly communicating, two people may end up working on the same task, while some tasks may get abandoned because no one did them.
Open communication doesn’t just prevent such problems, but also takes your business growth to the next level. And it does that in the following ways.
Open communication supports employee happiness
Employee happiness is one of the top goals for any organization. It should be, since happy employees are 20% more productive than their unhappy counterparts. Plus, they are less likely to leave your company, saving thousands of dollars you would have spent in new talent acquisition.
If you want to keep workers happy, open communication is a must-have. In a survey of more than 1000 employees, Atlassian found that with honest feedback, personal openness, and mutual respect, workers are 80% more likely to report high emotional well-being.
Image Source: Atlassian
Open communication reduces the cultural gap and promotes inclusion
Many years ago, one of the employees in a team I was managing submitted a sudden resignation. He had started four months earlier, at a considerable salary increase from his previous role. Nobody had seen any sign of discontent. When asked why, he said, “I feel like I don’t belong here.”
Unfortunately, such incidents are more commonplace than you think. Most large organizations today have a diverse workforce, with employees from many different cultures.
While this makes your organization a fertile ground for creativity and innovation, it can also make it easy for people to feel unwelcome and out of place.
And as per anthropologist Cristina De Rossi, culture is made of elements such as religion, clothing, food, language, music, professional behavior, and many more. So when people of different cultures work together on common goals, these elements can create barriers to collaboration and productivity. Not to mention issues like missed revenue streams and PR disasters.
So creating a culture of inclusion is vital to engage and retain employees. And the good news is that your employees can handle these barriers with cultural knowledge, awareness, and understanding — all of which are hallmarks of open communication.
Open communication lets employees ask clarifying questions and share their challenges candidly, even if they make them vulnerable. And when they see that it’s okay to be vulnerable, they’re even more willing to work through their cultural differences.
This way, open communication helps workers get past the confusion and assumptions caused by cultural differences and makes everyone feel that they’re on the same team.
Open communication improves employee engagement
Research has shown that highly engaged workers are 17% more productive than their coworkers. These are workers who carry out their tasks diligently and go the extra mile at work.
When you encourage open communication, you’re demonstrating that you’re willing to listen to employees’ concerns and feedback. And in doing so, you position yourself as a caring and trustworthy employer. If open communication isn't a tactic in your employee engagement strategies, it should be.
So letting employees express their feelings and thoughts openly engages them more and increases their commitment to your organization.
Open communication boosts productivity
You can have a well-trained and skilled staff, but all the talent in the world will have no value if there is little productivity. And if your workers can’t effectively communicate with one another, they can’t get things done.
As we said earlier, open communication increases engagement, and engagement leads to higher productivity. But that’s not to say it doesn’t have a direct impact on productivity.
Openness makes communication effective. Your employees get the right information at the right time. And effective communication can increase your workplace productivity by 25%.
Open communication clarifies expectations
The first thing your employees need to excel in their jobs is to know exactly what needs to be done and why. Providing the necessary direction and explaining each worker’s role are the keys to meeting business objectives.
Without clear expectations, you’ll be setting them up for failure even before they have begun. And what helps you set clear expectations? Open communication.
In fact, it doesn’t just lead to a better understanding of tasks, but also keeps the workers accountable. By openly communicating goals and key performance indicators, you reiterate their importance and give employees a checkpoint to aim for.
Open communication enhances psychological safety
Repressing problems in the company only amplifies them. The sooner you can nip them in the bud, the better for everyone.
For example, let’s say your team members feel that you don’t consider their workloads when assigning new tasks. And their resentment towards you is growing as a result. And if they aren’t allowed to share such a concern openly, they are more likely to eventually burn out or quit.
So it’s essential for workers to feel safe in voicing their opinions. And they shouldn’t have to feel judged, blamed, or punished in any way.
That’s why psychological safety is one of the key drivers of employee engagement. When you build a culture of openly sharing one’s thoughts and feelings, workers see that it’s safe to do so without any fear.
This creates an environment where employees are not shy of sharing their honest feedback, nor are they offended when such feedback is given to them. Similarly, leaders are more receptive to suggestions that can improve the organization and help realize its full potential.
Open communication strengthens team bonding
Open communication makes your employees aware of one another’s preferences, communication styles, challenges, and even vulnerabilities. And when implemented right, it also shows them that their peers accept and respect them for who they are and what they bring to the team.
The outcome? Trust goes up and relationships get stronger. Who wouldn't want that as part of their employee experience strategy?
In contrast, closed communication makes people look deceiving, manipulative, critical, and intimidating. To counter this, employees build emotional walls to protect themselves. So employee engagement and retention take a hit.
Open communication fosters creativity and innovation
According to 250 researchers at 60 institutions, creativity is the number one 21st century skill. Since open communication encourages team members to put their ideas in the open, they also get to build off one another’s thoughts to come up with creative solutions to problems.
By inviting their thoughts and suggestions, you also show employees that you look to them for solving problems and growing the company. This helps workers see themselves as an integral part of the organization and instills a greater sense of ownership.
The 3 pillars of open communication
Open communication may look easy enough to understand and implement. But contrary to popular belief, it’s not about being brutally honest and not caring about your coworkers' feelings. In fact, it’s the opposite.
Yet many leaders do things in the name of open communication that end up sabotaging open communication. The following principles will help you get it right.
If you and your team members can’t keep their egos in check, open communication may seem threatening. To get your team to embrace it, you need to lead by example.
After all, when communication flows openly both ways, your employees may also question, share recommendations, or convey how they feel about how you have been doing things so far.
So you should have enough maturity and spirit as a leader to encourage such behavior, instead of getting offended by it.
Business literature is filled with the right words and phrases to say when sharing feedback with workers. But it’s not so much about the words as about the trust workers have in you.
When there is no trust that you have your team members’ best interests in mind, even the smallest, positive feedback can hurt them. But when they trust you, even the most critical feedback is understood and appreciated.
To implement open communication at your workplace, it’s important to show your team how to do it right. Both managers and other employees should learn to communicate openly and to encourage others to do the same. So it’s essential to have a formal communication training program in place.
Open Communication FAQs
What is open communication in the workplace?
Open communication is when senior managers and other workers in an organization express their ideas, issues, and thoughts with one another in a steady, honest, transparent, and reliable manner. This way, teams can avoid surprises, resolve conflicts, and collaborate better.
Why is open communication important in the workplace?
Open communication is important in the workplace because it supports the following:
1. Supports employee happiness
2. Reduces the cultural gap and promotes inclusion
3. Improves employee engagement
4. Boosts productivity
5. Clarifies expectations
6. Enhances psychological safety
7. Strengthens team bonding
8. Fosters creativity and innovation
What are some examples of open communication?
Some examples of open communication include:
1. Having regular, informal get-togethers with employees on all levels to share ideas, initiatives and raise concerns.
2. Discouraging anonymous feedback
3. Having a open door policies for meetings
4. Sharing the company’s financial information and performance
Final thoughts on the importance of open communication
Teamwork is essential to unite your workforce forward toward’s a shared goal. This is because when people combine their individual talents and skills with others, they accomplish much more than what they would have achieved working separately.
But teamwork brings with itself some unique challenges. The differences that help us contribute to the team also create barriers in collaborating with others effectively.
As you can see from this post, open communication goes a long way in eliminating these barriers and providing quick and easy access to essential information. So take these factors into account and see how you can apply the principles we talked about in your business.
And in doing so, also keep in mind that the best employee engagement tools can turbocharge your efforts to build a culture of open communication. This is where Blink can help. Consider booking a free Blink demo today.