4 Common Causes of Communication Breakdowns at Work

How to Avoid a Workplace Communication Breakdown

Communication is crucial for getting all leaders, departments, and employees on the same page and working together toward a shared goal. Breakdowns in communication can knock things off track and prevent the company from reaching its full potential. This is especially true when you have remote, dispersed or deskless teams. Understanding the common causes of communication breakdowns can help you proactively avoid them.

1. Consider the Mode of Communication

Different modes of communication are required for different types of interactions. Rather than using the same mode, such as email, for every message, you should let the topic and its urgency define which mode of communication to use. Erica Keswin, a renowned workplace strategist, refers to this as making your message match the medium. Essentially, ensure the urgency and complexity of your message pairs well with the mode of communication you choose.

Demo of the Zinc corporate messaging app Content Hub
Avoiding a communication breakdown at work.

Let’s take an example – if your company needs to share urgent or crucial information with employees, a Broadcast that pushes directly to employees’ phones would be much more effective than an email, which often goes unread for days.

Another factor to consider is your audience. Do they work at a desk and live in their inbox, or are they on the go? Email is a go-to for desk workers but is ineffective for frontline workers who rely on mobile devices at work.

Vivint Smart Home, a smart home device installation company, found out through a company survey that although they constantly kept their teams informed, communication came back as employees’ #1 complaint.

The problem was, the company was using email to communicate with field service technicians, but the technicians didn’t use email. They would call, text and access docs on their mobile device to get information.

After realizing that they were using the wrong mode to reach these employees, Vivint looked for a mobile-first solution that could effectively connect desk workers with field teams. After deploying Zinc’s All Mode Communication Platform, communication quickly dropped to the bottom of the complaints list.

Also Read: How to Connect With Employees That Don’t Have Email

2. Only Send Relevant Information

Workplace communication needs to be targeted for it to be effective. When employees receive a bunch of information that doesn’t apply, they simply tune out. This is a big problem when that information is necessary for employees to effectively complete the task at hand. According to The Service Council, field service techs really dislike how much time they have to waste looking for the right information.

This is where the ability to target messages to specific groups of employees is invaluable. Whether by department, region, skill set or job role, targeted group messages and Broadcasts ensure the right employees are informed. By being conscious of who you are communicating with, and tailoring your message to be meaningful to them, you can keep employees in the know without overloading them with information.

3. Ensure an Open Line of Communication with Management

Customer-facing employees are the foundation of any business. Ensuring these employees can easily communicate with management is vital both to employee engagement and business success. Employees thrive when they feel valued by management and have the ability to share their input. And because these teams work directly with customers, they have unique insights into how the business can be improved.

Provide employees with an easy way to reach management – group messaging, regular one-on-ones and feedback surveys are all great options for keeping lines of communication open. Fostering regular, positive communication between management and the frontline will help you prevent communication breakdowns that hurt employee engagement and retention.

Also Read: 3 Effective Ideas for Boosting Employee Engagement

4. Empower Teams to Work Cohesively

Just as it’s important for communication to easily flow up and down, it must also flow horizontally across teams. Unfortunately, many companies with dispersed workers overlook this necessity and fail to provide a secure platform for workplace communication.

This results in employees finding their own ways to communicate with each other, usually through texting or consumer apps like WhatsApp and FB Messenger. This is alarming on multiple levels:

  • Employees can only share knowledge and get help from coworkers whose numbers they know
  • IT has no administrative control
  • Sensitive business information is shared on unsecured platforms
  • If an employee leaves the company, their conversations move with them
  • It is impossible to track communication company-wide for analytics

Providing a solution for real-time employee communication means that employees can get the answers needed to do a good job and companies can ensure that all internal business communication data is owned and secured by the company.

Effective Communication Strategies

While business communication can be tricky, prioritizing it has big payoffs. In fact, effective communication is a leading indicator of a company’s financial performance.

Learn more tips for improving communication in our post: 5 Team Communication Strategies That Benefit Your Bottom Line