How to Improve Workplace Communication With Knowledge Management

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    Much like any relationship, the key to maintaining a healthy workplace environment is clear and frequent communication.

    The benefits of improving internal communication in your organization are numerous. According to a study conducted by Optum, businesses that maintain an open channel of communication between coworkers and managers are more productive and see higher rates of employee and customer satisfaction and lower rates of turnover and absenteeism, just to name a few.

    Effective internal communication has only gotten more important since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted an increase in working from home (an estimated 71% of U.S. knowledge workers were working in either a fully remote or hybrid environment in 2023, according to Gartner). With teams becoming increasingly decentralized, good internal communication practices are essential to keep teams aligned, prevent duplicate work or wasted time searching for information, and help employees stay engaged. 

    As department and team leaders look for ways to improve efficiency, it’s more important than ever to implement best practices for workplace communication. Below, we’re sharing 7 strategies to improve workplace communication–and tips for using a knowledge management platform to support those strategies.

    1. Demonstrate Empathy

    No matter who you are or what your occupation may be, we all have experienced the negative impact stress in one’s personal life can have on your work life. As a manager, it’s important that you show your employees that you know they have lives outside of work, that you care, and that you hear what they have to say. Your employees will feel valued and more satisfied in their work, which will lead to greater productivity and an overall positive environment.

    Rather than immediately jumping straight to your planned agenda when you meet with your team members, it can be helpful to build in a few minutes of casual conversation so that you can connect as people, not just workers. This type of small talk can be especially valuable in strengthening relationships when you and your team members are working remotely and don’t have the same organic opportunities to chat in the break room or elevator, like you might in an office.

    Keep in mind that empathetic communication isn’t limited to meetings. An article from The Undercover Recruiter recommends re-evaluating your entire internal communications strategy to make sure there is an empathy lens on every message. It’s also important to consider the mediums you use for different types of messages: for example, face-to-face communication (even if it’s over a screen) often feels more empathetic than an email or phone call. 

    How your knowledge management platform can help:

    Think about how you can use content in your knowledge management platform to strengthen the human connection between coworkers. The exact type of content you use will largely depend on your company culture and how you’re using your knowledge management platform. For example, you might pose thought-starter questions in the platform to generate “watercooler”-type discussions, or you might publish employee spotlights to shine a light on the contributions of different team members.

    2. Learn How Your Team Members Communicate

    Have you noticed some team members dominating the conversation in meetings and others seeming hesitant to contribute? Your team members likely have different communication styles, and it’s important to understand each style so that you can collaborate effectively and ensure everyone feels comfortable contributing. 

    There are a lot of different frameworks (and plenty of assessments) you can use to determine your team members’ communication styles. A Fast Company article covers leadership coach Mark Murphy’s approach, which may be useful as you think about how you can listen and deliver key information to people with different communication styles. Here’s a quick breakdown of the four categories:

    • Analytical. These communicators are all about data and specificity. When working with this communication style, it’s important to provide specific details up front, set clear expectations, and avoid using too much emotional language.
    • Intuitive. These are your big-picture, high-level thinkers. They’re most comfortable covering broad overviews and may be less focused on details; because of this, it may be helpful to send a follow up email with key details after meeting with intuitive communicators.
    • Functional. These are your process-driven people. They’re detail-oriented and will break down big ideas or projects into small steps to better work through them. When brainstorming with functional communicators, it can be helpful to ask follow up questions to draw them out and get them thinking beyond the next step of a process.
    • Personal. Someone described as a “people person” is likely a personal communicator. These communicators prioritize connection, are good listeners, and tend to use emotional language (e.g. “I think/I feel”). Like intuitive communicators, they may do best when details are shared in a follow up email after a meeting.

    How your knowledge management platform can help:

    Your team members’ communication styles will also carry over into the ways they prefer to document and share knowledge. For example, functional communicators might be most comfortable writing step-by-step processes, while personal communicators might prefer recording a video of themselves walking their coworkers through a process. When possible, let your team members use their preferred method for preserving their knowledge (and use a knowledge management platform that makes all file types–including audio and video–searchable).

    3. Adopt a Smart Alternative To an Open Door Policy. 

    As a manager, you can strengthen your communication with your team members by making it clear that they can informally check in with you when they need to. However, having a true “open door policy,” where team members can stop in at any time, could cause your productivity to take a major hit–especially if you’re working remotely and your team members can’t gauge how busy you are.

    To limit unscheduled interruptions, consider blocking off a certain amount of time on your calendar for “office hours” every week, and let your team members know you’ll be available then. Additionally, you can schedule weekly team meetings and one-on-ones, or even daily standups when necessary, to make sure you and your team members are in regular communication and staying aligned.

    How your knowledge management platform can help:

    If your team members ask (non-sensitive) questions during your office hours or one-on-ones and you believe other people in the organization could benefit from the answers, encourage them to post the questions in your knowledge management platform. You can then respond in the platform and make the content visible to the rest of your team or organization–helping others who may have had the same question and reducing the number of times you have to share the same information in one-off conversations.

    4. Empower Employees To Share Feedback

    Make sure your employees feel heard by giving them multiple outlets to share feedback. Sending out an employee engagement survey at regular intervals can be a good place to start, but don’t stop there. Consider conducting periodic stay interviews to learn why employees have stayed with your company, what’s working well for them, and what they’d like to improve. 

    It may also be beneficial to offer an outlet for anonymous feedback. Let’s be honest: not all communication is positive, and that’s okay. Many employees are uncomfortable making complaints to their boss, whether it’s regarding an issue with management, an issue with a coworker, or any other change they would like to see in the workplace. Your employees need a way to provide constructive criticism so that the company can continue to learn and grow. 

    How your knowledge management platform can help:

    You can use your knowledge management platform to capture feedback that employees are comfortable sharing with a broader audience. If you use Bloomfire, you can leverage the Q&A feature to ask open-ended questions for employees to respond to, or encourage employees to share their thoughts by adding comments to individual pieces of content.

    5. Set Agreements, Not Expectations

    If, as a manager, you feel you have team members who are failing to meet your expectations, the problem may be rooted in communication. Expectations are based on what you think will happen: they’re internal and one-sided. For example, you might expect a team member to include a certain level of detail in a report because that’s what you would do, but if you haven’t clearly communicated this, the team member might submit a less detailed report based on their own expectations.

    To avoid miscommunication and frustration, focus on setting agreements instead of expectations. When you make an agreement with a team member, it’s a two-way conversation where you:

    • Establish what needs to be done, when it needs to be done by, and who is responsible.
    • Discuss potential blockers for the activity and negotiate terms as needed.
    • Commit to upholding your defined responsibilities and meeting agreed-upon deadlines.

    How your knowledge management platform can help:

    If you have team-level agreements, consider publishing them in your knowledge management platform. This helps give other teams visibility into what your team members are responsible for and adds an extra layer of accountability.

    6. Encourage and Reward Knowledge Sharing

    A big part of good internal communication is building a sense of psychological safety so team members feel comfortable sharing ideas and feedback. To do this, you need to create an environment where employees don’t feel like they will be punished or embarrassed for sharing their thoughts. You can offer positive reinforcement and encourage knowledge sharing by providing time for brainstorming, discussing learnings from mistakes or failures, and recognizing team members who have contributed impactful content or ideas.

    How your knowledge management platform can help:

    If your knowledge management platform has built-in engagement analytics, you can use these to identify the contributors whose content has received the most views or interactions. You can use this information to reward your top contributors on a monthly or quarterly basis (the reward could be something tangible, like a gift card or branded swag, or something as simple but meaningful as recognition in a company meeting). By rewarding these contributors, you are showing employees that the organization highly values knowledge sharing.

    7. Use the Right Communication Tools

    Make sure your team members understand how–and when–to use different communication channels. For example, your organization may use a messaging platform like Slack or Microsoft Teams for real-time conversations, email for longer-form communication, a file-sharing system like Google Drive for collaborating around works-in-progress, and use a knowledge management platform to share finalized documentation. 

    How your knowledge management platform can help:

    Publish a guide to using different communication channels in your knowledge management platform so that employees can easily reference it. If you’re using Bloomfire, you could display this as a featured piece of content on your homepage so that employees can quickly refer back to it (and new hires will see it as soon as they log into the platform).

    The ways in which your employees communicate with each other and with you is entirely dependent on the example you set and the atmosphere you deliberately create. Whether workplace communication is poor or outstanding, it can have a big impact on revenue, productivity, and employee satisfaction. So value your employees, set a good example, and above all, listen.

    This post was originally published on April 28, 2017. It was most recently updated and expanded on in June 2023 to incorporate new statistics and best practices.

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