WOTC 2015: 5 Ways To Improve Communication In The Workplace

Communication Challenges

Communication in the workplace is key, but it isn’t always as easily said as done. At the 2015 Women of the Channel event in New York City this week, four top executives took the stage to address the challenges they see around communication, and discuss what they did to overcome those hurdles. The panel included Tricia Atchison, senior director, Americas channel marketing at Veritas; Lori Cornmesser, vice president of global channels and alliances at Ixia; Penny Philpot, group vice president of worldwide alliances and channel programs at Oracle; and Krissy Kelley, senior director of partner programs at Fortinet.

Take a look at what lessons they learned throughout their careers on how to improve communication in the workplace.

Have A Clear Message

The best way to make sure both managers and employees are on the same page is to have a clear and consistent strategy, and communicate how that fits into the company’s bigger mission and vision, Oracle’s Philpot said. She recommended choosing a succinct three-prong strategy and articulating it repeatedly.

’You have to ensure that everyone in the team understands how they individually are actually going to be responsible for making that vision and mission and strategy work, and what is in it for the business and for them personally,’ Philpot said.

That is important, she said, because it ensures that everyone is driving their energies towards a common goal, and provides the framework for the measurement of success and employee performance.

Balance Your Use Of Tools

There are lots of tools on the market to facilitate communication. The tricky part is choosing the right ones for your organization and the employees that are in it, Fortinet’s Kelley (pictured) said. Fortinet employees rely on Skype for communication, she said, but it is also important to get face-to-face interactions whenever you can.

’[Face-to-face interactions] change the trust between us and it develops the relationship in a way that a call doesn’t. I think that reception of the information and your ability to inspire and for them to inspire you improves a lot,’ Kelley said.

Be Transparent

In times of change, transparency is key, Veritas’ Atchison (pictured) said. In times of change, employees crave information, she said, and in the absence of that will create their own, sometimes incorrect, version of what is going on. As an example of this, Atchison cited her own company’s ongoing split from security vendor Symantec, and how transparency and positivity was key to maintaining employee stability during that time. Atchison said it is key during those times to communicate as much information as possible.

Tell A Story

Ixia’s Cornmesser (pictured) said one of the best leadership lessons she has learned is how to tell a story. Atchison agreed, saying that communicating through story telling helps build the foundation early on brings in key stakeholders early on for idea buy-in. She said she sees every communication opportunity, whether it’s a meeting or a phone call, as an opportunity to tell that story and drive that buy-in one step further.

As the story develops, Cornmesser said it is also important to seek the feedback of trusted mentors and advisors along the way. That will help you develop the most effective story and messaging, she said.

Create The Opportunity For Communication

It is important to build a schedule of regular cadence of communication with employees, Oracle’s Philpot (pictured) said. A critical piece of that is being reachable in the way that employees want to reach you, whether that is texting, a casual face-to-face meeting, or a conference call, she said. Having that variety in place is especially important when working with Millennial employees, Ixia’s Cornmesser said, as they might want to adopt different communication avenues than you are used to.

’It is about knowing your audience and adapting to it,’ Cornmesser said.

Once those avenues are opened, Fortinet’s Kelley said that it's important for managers to commit to them, even though there are certainly other tasks demanding their time.

’I think if you’re going to commit to that, you’re going to need to honor it,’ Kelley said. ’If you don’t honor that time, there’s a quick loss of trust.’