The nature of traditional corporate structure means communication often flows in one direction. There is always a time and place for one-way communication in a professional setting. And it can have its benefits, helping managers and business owners share critical messages around the business and brand values.
But when it comes to engaging employees and ensuring there’s an open line of communication between peers and junior-senior colleagues, this approach can have its challenges. That’s why you need to prioritize effective messaging and give employees a chance to add their voice to conversations.
The solution? Two-way communication. By implementing genuine two-way communication strategies, you’ll benefit from a greater flow of information in both directions. This means your business can make tactical decisions with greater information. But what exactly does this mean and how can your teams benefit from this?
- What is two-way communication?
- How does two-way communication help organizations succeed?
- The next steps
What is two-way communication?
In the strictest sense, two-way communication is simply the transfer of information between two individuals in both directions. It sounds like any normal conversation, but there are some key differences. Effective communication ensures information is properly received and digested by each party. Communication is constant throughout each aspect of our lives. From impromptu discussions to carefully crafted messages, progress is made through effective communication. Businesses rely on communication to succeed, both internally between team members and externally with their customers.
We can look at workforce scheduling as an example of where this approach can benefit businesses. While one-way communication would involve simply dictating the schedule to other team members, two-way communication allows for a response, potentially changing the schedule to better suit the needs of both parties.
In business, this communication strategy should always be intentional, not a casual conversation between team members but rather a decision to discuss and explore a specific topic. Through the process of open and considered communication, businesses can grow sustainably. This way, they can ensure everybody’s interests are considered.
There are a number of types of two-way communication, as detailed below.
When employees of equal rank or status engage in a discussion or share ideas. For example, two management level employees discussing marketing strategies.
When employees of different statuses or ranks engage in a discussion. This could be a team member sharing ideas with their team leader.
As the name suggests, these conversations are almost instant. Various internal communication channels such as SMS, chats, intranets and enterprise social networks can be used for engaging in a written discussion with staff. But instantaneous conversations can also take place in-person, over the phone, or in a virtual setting (for example, in a video conferencing call).
Regardless of the platform, this gives management and team leaders a chance to communicate directly with employees by answering their questions or concerns quickly. It also gives an opportunity for peer-to-peer feedback and quick catch-ups between senior team members.
This refers to any form of communication that relies on discussions over a long period of time. For example, it can be surveys, email chains, or even publications on your enterprise social network’s news feed. These will often contain considered responses that have been thoroughly contemplated before being sent.
These styles of communication tend to happen naturally as part of business operations, so you don’t need to worry about which category your plans fall into. The key is to ensure that you focus on the benefits of two-way communication and use that to your advantage.
How does two-way communication help organizations succeed?
Although two-way communication is generally considered superior to one-way communication, the reasons are not always so apparent. The process takes more time, requires everyone involved to work actively together, and promotes individuals with strong interpersonal skills. Even in spite of the challenges that arise, the benefits on offer are too valuable to pass up.
One of the greatest parts of this approach is the promotion of collaborative working. As team members engage with each other, discussing tasks in detail, they will be working together towards a common solution. This might result in the delegation of work to specific individuals, problem-solving, or a shift in focus on the overall task itself.
As a result, employees feel more in control of their own workload and tasks. They’re also able to voice concerns or propose more efficient routes to take. This helps them feel more engaged and work more efficiently with their team.
- chat together through instant messaging and video conferencing,
- share and comment information asynchronously on a company news feed,
- and launch surveys to ask everyone’s opinion.
Higher job satisfaction and loyalty
Job satisfaction comes from a person finding their ‘why’ at work. This is often a combination of their passion for the job or industry they work in, their talent, and the result of what they do. So what does this have to do with communication?
Creating a two-way channel for employees to demonstrate how they feel and what their interests are is crucial. This will give managers an opportunity to help them hone their skills or take measures to improve their workflow so they can deliver greater results in their role. After all, you won’t know what issues or bottlenecks they have if you don’t ask for and listen to their complaints or opinions.
Encouraging your staff in this way is a vital part of any successful business, as your workforce is your most valuable asset. Without the support of your team, your business simply won’t grow, and problems will become larger over time. Two-way communication allows employees to be a part of the conversation. It provides feedback and ensures that employees’ voices are heard. As a result, employees are likely to be more motivated in their role. But they’ll also feel like a valued part of the team and company, which will improve employee retention and loyalty.
As we mentioned, communication is a valuable tool for engaging with employees and improving satisfaction in their job and overall role in helping the company achieve its mission. As a bonus, this can also have a knock-on effect on how well they perform in that role. Because happy employees are more likely to be productive.
According to a study from Oxford University, happy and engaged employees are up to 13% more productive.
In industries that rely on individuals to operate with autonomy, often to relatively structured guidelines, this is even more crucial. For example, employees working for inbound call center services may have ideas about how to attend more calls on any given day or implement automated technology to reduce manual tasks.
Without the right communication strategy, they won’t have a channel to share their ideas and could stay stuck in an inefficient workflow. But if you open up lines of communication and offer them a chance to share feedback – and, of course, you act on it – you’ll give them the tools they need to be more productive while encouraging them to take greater ownership of their role.
Better decision making
Communication is vital for decision making. It gives you more ways to gather information or ideas and explore various perspectives from junior and senior team members. It can also help you clarify or test decisions to come to a more accurate conclusion.
What does this mean in practice? A two-way communication method means you can more easily identify problems in the first place by encouraging employees to open up to management and each other about any concerns or issues. Gathering different perspectives also means generating more potential solutions, some of which you may not have thought of yourself or tried before.
Once you’ve evaluated and implemented the solution, you can then gather feedback on its effectiveness by asking employees how well it’s working and whether they need additional support during any transition phase.
When everyone can join discussions, ask questions, and engage with a topic, the outcome of any decision is likely to improve, regardless of the situation, goal, or project at hand.
But it’s important that your team is aware that communication channels are open if they have questions or suggestions. For example, let’s imagine that your decision-making process led you to implement a cloud contact center. One of your agents is unsure about the new system and uncertain about new features, so they communicate their issue. You realize the team wasn’t given proper training to help adopt the technology. After explaining the cloud contact center benefits and how to effectively use the system, they return to work with renewed confidence.
Reduced individual pressure
Pressure can be a major problem for organizations. When employees are overwhelmed, they are less productive, and their quality of work is reduced. Most significantly, stress can impact mental health. A recent report showed that nearly 1 in 4 employees met the criteria for ‘clinically relevant symptoms’ of anxiety and depression.
When communication is spread across a number of individuals, the burden on any single person is greatly reduced. While the initial discussion may originate from one person, once the information is available to all involved, a two-way model ensures that everyone collaborates together and owns the outcome of the dialogue.
Many of the benefits lie in giving junior team members stronger voices, but in this instance, the senior team members stand to benefit most. As the pressure on these key members will already be greater, two-way collaboration is a brilliant way to give them more breathing room amidst their other responsibilities. Above all else, employee well-being should be at the forefront of your internal business decisions.
The next steps
Two-way communication offers a vast range of benefits – large and small – for your organization’s structure and those within it. From greater satisfaction for your employees to improved well-being and stronger communication, it’s a strategy that should be brought into your company structure wherever possible.
The process of fostering this style of communication is not an overnight switch, however. Your whole workforce needs to be aligned – from stakeholders to admin staff. Employees won’t likely engage with the available communication channels immediately, so be sure to showcase the available paths and promote discussion when possible.
Are you looking for some best practices and tools to improve two-way communication within your organization? Contact one of our experts to get personalized guidance: