Workplace Communication Strategies

Oct 19, 2021 7 Min Read
Communication, team, work

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

If You Get Communication Right, You Get Everything Else Right

Cross-cultural communication could be one of the hardest things to do effectively. Misunderstandings can happen because of factors such as different backgrounds and cultural differences. Here are several tips on how to improve cross-cultural communication.

1) Be Open to Learning

English may be a common language for both British and American employees, but due to cultural differences, words may be different. For instance, the Brits call their favourite sport football when the Americans refer to it as “soccer”. The phrase soccer originates from a slang short form of the word “association”, which the Americans adapted to “assoc”, which later became soccer or soccer football. This demonstrates that an effective communication strategy starts with understanding the cultures and backgrounds of both senders and the receiver.
We must realise that a basic understanding of cultural diversity is the key to effective cross-cultural conversations. For example, football is one of the most well-known female sports where approximately 30 million girls and women enjoy playing football. However, many women in Brazil experience discrimination when playing football. Football was banned from 1941 until 1979, as the Brazilian government perceived women playing football as “against their nature”. Knowing this information when talking to a Brazilian female colleague about football would have helped minimise conflicts that may arise from assumptions.

2) Business Etiquette

Understanding business etiquette in different countries is one of the most tricky areas when doing business abroad. In China, guanxi is defined as personal connections, which implies mutual trust between both parties. It operates across different levels, from social to business purposes. 

Establishing good guanxi with your network in China is essential as it helps one get things done more easily. For instance, if a seller builds a good relationship with his supplier, he may get a better deal. However, it varies across sectors and geography. For example, Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen adopt international business practices where guanxi is not as important. On the contrary, Jiangsu and Fujian are generally dominated by small businesses that may still adopt conventional business practices and take guanxi more seriously.

3) No Laughing Matter

A recent study by the National University of Singapore illustrates that leaders who joke with their employees may lead to harmful workplace behaviour. This includes ignoring a leader’s instructions, leaking private and confidential information to external parties, and consuming alcohol while at work. Research demonstrates that management’s adoption of humour with staff may be interpreted as “poor behaviour is tolerated at the workplace”. This is because employees believe that their bosses can tolerate these behaviours. Therefore, leaders must be aware of the type of humour considered appropriate in a different context. Every culture will have a different interpretation of the use of humour in the workplace.
As the majority workforce continues working remotely with team members from different cultures, it is essential to be aware of cultural diversity and stereotypes while using simple language to avoid cross-cultural miscommunication. Also, use humour cautiously while networking with others. Not everybody finds the same things funny.

Read More: How Communication Drives Digital Employee Engagement

Another common frustration that leaders experience is communicating a new corporate strategy to their employees to ensure alignment, buy-in and drive to execute. Here are a few communication approaches that could help leaders effectively do so:


Source: Image by Muhammad Ribkhan from Pixabay 

1) Give Context

Many leaders often assume that their employees know the macro factors that affect business decisions. Sometimes, they think it is unimportant for their employees to know about the market context as it is irrelevant to their roles and responsibilities. However, they must understand these things. For instance, the change brought about by COVID-19 has influenced a leader’s decisions in shifting their gears. So it is crucial to help employees understand the reasons for implementing new corporate strategies in response to the external environment. More importantly, leaders need to inspire their employees, and hence they need to present their message to capture their employee’s attention.

2) Provide Clarity

It is vital for leaders to clearly articulate the differences between the current and revised corporate goals as well as business strategies. Without understanding, the employees may blindly follow instructions. Therefore, leaders need to provide job-specific tools with complete information for employees to apply in their daily operations. Preferably to deliver the message through dialogues than monologues and conduct in smaller groups where employees can express their thoughts without restrictions and feel ownership on execution.

3) Reinforce Strategy-Aligned Employee Behaviours

As most of the workforce continues to work from home, leaders must craft personalised communication while conveying a new set of organisational goals and strategies. Employees may specifically ask what they should stop and begin doing upon executing the new process. Leaders need to ensure their messages are being reinforced through various tactics, mediums and experiences. Besides, the Head of People needs to integrate these messages with their training and initiatives to relate them with people development and performance metrics. Rewards and recognition is an excellent way to motivate employees to action.

4) Don’t Be The Typical “Launch and Disappear” CEO

One of the common mistakes is that leaders often adopt a “massive launch event and disappear” approach. They don’t integrate regular communications into their employee’s daily operations and deliverables. Leaders can consider forming a team of employees who wish to be ambassadors to deliver a new set of strategies. The role of this team is to provide important messages regardless of the individual’s hierarchy at the company. This team can be rotated regularly to increase the participation rate. This can help to ensure that delivered messages are well-received, believed, and executed.

5) Be A Great Storyteller

Storytelling is one of the best ways to bring humanity to a company. It can help employees understand the relevance of a new set of corporate strategies. It can help communicate real-life examples of progress. Hence, leaders should encourage their employees to share their stories and use them to spark conversations that help strengthen their understanding of the behaviours they want to promote. Furthermore, collective stories and discussions will help create a positive culture aligned with the new organisational purpose and strategic goals.

Read Next: 7 Storytelling Structures To Improve Your Presentations

6) Adopt Innovative Media and Be Unexpected

Communication has changed drastically in the recent five years. Social media, networking, and games have changed the way messages are being delivered to their employees. Leaders may consider using similar platforms and apps for their communication purposes. They may even use iOS app maker tools to create their own app for more effective workplace communication. Gather Town, a virtual platform that creates “natural” navigation of social interactions, is a great example. It provides different meeting settings, such as offices, rooftops, parks, conference rooms, and classrooms, albeit virtual. This gives a fresh feel instead of the standard video conferencing tools that many companies are currently using.
If leaders don’t win their people, succeeding with their employees’ customers will be more challenging. Hence, leaders need to invest in their employees to upskill and reskill, which helps to internalise their business strategies while innovating their customer experience.

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Eva Lim Sheau Lee is a writer and marketing lead at She is on a mission to foster digital learning and boost employee morale and engagement in organisations.

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