Structure important team communications effectively in 4 steps

Written by: Erika Khanna | Illustrated by: Julia Gr
Published on October 29, 2020 | Reading time: 6m

Communication is one of the most important aspects of being a manager, and effective communication happens when it is optimized and understood by your target audience: your team. Here at Officevibe, we like to use a framework developed in-house to structure important communications between managers and employees. It’s divided into 4 parts:  

  • Objectives: what does this communication serve?
  • Audience: who are you speaking to?
  • Message: what are you trying to convey?
  • Actions: how will you distribute your communication? 

As you navigate through moments of high change, keeping this in mind will help you impactfully streamline information. We’re here to help by integrating key rules of thumb to optimize communication.

Be intentional and clear about the objectives you need to communicate

When it comes to building effective communication tools, and learning how to apply them, it’s important to narrow down your thinking. To do this, start by thinking about the main goal behind your communication. The information you need to share with your team may differ, depending on your objectives. If there’s been a shift in the strategy, you might want to clarify how this will impact your team’s goals. When your team misses a target, you might want to reassure them that you still have faith in your projects. The aim is to reduce the amount of noise around your messaging. Your funny anecdote might resonate in a group chat with your friends, but it may fall out of context and create confusion with your team. Take a moment to understand your audience, and simplify your messaging. This helps to optimize communication rendering a higher rate of employee engagement which will amplify your main message. Here are a few helpful questions to ask yourself:

  • What is the main objective of this message? 
  • What do I want people to remember and how do I want them to feel? 
  • How can I simplify my key points to amplify their impact?

For example: When a new hire is added to your team, effectively communicating this will contribute to their onboarding and will help existing employees understand the context of their role. Be intentional about how you communicate this new addition. Highlight key elements you’d like your team to understand, as well as how they can learn, collaborate and find opportunities to integrate this new person to the team. 

Free bonus: download the complete guide to being a better leader for your team.

Cover - The leadership guide

Contextualize communication to your audience 

Open communication is facilitated by strong preparation and a big part of that is understanding who your audience is. Knowing who you’re speaking to helps to contextualize key messages in order to cater towards preferred communication styles. When preparing your key messages, be mindful of how your team uses internal communication tools which are helpful for relaying the information you want to share. A few examples on how you can implement this are:

  • Schedule routine 1-1s that act as a safe forum to speak candidly and openly 
  • Use an anonymous feedback channel where employees can raise questions, concerns and suggestions
  • Routinely check in with your team, ask them how they feel and cater your communication accordingly
  • Reassure them that there are no wrong answers, and that everyone’s feedback is valued  

For Example: If a team member resigns or is asked to leave, take a moment to learn how this news should be shared. For certain employees the departure may directly impact their day-to-day as well as deadlines and team contributions. In this case, an in-person conversation is recommended. Additionally, the greater organization will benefit from learning this news through internal communication tools like e-mail or Slack. Remember to be clear about this persons’ contributions, be open to the teams’ questions, and remain professional in your delivery. Ensuring that this news is straightforward and clear will reduce the likelihood of rumours and gossip.

Clarify your message using the 4 W’s + 1 H 

Building a clear message that resonates, might feel daunting. It’s easy to want to get lost and feel unclear about who to begin, when to be vague and when to be specific.  If you’re not sure about where to start, a helpful way to begin is by using the 4 Ws and 1H: 

  • Who am I communicating with? Be mindful of your team, their communication styles and needs.
  • What is my main message? Be clear about what you’d like your team to remember as key takeaways. 
  • Where should these messages be delivered? Understand that context matters and use internal communications tools accordingly. 
  • When is the right time to communicate what needs to be said? Learn about pivotal moments within the week that amplify information retention. 
  • Why is this message important? Elaborate on the motivation behind the messaging and why it’s important that your team be made aware. 
  • How are you delivering your message? Be kind, empathetic, reasonable and fact based when delivering important communication. 

This method will give you a holistic understanding of your main message. It will also indicate where you may need to tweak your message and discern what is most important and urgent, and what can wait and be communicated at a later date. 

For example: Taking a moment to absorb the facts when your team is facing times of high change will allow you to clarify what you need to say. Having an established understanding of your team and the way they share information will help structure your messaging that is clear and appropriately resonates for a higher rate of employee engagement. 

Learn more
Picture of a team working together Graphic element - Yellow wave
Warning icon
We seem to be having trouble displaying this message.
*Try disabling your ad blocker temporarily and refresh the web page.

Understand who this will impact and how to reach them

When you know your audience and what you want to say, it becomes clear that effective communication between managers and employees also relies on both mindful timing. This contributes towards higher employee engagement and a higher response rate. After all, knowing what to say is just as important as how you say it. Using existing communication channels and bolstering important messages with visual aids can also be super helpful. If you’re short on time, perhaps you can think about a key point you’re making and a way to embolden that throughout your messaging. 

A few key points to consider are:

  • Make use of internal communication channels and discern whether they can be helpful to you. (should this be an in-person conversation, a slack message, email, presentation etc.)?
  • Use language that is straightforward, confident, empathetic and receptive
  • Consider the timing of conflicting meetings, projects, town halls, core hours, etc. 
  • Highlight a well researched statistic, fact, question, or statement that will help drive your point forward 
  • Insert appropriate infographics or design elements (provided they’re readily at your disposal) 

For Example: When implementing a change in strategy, being clear on the motivation for the change as well as the intended outcome is key. Let your team know that this new strategy will benefit everyone, give concrete examples as to how. If time allows, visually represent relevant facts and statistics.

Effective communication works when your audience walks away feeling as though they’ve learned something new and helpful. Whether it be about their work, a new project, or general information, you want to make sure your team feels supported, engaged, productive and inspired. Officevibe is here to help if communication isn’t exactly your strong suit. Our Effective Communications Toolkit will cover all of your bases.