Any workplace from any job type across the United states relies on teamwork. Without teamwork, the workplace would be less efficient, less productive, and less safe. Communication is the foundation on which teamwork is built. Regardless of the processes at hand, effective communication is essential in the timely and satisfactory completion of those processes. So, in the context of occupational safety, what does effective communication look like?
Communication takes a variety of forms; written communication, verbal communication, and visual communication. All of these forms have their place in communication between co-workers. Familiarizing yourself with the different types of communication, and using each form to its strengths can greatly improve safety in your workplace.
Written communication is perhaps the number one way employers relay messages to their employees. Whether it is through email, printed paper, or even text message; written word can go a long way. So how do you make the best use of your words?
Employers need to remember that written communication should be kept short, concise, and to the point. Why? Because human attention span has shrunk to roughly 8 seconds. An article in Time magazine highlighted a study by Microsoft which found that the average human will maintain concentration on a subject for 8 seconds; a second less than a goldfish. The decrease in human attention span is attributed to the heightened digitalization of the world. This includes social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. When employers are writing announcements they should be fairly short, contain only vital information, and avoid rambling. Additionally, all written communication should contain rhetoric that is understood by the target audience. Make written communication simple, easy to read, and straight to the point.
Verbal communication is the most efficient and effective way to communicate. Individuals who possess strong verbal communication skills are absolutely vital in any workplace. Not only are verbal skills important for relaying information between employers and employees, but they are vital in building a safe work environment. When job training, employees should be educated on the importance of verbal communication in the work zone. Verbally announcing whereabouts, plans of action, and concerns are all vital in preventing accidents and workplace injuries. Verbal communication is one of the best ways to connect with employees. Meeting in person and relaying important information through polished rhetoric is an effective way to instill new training, announce new protocols, and incite active group discussions.
Visual communication can be an effective way in reaching employees. Not only does it offer a picture aid to more visual learners, but visuals can also be a reminder of a safety-oriented workplace. For example, employers who make use of safety scoreboards are providing a visual representation of their workplace-safety efforts. Safety scoreboards provide a visual aid that communicates the safety success of the workplace, and serves as a constant reminder of the safety-oriented culture the workplace encourages.
Poor communication in the workplace is characterized by a number of elements. Here are few characteristics of ineffective communication to be on the lookout for:
Vague Instruction: If instructions in your workplace are not direct, clear, and let you know of what is expected of you then poor communication is at play. Employees need to know what is expected of them. Instructions should be given with clear outlines and expectations.
Downhill Directions: Employers who are not open to input and ideas from their employees are giving downhill direction. Employees should not have to fight uphill to have their ideas and concerns heard. Strong communication in the workplace is characterized by an environment in which everyone has a voice.
Feedback: encouragement and acknowledgement are essential parts of communication. Employees should not only receive criticism. There should be acknowledgement for a job well done, just as there is criticism for poor performance.
A strong, safety-oriented workplace will make communication a priority. Employees will have a voice, employers will lay out clear expectations, and the workplace will make every effort to communicate safety and integrate it into the work environment. Ultimately, communication requires effort from all parties. Improve communication in your workplace, and you will improve the safety in your workplace.