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Top 10 Communication Skills in the Workplace (+Examples)

Top 10 Communication Skills in the Workplace (+Examples)

If there’s one skill everyone in the workplace needs, regardless of whether you’re an individual contributor on the frontline or an executive in a corner office, it’s communication.

Effective communication skills in the workplace are key to connecting with others, building trust, negotiating, resolving conflicts, and generally, getting your work done on time, as promised. However, when left unchecked and underdeveloped, poor communication skills can lead to misunderstandings, breakdowns in collaboration, poor customer experiences, and even disengagement.

The good news is that communication is a learnable skill, so long as you’re willing to put in the time and effort to improve it. You’re off to a good start by finding and reading this article. Let’s take it a step further, though, and review the following 10 communication skills you should work on developing going forward, including:

  1. Verbal Communication Skills
  2. Non-Verbal Communication Skills
  3. Written Communication Skills
  4. Active Listening Skills
  5. Public Speaking Skills
  6. Visual Communication Skills
  7. Digital Communication Skills
  8. Interpersonal Skills
  9. Networking Skills
  10. Storytelling Skills

 

Communication Skills in the Workplace Definition

In the workplace, communication skills allow you to convey, exchange, and comprehend information, thoughts, ideas, and emotions in a professional and effective manner. Verbal, non-verbal, paraverbal, written, visual, and digital communication skills are all examples of communication skills that are required to succeed in any role, industry, or sector today. 

 

Is the way you communicate helping or hindering your effectiveness as a leader?  Find out in this guide.

 

10 of the Most Important Communication Skills

Communication takes on many forms in the workplace, from a face-to-face conversation in the hallway to a well-crafted email or a client presentation. As such, you need to have the skills required to communicate using the right medium at the right time and in the right way. While this is something you can naturally learn with time, experience, and practice, communication training programs exist to help you accelerate that process and become a more effective communicator sooner. In fact, here are 10 communication skills examples every professional should make an intentional effort to develop and hone.

Top 10 Communication Skills in the Workplace

 

1. Verbal Communication Skills

Verbal communication, encompassing both spoken and sign language, involves the transmission of messages through spoken words or manual gestures and visual representations in the case of sign language. You use verbal communication skills daily at work, whether to give instructions, have a casual conversation, deliver a presentation, offer feedback, express empathy, and so much more.

In fact, a 2023 study of over 1,500 U.S. office workers found that, on average, people spend 3 hours and 43 minutes a day communicating via video calls, phone calls, and messaging apps in the workplace. When combined, 252 million hours are spent communicating per day, and over the course of a week, that can cost companies more than $21 billion.

All of this to say, verbal communication has a real cost, both in terms of time and money. So, it’s no surprise that many communication skills courses put a heavy emphasis on developing this specific skill.

 

2. Non-Verbal Communication Skills

The American Psychological Association defines non-verbal communication as “the act of conveying information without the use of words.” As such, non-verbal communication skills refer to the use of body language, facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, and tone of voice to convey a message.

While the exact percentage of nonverbal communication vs. verbal communication is debated, one thing is abundantly clear - how you communicate is just as important as what you communicate in the workplace. According to Annemieke Meurs-Karels, a non-verbal communication expert, this is because “People often react more to what you do than what you say because it communicates the underlying message - what you really think and feel, and your intentions.”

While strong non-verbal communication skills have always been important, they are even more so if you’re in a remote or hybrid work environment. This is because people report finding it “harder to understand their coworkers’ nonverbal cues during virtual meetings compared with their in-person communications,” which in turn negatively affects their ability to build healthy working relationships.

 

3. Written Communication Skills

Written communication skills are required to convey ideas, information, or messages in writing effectively. These are the skills professionals at every level in an organization use to draft emails, instant messages, reports, memos, proposals, and contracts that are succulent, clear, to the point, and free of errors.

While many writing aids and even AI generators exist today, they do not negate the importance of developing strong written communication skills. In fact, in the AAC&U’s 2021 Employer’s Report, employers rated writing skills as one of the most important skills, with it coming in just behind teamwork, critical thinking, data analysis, and digital literacy. Unfortunately, of those employers, just 44% say recent graduates are “very well prepared” with the writing skills they’re looking for. In a separate study conducted by Stats Canada, this was corroborated as nearly one in four businesses (24.2%) reported that oral and written communication (24.2%) skills were in need of improvement.

 

4. Active Listening Skills

To be an effective communicator in the workplace, you don’t just need to know what to say, how to say it, and when to say it; you also need to know when it’s time to listen.

Active listening skills allow you to understand, process, and respond to messages thoughtfully and professionally while showing the communicator that you’re engaged and genuinely interested. If you struggle to do this, Fonolo explains that there is a scientific reason why: “On average, humans are able to actively listen to 125 to 250 words per minute but can think about words at a rate of 1000 to 3000 words per minute. This differential actually makes listening harder, because our brains can easily stray in search of stimulation for all that extra capacity.”

While active listening isn't something you can learn overnight, you can improve your listening skills with time, experience, practice, coaching, and possibly even training.

 

5. Public Speaking Skills

When you think of public speaking, you might picture it as giving a speech or presentation on a stage in front of a big group of people. If your job doesn’t require that, you might assume you don’t need public speaking skills.

Here’s why it’s wrong to assume that. Public speaking skills are what you use in a formal setting or public forum to address an audience, whether that audience consists of 10 people in a small meeting room or 1000 people in a hotel ballroom. They allow you to create a structured and coherent message, manage your nerves, adapt to different audiences on the fly, respond to questions, and use appropriate language or techniques to maximize participation.

Fortunately, communication skills training programs, such as Niagara Institute’s Speaking as a Leader, are designed to further the development of your public speaking skills so that you can confidently facilitate meetings, lead client presentations, present proposals to superiors, and deliver status updates.

 

6. Visual Communication Skills

Did you know that 65% of the general population are visual learners and that our brains can process images and videos 60,000x faster than text? It is because of this that visual communication skills are on this list.

Visual communication skills refer to the ability to deliver messages, tell stories, and transfer information using visuals, graphics, and multimedia elements. Typically, visual elements are used to simplify complex information or concepts so people can understand them better. This is an especially important skill set for professionals who often create reports or proposals, deliver presentations, or facilitate meetings, as it can maximize the impact of your message and help you achieve the intended objective of your communication faster.

 

7. Digital Communication Skills

According to Stanford’s monthly work-from-home update for July 2023, which surveys 10,000 professionals in the U.S., 12% of full-time employees are fully remote, 59% are full-time on-site, and 29% have a hybrid work schedule. While these numbers will continue to shift over time, the fact is that the remote, hybrid, and on-site workers alike all rely to some degree on email, instant messaging, video conferencing, and collaboration platforms to communicate.

For this reason, digital communication skills are a core communication skill. Digital communication skills refer to the ability to use digital platforms and tools to communicate in a clear, professional, and engaging manner. By making an intentional effort to strengthen your digital communication skills, you will be able to display strong virtual etiquette, adapt your communication style to suit a virtual environment, and foster strong working relationships with clients or colleagues from afar.

 

8. Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills, which you may also refer to as people or social skills, refer to the ability to interact, communicate, and relate with people. In the workplace, these skills are essential for building positive working relationships, navigating social dynamics, handling conflict, and collaborating with others.

Emotional agility, empathy, assertiveness, social awareness, negotiation, persuasion, and self-awareness are all examples of interpersonal skills that are required to communicate effectively in the workplace. In fact, according to the 2020 GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey, 81% of recruiters identify interpersonal skills as more important than any other kind of skills, and 57% say the demand for said skills will grow over the next five years.

 

9. Networking Skills

Networking skills in the context of communication in the workplace refer to the ability to establish, cultivate, and maintain meaningful working relationships with colleagues, clients, and contacts within and outside the organization. You will be able to spot a person with strong networking skills because they can connect with people in a genuine manner, initiate conversations, build rapport, and foster meaningful, lasting connections.

In an article on the topic published by Randstad, they note that “Networking with coworkers helps us grow and strengthen connections with professionals inside our organization – with the added benefit of increasing productivity and engagement internally. Internal networking is something many of us do naturally every day. Like external networking, internal networking is about building a group of people who know you and will help you if they can.” In fact, in a study published in The Journal of Personnel Psychology, it was found internal networking between employees can actually reduce the likelihood of turnover by 140%.

 

10. Storytelling Skills

When it comes to communication in the workplace, storytelling is an underrated skill that every professional can benefit from having. By definition, storytelling skills refer to the ability to craft and communicate a narrative/story that engages, educates, and persuades others.

Stories are far more memorable than straight facts, stats, or numbers when used in the proper context and thoughtfully crafted. According to Quantified, there is a scientific reason for this: “When we hear straight facts, two areas of our brains light up - language processing and language comprehension. But when we listen to stories, neural activity increases fivefold, which means we're more likely to retain it later.” In other words, storytelling is an invaluable skill for those of you who are keen to maximize the effectiveness and impact of your communication in the workplace.

 

Next Steps: Develop Your Communication Skills With Niagara Institute

As you can see from the communication skills examples on this list, there’s much more to becoming an effective communicator than meets the eye. Fortunately, communication training programs like Speaking as a Leader and Taking the Stage from Niagara Institute exist to help you achieve your goal of becoming a better communicator at work. Meanwhile, one-on-one coaching is also always an option for professionals at any level who have very specific goals and require a personalized learning experience to reach them.

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