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Jul 02, 2020

Approx. 12 min. read

Interpersonal Communication: Definition, Importance and Must-Have Skills

Interpersonal communication in the workplace plays an important role in employee satisfaction, motivation, collaboration and business success. 

Interpersonal communication in the workplace plays an important role in employee satisfaction, motivation, collaboration and business success. 

In this blog, we will go over the definition and importance of interpersonal communication in the workplace. 

💡Download our eBook "10 Principles of Modern Employee Communications" and learn how to communicate with the modern employee in today's digital age. 

What Is Interpersonal Communication?

Interpersonal communication is the process of exchange of information, ideas and feelings between two or more people through verbal or non-verbal methods.

It often includes face-to-face exchange of information, in a form of voice, facial expressions, body language and gestures. The level of one’s interpersonal communication skills is measured through the effectiveness of transferring messages to others.

Commonly used interpersonal communication within an organization include daily internal employee communication, client meetings, employee performance reviews and project discussions. In addition, online conversations today make a large portion of employees’ interpersonal communication in the workplace.

The Importance of Interpersonal Communication in the Workplace

On a scale from 1 to 5, managers rate the importance of having good interpersonal skills at 4.37, just below the ‘ability to work in teams.

interpersonal-communication

There are many reasons why they are so valued; even though most workplace business is now conducted through online communication channels, it is still necessary to possess verbal skills in order to work effectively with your colleagues and bosses. 

Therefore, interpersonal skills are crucial for business success. Let’s now take a look into why interpersonal communication is crucial for your career development and productivity in the workplace.

1. Problem solving

Interpersonal communication skills are necessary because they allow people to discuss problems and weigh the pros and cons of alternatives before coming up with the final solution. 

For example, brainstorming exercises are situations in which interpersonal communication comes into play as it is very important that everyone feels respected and free to share their voice, ideas and views.

2. Alignment with business goals

Poor communication between employers and employees can harm the business in many ways. When managers and leaders are unable to clearly communicate tasks, workers can quickly become frustrated and disconnected with the business goals. 

Moreover, many employees say that their managers don’t give them clear directions and goals for their work. 

interpersonal-communication-importnace

Therefore, managers should be able to, with proper online and offline communication as well as the right internal communication tools, continuously align employees with the business strategy

3. Trust

According to the American Psychological Association, a quarter of employees in the US do not trust their employers, and only about 50% of them believe that their bosses are open with them. 

interpersonal-communication-workplace

Lack of trust and transparency are some of the most common causes of poor workplace communication. 

Interpersonal communication skills are crucial for improving trust and workplace communication, and all employees, especially business leaders, should therefore improve communication with their employees. 

4. Change management

Good interpersonal communication is very important during change management efforts within organizations. 

Effective employee communication helps employees better understand the change, align with it and collaboratively work towards implementing the change successfully. 

5. Company culture

Interpersonal relationships, especially when executed well, are important for an organizational culture to thrive. 

When employees possess good interpersonal communication skills, organizational culture becomes more synergic and positive. With bad interpersonal relationships, on the other hand, negativity, confusion, and conflicts become inevitable. 

This ultimately ruins the work environment, reduces employee productivity, and adversely affects the company's bottom line.

6. Employee recognition

Good interpersonal communication drives more employee recognition. When employees have good interpersonal relationships with each other and their managers, they are more likely to recognize each others’ good work and give constructive feedback. 

7. Workplace miscommunication

Managers who maintain professionalism, open workplace communication and a positive attitude are more likely to be seen as approachable by their employees.

When employees feel like they can speak openly with decision-makers, workplace miscommunication, gossip and rumors are much less likely to happen.

interpersonal-communication-miscommunication

8. Personal relationships

Interpersonal skills are extremely important for creating and maintaining meaningful personal relationships in the workplace. 

People with good interpersonal communication skills can, therefore, build healthy relationships with their colleagues and work much better as a team. 

9. Effective management and leadership

The ability to foster interpersonal relationships, establish trust and communicate clearly are all crucial skills for an effective leader

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When a manager has poor interpersonal communication skills, they can expect to irritate and confuse employees. In fact, there is a greater need for managers to work on their interpersonal skills than there is for the average employee.

10. Employee success

Good interpersonal communication skills are also necessary for managers to help their employees do their jobs successfully. Leaders need to be able to pass on the right skills to the employees that will enable them to perform their tasks and achieve business goals.

Moreover, they should be the ones to teach their employees interpersonal communication skills. 

11. Conflict management

Conflict is normal in the workplace, and we can’t always expect from our employees to resolve conflicts in a calm and timely manner. When conflicts like this arise, interpersonal communication becomes crucial for resolving them. 

Conflict management cannot happen without effective interpersonal communication. In fact, all conflict management strategies that use communication to soften situations in stressful environments are much more successful.

12. Career development

As many employers are looking for workers with good communication skills, continuous improvements of interpersonal communication skills can bring career progressions for many employees. 

Moreover, in a survey conducted by Workforce Solutions Group, it was revealed that more than 60% of employers say that applicants are not demonstrating sufficient communication and interpersonal skills to be considered for jobs. 

In addition, the increasing prevalence of communication technologies means that employees and communicators now have to adapt to the new employee communication trends. 

13. Remote work

This year, we have all witnessed the importance of communication in the workplace. With the emergence of remote work, interpersonal communication among peers, colleagues, managers and leaders has been disrupted. Yet, it is more important than ever before.

In order to keep their cultures open and transparent, employers need to continue to drive engaging workplace conversations even when employees are physically dispersed. 

14. Crisis management

In addition to remote work, many employers will remember 2020 as the year of crisis management. One of the characteristics of companies that manage crisis more successfully, is the ability to drive interpersonal communication within the workplace

When employees are connected and have the ability to collaborate efficiently, it is much easier for organizations to communicate the impact of the crisis on both personal and company-wide levels. 

Interpersonal Communication and Remote Work

The fact that remote work is becoming the new normal for many organization, also rises many questions around how to adapt workplace communications to this new situation. 

impacts-of-COVID-19-on-remote-work

Even though interpersonal communication is often considered as an in-person communication, we all know that remote work is completely reshaping the way our employees communicate

In order to adapt to this new trend, employers are now looking for new ways to keep their workforce connected, engaged and well informed. Also, as many employees are now experiencing extensive information overload, employers need to understand that, when it comes to internal communications, one size does not fit all.

They need to have a very good understanding about how internal communications channels are used, and they need to have the knowledge around how to make communication more personalized based on employees' locations, languages spoken, titles and responsibilities and well as employees interests. 

Many are, therefore, implementing new, modern employee communication solutions that serve as a central place for keeping remote, blue collar as well as in-office employees together, as well as for driving meaningful, two-way company conversations on a daily basis. 

6 Elements of Interpersonal Communication

In communication theory, there are six key components of interpersonal communication.

The communicators

Term communicator refers to both the sender of the information as well as the receiver. In interpersonal communication, there are at least two communicators involved in the conversation.

The message 

One of the most important parts of interpersonal communication is the message. Message can be conveyed in many ways: speech, body language, tone of voice, gestures and other indicators..

Noise

Noise refers to the gap between the message that is received and what it sent. Examples of noise include jargon, language barriers, inattention and more. Noise is the problem that many companies face in the workplace, and the reason why internal communicators are struggling to get the necessary employees' attention. 

Feedback

Feedback is the response of the receiver. In other words, it’s the message sent back to the sender. Feedback is important because it allows the sender to know whether the message has been received and interpreted correctly.

Context

Whether a message is received and interpreted correctly depends mostly on context. Therefore, interpersonal communication is contextual. Context is about the environmental factors that influence the outcomes of communication.

These include time and place, as well as factors like family relationships, gender, culture, personal interest and the environment

Channel

Finally, this interpersonal communication element refers to how the communication occurs. A message is sent and received through a specific channel, or medium.

Besides face-to-face communication, some of the most common communication channels in the workplace include, emails and intranets. Identifying and understanding the performance of those communication channels is extremely important for employers. 

30-percent-of-employees-dont-read-emails-from-their-employers

As the communication ecosystem in the workplace is becoming extremely complex, and communication channels such as email are becoming more and more inefficient, companies are now looking for ways to consolidate all those channels into a single communication platform

10 Must-Have Interpersonal Communication Skills

Research published in the Business Communication Quarterly journal explains that hard skills are the technical expertise needed for a job, while soft skills are interpersonal qualities, such as people skills.

Employers across the world are becoming more aware of the importance of soft skills, with 77% of employers saying that soft skills are just as important as hard skills.

These can often be harder to identify and measure, but are just as important for career progression, personal and team morale as well as business success.

The research above outlines 10 key soft skills identified as crucial by business executives. These include:

interpersonal-communication-skills

  1. Communication – oral, speaking capability, written, presenting, listening
  2. Courtesy – manners, etiquette, business etiquette, gracious, says please and thank you, respectful
  3. Flexibility – adaptability, willing to change, lifelong learner, accepts new things, adjusts, teachable
  4. Integrity – honest, ethical, high morals, has personal values
  5. Interpersonal skills – nice, personable, sense of humour, friendly, empathetic, positive
  6. Attitude – optimistic, enthusiastic, encouraging, happy, confident
  7. Professionalism – businesslike, poised
  8. Responsibility – accountable, reliable, gets the job done, resourceful, self-disciplined, common sense
  9. Teamwork – gets along with others, agreeable, supportive, helpful, collaborative
  10. Work Ethic – hard working, loyal, initiative, self-motivated, on time

The Lack of Interpersonal Communication Skills in the Workplace

As mentioned earlier, communication skills are the most demanded skills that employers look for in their employees. 

When there is a lack of interpersonal communication in the workplace, people feel disconnected and left out, they don't feel like they can freely share their voice and express their needs, wants and concerns. 

This can be a big problem especially among dispersed non-wired and remote employees in global organizations. Even when employees don't have the opportunity to have in-person conversations, they should always be able to reach their peers a matter of seconds. 

On the other side, employers and internal communicators should be able to send personalized, timely and relevant messages to the entire organization and drive more engagement with internal content. 

Take a look into this short interview with the CEO of Manpower who talks about the lack of communication and interpersonal skills in the workplace.

 

Skillset Map of a Modern Internal Communication Department

In this blog, we have discussed the importance of developing interpersonal communication skills in the workplace. 

However, successful communicators, including leaders and internal communications departments, must possess more skills and knowledge to be able to engage, connect and keep employees informed. 

Today, internal communications professionals make one of the most important strategic business partners, and their role in keeping workplaces engaged, safe, informed and productive has been rising over the past few years. 

More specifically, communication professionals don't only need to posses good interpersonal communication skills, but they also need new knowledge in the areas of:

  • Business
  • Technology
  • Communication
  • People
  • Research and Analytics

We have recently developed a map of skills modern IC departments should have

THE-SKILLSET-MAP--OF-A-MODERN-IC-DEPARTMENT_SMARPYou can download the map here

Make Internal Communications More Strategic with Smarp

Internal Communication should be considered as one of the most important strategic partners in today’s world where workplace trends are continuously changing. 

In order to keep your employees informed, motivated, connected and productive, organizations need to adjust their internal communication strategy based on new trends and their employees’ preferences. 

Smarp, our employee communication solution enables leaders, managers and internal comms professionals to:

  • Reach the right employee at the right time with the right messages
  • Keep remote and deskless employees connected with the rest of the workplace
  • Provide easy mobile-access to all the company’s important information
  • Encourage employee-generated content
  • Encourage external content sharing and brand ambassadorship
  • Connect various internal communication channels such as email, intranet, document sharing and private messaging solutions
  • Create personalized news feeds for employees based on their roles, interests, locations and preferences

What's next? Download the eBook “10 Principles of Modern Employee Communications” where we share tips & best practices for successfully communicating with your employees in today's digital age.

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Written by

Valène Jouany & Kristina Martic

Valène Jouany & Kristina Martic

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