Written by B. Lynn Gordon (former SDSU Extension Agricultural Leadership Specialist).
The greatest challenge with communication is remembering to do so! Busy times around farms, ranches and agri-business companies, lend us to often forget to actually communicate with those we work with. We think— I’ll just send a text and they will know what project I’m working on. A text can definitely provide an update, but when communication calls for a face-to-face discussion, how can one build an environment conducive to effective communication?
Four basic steps to consider for workplace face-to face communication are:
Clear, direct communication along with an understanding of how it is valued will create a better working environment. For example, trying to give directions or explain a situation when loud equipment is running in the background may result in unclear communication, where the employee only hears half of what the manager said. What might be the outcome? Unclear instructions, errors, additional problems that could have been averted and maybe even a misunderstanding. Strive for all the members of your team on the farm to have an understanding of how critical clear communication is in creating positive outcomes. Poor communication or lack thereof, can lead to tension between employees or management. This tension will no doubt put a halt to effective communication due to one individual or both not wanting to hear what the other has to say, resulting in communication barriers.
2. Maintain composure.
With communication gaps, misunderstandings happen, tempers may get short and things are said which may later be regretted. During communication, all parties need to strive to maintain their composure. A problem cannot be solved without focus and open-mindedness of the individuals. Plus, conflict that builds out of miscommunication or misconceptions reduces valuable time in order to reach a solution. Both the sender and receiver of the information must realize how impactful their role is in the communication process. Communicating verbally is as critical as the role of listening.
3. Develop trust.
Communication flows more easily and trust is built when positive interpersonal relationships are developed between employees and management. Employees begin to feel more comfortable approaching management, and the end result is enhanced employee satisfaction, improved work ethic and an increased likelihood that employees will be satisfied with their role and remain with the employer. Supervisors and managers should aim to reinforce how much they value communication. Let your employees know the benefits of information flow, what is expected of them and that you will provide opportunities for them to communicate with you. A way to encourage communication and let employees know it is essential around your operation, is by rewarding them. During performance evaluation those who have demonstrated their ability to be good communicators could be rewarded with a bonus or recognized among their peers.
4. Speak the same language.
Whether we realize it or not, we can tend to have our own language within our place of employment. Slang or terms may be used that on another farm operation may be described by using a different term/word. Because an employee has worked in the agricultural industry does not necessarily mean the same terminology was used from place to place. Workers who have worked alongside each other for many years eventually learn the common language specific to one operation. But does everyone know it? Consider new employees. If they don’t know the insider common language this can easily result in miscommunication. In addition, our workforce has become more diverse and many employees first language is not English. Determine how you will communicate, understand and plan for the added time it will take for each party to get comfortable with back and forth communication.
The Bottom Line
Communication is the single most important element in any workplace. Consider these steps to aid in communication success.