6 Rules for Effective Peer-to-Peer Communication

Want more employee engagement, higher morale and job satisfaction? Aim to set up your workplace to foster better relationships between employees.

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By Raphael Crawford-Marks

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Effective peer-to-peer communication affects the workplace in a variety of ways, including employees' engagement, morale and satisfaction as well as the company's overall success.

Gallup's 2013 "State of the American Workplace" observed that "regular communication from the company's leaders and informal communication between employees will begin to breed a culture of engagement, leading participation rates of employee engagement metrics and other interventions to be more successful."

Here are a few rules for more effective peer-to-peer communication:

Related: To Boost Productivity, Encourage Employees to Encourage Each Other

1. Make building relationships a priority.

A TinyHR study, released last year, analyzing some 200,000 responses from more than 500 organizations, found peer relationships and camaraderie are significant factors in spurring employees to go the extra mile at work.

Teach employees to be open and willing to change their behavior and communication preferences to accommodate others. Model respectful communication techniques that employees can learn from, and if conflicts or misinterpretations arise, be the first to seek a resolution.

2. Say something at the right moment.

Timing is key in effective communication. Why? A study published online last April in the journal of Psychological Science found the longer rewards are delayed, the more they're devalued.

If employee recognition is delayed, it might not have as big an impact. If staffers receive feedback requesting a change too late, the comments might not be as relevant and making a late modification might not be as helpful to the team.

Motivate employees to speak up and recognize one another immediately if communication or recognition is warranted. Give them the tools needed to do so.

3. Use the right medium.

For employees to successfully communicate with one another, they need the right tools. The TinyHR study found that 44 percent of employees offer peer-to-peer recognition when they have an easy tool to use.

Set up an instant messaging or a recognition platform to encourage employees to communicate and acknowledge one another more often. Notice which employees are motivated by written recognition and those who value tangible rewards. Let peers commend one another either way, at their discretion.

Related: The Pros and Cons of Peer Review

4. Prompt understanding.

A study by Root that analyzed the responses of more than 1,000 U.S. employees found that the majority of them expressed having had a tough time collaborating for reasons, ranging from gaps in leadership and training to competencies in teamwork and accountability. Only 27 percent reported that when working with another group they can strongly depend on outsiders' meeting their obligations. This could arise due to a gap in understanding or employees' perception that others are not as highly trained or competent at their jobs.

To help employees better understand one another, arrange for collaborative projects, whereby communication and understanding are essential for successful completion. Assigning more tasks that require effective teamwork gives employees the opportunity to demonstrate their skills to one another, learn and narrow the gap in mutual undertanding about their individual roles in the workplace.

An employee should take the time to fully understand another staffer's point of view before making a rash judgement or accusation.

If your organization allows for this, let employees swap roles or cross-train and perform another function for a day to gain a better appreciation of how people need to work together.

5. Promote honesty and straightforward behavior.

A study analyzing the responses of more than 550 participants, published in the Journal of Trust Research, measured the relationship between workplace trust and turnover. Employees who trusted their co-workers, especially their leaders, were less likely to harbor the intention of leaving their organization, according to the study.

Trust doesn't thrive in environments where people omit important information and beat around the bush. Teach employees to express themselves honestly and straightforwardly. The sooner employees can express their points, the more they will avoid cumbersome misunderstandings.

6. Aim to encourage.

Root's survey also revealed that more than 54 percent of the employees surveyed have experienced frustration and discouragement in the office. When employees feel discouraged, they find it more difficult to solve problems, make decisions and enjoy their jobs -- ultimately leading to dimished productivity and higher turnover.

Whenever employees communicate or give feedback to one another, ensure that they do so in a positive, constructive way. The aim always should be to encourage employees, never to tear down others by hammering at flaws. Serve as a role model for encouraging others. Respond to mistakes with a willingness to help and make employees feel they have the competence and skills to try again.

Related: Can Peer Feedback Lead to Better Self-Awareness?

Raphael Crawford-Marks

Co-Founder and CEO, Bonusly

Raphael Crawford-Marks is the co-founder and CEO of Bonusly, a New York City company providing a web platform that helps companies reward and motivate employees by using peer-to-peer bonuses.

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