Enabling two-way communication in the workplace | EAPA-SA

Two-way communication takes place when an organisation enables their employees to freely share in “company conversations”, airing their ideas, thoughts and concerns. It is an intentional style of communication between two or more parties, where all participants are encouraged to share information and ideas and, especially, to listen to and act upon what the other has to contribute. 

Why should effective two-way communication be considered one of the most important attributes of any organisation? Two-way communication builds trust and helps improve the free flow of ideas in the workplace. It nurtures employee engagement and facilitates the ongoing growth of both leaders and employees. 

“Two-way communication builds trust and helps improve the free flow of ideas in the workplace.”

Here are four ways in which two-way communication benefits organisations:

  • Two-way communication helps in the prevention of information overload

Personalisation is the main characteristic of two-way communication. It encourages a response and honest feedback by speaking directly to an employee, rather than the entire team or organisation. In this way, it puts a stop to employees having to waste working hours by wading through emails or reading information that has nothing to do with them. It also leads to increased productivity because ambiguity about roles and responsibilities is reduced. 

  • Two-way communication leads to trust and loyalty at the workplace

Two-way communication helps employees know that their ideas are being taken seriously and they can count on meaningful responses, signalling that they are genuinely part of the team. Most business leaders agree that effective internal communication is the key to building a trusting work environment that encourages employees to openly share their views and opinions, which has the effect of increasing their loyalty. 

“…one of the things employees value most in managers are approachability and their effort to engage in daily communication.” 

  • Job satisfaction hinges on open two-way communication

Gallup’s study in 2015, entitled State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders, points to managers as the main culprits for employees quitting their jobs. The study reveals that one of the things employees value most in managers are approachability and their effort to engage in daily communication. It shows that people want to feel that they are part of the team and that their contributions matter. The best way to make this possible is two-way communication

  • Two-way communication drives employee engagement

 Job satisfaction is closely linked to employee engagement, which are both highly dependent on trust and two-way communication in the workplace. Acting on employee feedback, and recognising the impact employees make, is a strong engagement builder. Employees who work in a mutually supportive environment tend to have a personal investment in the business. This is then reflected in their attitude toward colleagues and customers, directly affecting the success of the organisation

Along with poor communication in the workplace comes lower productivity because employees don’t have access to the people, knowledge and resources that can help them perform well in their jobs, negatively affecting their passion and motivation to meet and even exceed expectations.


Here are nine simple strategies for enabling two-way communication: 

  • Invest in tools that make communication easy for all

All employees should have equal access to communicating with each other. Instant messaging or employee feedback tools that let workers and managers share feedback easily paves the way to sharing information, especially in hybrid workplaces where employees have to communicate remotely or across time zones. The simpler it is for employees to communicate with each other and management, the more readily they will communicate their thoughts and opinions. It is important to remember that while extraverted employees might have an easy time sharing their ideas and opinions in a public forum, more introverted workers might not share with the same confidence. 

  • Ensure that company executives lead by example

Communication expectations in the workplace are operational. They need to come directly from management or team leaders. When employees see that leaders are invested in spending time engaging with employees to solicit feedback, they will feel more inclined to participate. Training leaders to model and endorse the values of two-way communication can teach employees across the organisation to value it and understand how to implement it themselves.

  • Make your office space more communication-friendly

For organisations returning to in-person workplaces, or implementing  a hybrid work model, leaders should think about designing the physical workspace so that employees can interact and connect with each other easily, while still having space and time to focus on their work. Keeping office doors open or maintaining set “virtual” office hours makes leaders more accessible to individuals who want direct access to share their thoughts and ideas during the working day.

” When employees see that leaders are invested in spending time engaging with employees to solicit feedback, they will feel more inclined to participate.”

  • Use meetings effectively

Time is precious for you and your team members, so consider whether attending a meeting is going to be an effective use of your employees’ time. When employees have to attend meetings just for the sake of it, they can become disengaged and resentful of perceived time wasted. Plan ahead: ask yourself, do we really need to have this meeting, who should be there, what do we need to discuss, what outcomes are required? Then stick to the agenda and allotted meeting time, giving equal contribution time to every attendee.

  • Recognise and reward employee contributions

Research has found that feeling overworked and underappreciated are two of the top reasons employees will consider switching jobs. Openly acknowledge your employees among their peers by sharing their hard work and achievements during meetings, on instant messaging or through department-wide emails. Recognising employees regularly helps employees know they are valued for doing a good job and that they’re on the right track to make an impact for the team.  


  • Establish communication norms in your on-boarding process

Employees spend the first few weeks of a new role trying to absorb a vast amount company information. Clearly explaining the organisation’s communication norms from the onset of their employment can help workers understand what to expect from their new employer’s culture. If your organisation has specific observances, for example a particular day of the week reserved for no meetings or a set time-frame for expecting responses to instant messages, make these clear from the get-go. It is useful to document your norms in a central, accessible place where employees can regularly reference them.  


  • Schedule team-building events regularly

When employees feel connected to the rest of their team, they will be more comfortable sharing their ideas. Having dedicated time for building relationships at work can help employees become more connected to, and supportive of, each other. Team-building does not only have to be team-specific. Regularly make time for lunch, coffee chats, or other short meetings that can improve cross-functional collaboration and connection.  

  • Keep an eye out for dips in employee feedback

If an organisation’s participation or adoption rates fall unexpectedly, this is a form of communication in itself. Take the time to cultivate a culture of regular check-ins, where managers or team leaders speak with employees. This can help managers keep a pulse on why employees’ involvement is dropping off and attitudes are changing. 


  • Align recognition with employee needs

Finding meaningful ways to reward employees makes good business sense. It is surprising how often leaders throw rewards at employees without ever saying “thank you.”  Make sure the efforts that are put into employee recognition are aligned with what employees find valuable and motivational, or your recognition programmes may become misguided and ineffectual.