Engagement | August 11, 2016
7 ways to improve interpersonal skills in the workforce
By o.c. tanner
In today’s growing and innovative business environment, interpersonal skills are vital. They not only help with growing a unique company culture, but by developing these skills, it can help grow your business talent into influential leaders.
According to Gallup-Lumina Foundation poll, eight in 10 (78%) of U.S. adults agree that the U.S. needs to develop more talent. “If the U.S. fails to develop a more talented workforce, it will fall behind countries.”
So what are interpersonal skills in the workplace? Simply put, they are life skills that we use everyday to interact and communicate with other coworkers and managers. More importantly, interpersonal skills relates to how well employees can get along with others and get the work done. Teamwork is vital in the current business environment as recruiters often look for interpersonal skills when hiring top talent. As the fight for getting and retaining top talent continues, it’s important for organizations to hire and train employees for better interpersonal skills. Below are seven ways for leaders and employees to improve interpersonal skills in the workforce.
1. Promote positive work culture
First, as an organization, it’s important to promote a positive work environment for your employees. A positive work environment through cooperation on both ends means happy employees and thus, better work relationships with coworkers. Because employees are a huge part of the culture, work with their ideas and visions they have for creating your own unique company culture. Include them on meetings and brainstorming of ways to enhance culture.
In addition, a positive work culture also goes a long way for employee retention. A study by Associations of Accounting Technicians (AAT) found that eight in ten of the 2,000 surveyed said “they would turn down a big salary increase if it meant working with people or an environment they didn’t like.” Work as an organization to build a unique culture of creativity, innovation and productivity through your own mission and values.
2. Team activities
Part of your unique work culture should include team building activities to help employees, both new and established, build better relationships and interpersonal skills outside of the office. Meet together as a team to learn common interests and brainstorm activities that all team members would enjoy. Activities can range from a lunch outing, to an afternoon at the driving range or a trip to a local amusement park. These activities should help create a stronger bond with employees and help create a better team culture.
For instance, Sarah Petty, founder of Joy of Marketing and New York Times Best Selling Author of Worth Every Penny explains, “I don’t even like to call those who work for me, ‘employees.’ I call them coworkers or teammates because I want to create an environment of collaboration where everyone looks out for one another. Having played sports growing up and through college, I learned that we can all be successful and not all be the same. I learned that we may not groove with someone’s personality, yet if there is a strong team culture, it bridges the gap between conflict and harmony.” With better team working skills and team culture developed through these activities, it helps not only increase interpersonal skills, but helps employees produce great work.
Part of developing interpersonal communication skills involves working on active listening skills. Besides maintaining eye contact and responding in agreement, active listening involves using your own words and not interrupting or imposing your own solutions. Successful listeners grow when they interact within a conversation.
Another key to active listening is keeping an open mind. It’s important that when listening to coworkers that you do not mentally criticize them or jump to conclusions. This also includes not becoming a sentence-grabber/finisher. Work to try to picture what the speaker is trying to saying and be attentive when conversing with coworkers. It will greatly enhance interpersonal communication skills.
4. Use positive body language
As you develop people skills, work on your overall positive body language. It’s important to smile, present yourself in the best light and stand in a welcoming way when communicating to coworkers. The handshake is another important aspect of positive body language, as a firm handshake will give you more credibility than a weak one.
Tim Brown, partner at Richter7 explains, “The body. You take it everywhere you go. And while we do what we can to dress right, eat right, look right and speak correctly, there’s another element that can build or break your brand. It has to do with your body–or how you use what you have.” Body language has a direct impact on how we interact with each other, so as you develop better interpersonal skills, know how to send the right signals within a conversation.
Recognizing and appreciating great work is vital when it comes to improving interpersonal skills. As a manager, take the time to appreciate your team’s hard work on a daily basis. Writing a quick email or sharing their hard work at a team meeting are great ways to show employees that you care about their work. Besides the great benefits that come with performance recognition—better employee engagement, retention and positive company culture—appreciating coworkers face- to-face is a great way to build people skills. You’ll feel good giving it and the coworker will feel equally good for receiving it.
6. Act as a moderator
Another way to improve people skills in the workplace is to act as a moderator and help settle disputes between coworkers. As a manager, it’s your job to help settle disputes on your team that impact the day-to- day work. When moderating, use neutral statements, such as “I understand” or “That makes sense.” Be sure to reiterate points made through the discussion so both parties can hear the facts from a neutral third party. These types of meetings also help employees work on their discussion skills by being active listeners and courteous responders.
7. Include and respect all coworkers
Lastly, another important aspect of developing interpersonal skills as both an employee and manager is to include and respect all coworkers. Get to know coworkers better by eating lunch with them in the breakroom or invite them to a brainstorming session. By being more inclusive, it eliminates tension on a team and helps coworkers get to know each other better. Going out of your way to talk with employees you don’t know as well can help create a new bond and resource for employees to go to. Company culture grows when employees seek out other employees when looking for an answer or training for a new skill.
Additionally, part of the interpersonal skills list includes respecting others. As an organization, all interactions with coworkers should be treated with trust and respect. This includes being supportive and recognizing the efforts employees bring to the team. If issues come up, which they sometimes do, don’t be afraid to talk with managers or the employee head on. When talking respectfully, it can solves issues more smoothly. And when respect is present, it translates into team and business culture.
With these seven ways, they can help all levels of employees gain better interpersonal skills with their coworkers, customers and clients in order to help their business produce great work.