09/30/2013 02:53 pm ET Updated Nov 30, 2013

Shift the Focus to Your Workforce

Communication is fundamentally changing in both professional and personal settings. We now have a variety of technologies at our disposal that claim to enhance the way we communicate, and in today's always-on world we are never more than a click away from our next conversation - a far cry from the days of sending letters and telegrams. What remains consistent however, regardless of the medium, is that effective communication and an understanding of your audience are key to success.

As an employer or manager, you likely have a clear idea of how you want to communicate with your employee base. You may model your management style after a particular manager who influenced you early in your career or an industry luminary known to nurture his/her employees. But to be an effective communicator, you must shift the focus from yourself.

A strong preference for your own particular communication style isn't always the most effective way to ensure your staff absorbs what you're trying to impart. Beyond just using all of these media, a savvy employer must take the time to understand exactly what communication style (or styles) will be most effective for reaching each employee and adjust his or her methods accordingly to ensure that all employees' comprehension is maximized and chances for a positive outcome are improved.

Your employees' communication styles were likely honed by a variety of converging factors, including their academic and professional careers and whatever innate tendencies they were born with. Given this complexity, it's important for you to use the communications tools and methods employees prefer in order to optimize impact and results. Because there are many communication styles and variations and solutions to support them, outcomes are improved when employers are able to implement multiple communication methods.

Though employees have their own preferred communication style, in order to simplify things you can probably group them into five bundles:

The visual communicator: This individual prefers white-boarding as opposed to straight lecture-style discussion and flourishes with the use of diagrams, videos, charts, webcasts and Power Points. Engaging with this person requires physically showcasing the material, not just talking about it.

The lecture-style communicator: He or she consumes and delivers information best when interacting with colleagues in a structured environment. Communication via a podium or classroom-style platform - either in person or via webcast - works well.

The reading/writing communicator: These employees prefer to communicate by putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and providing written information or feedback. Those working with this type of communicator should understand that even if an in-person discussion takes place, it should be followed up with an email recap.

The "let's just talk" communicator: This individual relishes discussion and informal collaboration. Less dependent on documentation and presentations, the verbal communicator retains more easily what is heard and said, not written and read.

The hands-on communicator: This person prefers the "show, don't tell" approach when communicating with fellow employees. When they get thrown into a project and are tasked with explaining it to others, they will take the computer mouse, marker or microphone and show you exactly what they mean - and provide additional hands-on guidance along the way.

Understanding how you and your employees communicate will make you a better coach and leader, and in today's highly competitive business environment, tailored communications can improve the skills and productivity of your workforce.

As I said in the beginning, there are a variety of communication methods and styles that can help you and your employees and colleagues best reach each other and impact outcomes. The combinations are endless, but one thing remains the same: understanding how you and your employees' best communicate and acting accordingly with this knowledge is going to empower you to be a better, more effective communicator and, as a result, manager.

What communication style works best for your workforce?