Learn, Do Not Copy!

Workplace models and methods of communication and their importance

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

NOTE: Although this page has been marked as complete, it has not yet been peer-reviewed or quality-assured, therefore it should be considered a ‘first draft‘ and any information should be fact-checked independently.

For this assessment criterion, you will be required to analyse the effectiveness of communication models and methods within your practice. As well as verbal communication, methods and models will also include written, electronic/digital, pictorial, signage and social media.

Verbal communication

Verbal communication involves speaking and listening. When carried out face-to-face, non-verbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, eye contact and gestures can also be used to improve efficacy, build trust and clarify misunderstandings.

When there is no interpersonal contact, (such as when communicating over the telephone) these cues can be lost although expression of feeling may still be communicated through tone of voice, rhythm and volume.

Verbal communication has the advantage that feedback (as explored in the previous section covering theoretical models) is quick and easy, which can help to ensure that messages are understood fully.

When communicating verbally, it is important to be aware of the other party’s needs and abilities. For example, when speaking to an individual with a learning disability, it may be necessary to keep sentences short, with just one or two key points and to give them time to process the information.

Jargon, slang, accents and dialects may also be barriers to effective verbal communication, so words should be chosen carefully and spoken clearly.

Similarly, idioms and metaphors may not be understood by individuals that are from a different culture or taken literally by individuals with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, so these may need to be avoided. For example, I worked with an individual with Asperger’s Syndrome that was informed of the death of their neighbour by being told that “she’s gone with the angels now”. Their reply was “anywhere nice?”.

Written communication

Written communication is performed through reading and writing. This can take several forms, including handover notes, policies/procedures, reports, newsletters and emails.

In the workplace, this communication should be formal and professional and confidentiality should take a high priority. It is a legal requirement to ensure that written documentation is accurate, objective, legible and up-to-date. Unless a professional judgment is required, written communication should be factual and avoid personal views and opinions.

Time should be taken when writing to ensure that the message is clear and cannot be misinterpreted or taken ambiguously.

Electronic/digital communication

Electronic and digital communications can refer to written communications such as emails and text messages.

Again, professional conduct should be maintained when using these technologies for work purposes and, where possible, approved communication systems should be used. For example, organisational email addresses should be used for work-related communications, rather than personal email addresses. This ensures that there is a paper trail and important communications can be retrieved by the organisation if an individual leaves or takes time off.

Electronic communication allows the transferral of additional information, such as links to websites and attached documents. It is a quick and easy method to convey messages to several people simultaneously.

However, with no reliable method to get instantaneous feedback (other than the recipient actively replying) there is no way of knowing if the email has been read or even received. This is why many organisations often follow up an email with a phone call.

In addition, if employees do not have sufficient training or there are no guidelines for usage, it can lead to the technology being used incorrectly. For example, employees may use their work email address for personal communications. Or, when replying to an email sent out to a group of individuals, they may not realise that the ‘reply’ button responds only to the original sender and that they need to click the ‘reply all’ button to ensure that the whole group is included.

Pictorial communication

Pictorial communication uses images rather than words to convey meaning. This can be a useful method of communicating with individuals that have speech and language needs.

For example, the North West Ambulance Service produced a pictorial communication book to assist paramedics with communicating with individuals that “may not be able to speak or provide clear or coherent information“. And the Picture Exchange System (PECS) uses pictures to enable communication with individuals with “various cognitive, physical and communication challenges“.

Other examples include:

  • a set of cards that show pictures of meals or activities so that individuals can choose what they want to eat and what they want to do
  • a poster that demonstrates the correct hand-washing technique
  • graphical representations of social stories to help individuals understand what can be expected in particular situations

Pictorial communication may also be used to present information in a more easily digestible format. For example, instead of providing the raw data from a survey, it will usually be converted into charts or graphs so that the meaning can be conveyed quicker.

Signage

Signage may refer to physical signs and labels in the workplace as well as the use of gestures to convey meaning or language.

For the former, examples can include warning labels on equipment (e.g. weight limits on hoists), fire exit signs and signs signifying that a facemask should be worn. Signage should be intuitive easily understood by anyone that observes it.

For the latter, British Sign Language (BSL) is used by individuals that have auditory impairments and Makaton is used by individuals with learning or communication difficulties. Like pictorial communication (above), these methods support expression and communication between individuals that may not be able to utilise traditional communication methods such as verbal and written.

Social media

Social media is communication using various social networking websites, including Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

Although these channels can be a great way to interact with the community, care must be taken to ensure that professional boundaries are not crossed and that professionalism is maintained. Having separate work and personal accounts for these networks can be beneficial and locking down personal Facebook accounts so that they may only be viewed by friends and family is recommended. This helps to ensure that personal views do not influence professional practice and professional reputation and perception by others are preserved.

Social media can be a great marketing tool to get feedback from the community and announce new organisational initiatives (e.g. a recruitment drive) and achievements (e.g. attaining an Outstanding rating from the Care Quality Commission).