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Communication at work is less about talking and more about connecting. The first order of business when entering the civilian sector is to learn how your specific organization prefers to connect. Are they email-happy, phone call-driven, or do they prefer to meet in person on a regular basis? Most likely you’ll encounter a solid mix of these communication options, but learning your company’s preferred style is a crucial first step in effectively communicating with civilian employees. Once you know the style, you can then leverage your military training to enhance it. Here are five ways to maximize effective communication in the workplace.

Be Concise
The first rule of any type of communication in business is to be concise. Many workers are so inundated with emails and meeting invites that they’re not reading them or constantly canceling. If you want to encourage a response, get to the point as fast as possible. As a Veteran, brevity in communication is your strong suit. Use bullet points in emails to let them know exactly what you need in a format that’s easy to skim. For meetings, create a meeting agenda that keeps you on schedule. If you build a reputation of sticking to your meeting timelines, your co-workers know they can expect to end when you say they will. This makes it easier for them to plan around their busy schedules.

Follow Up
So you sent that super concise email and kept to your strict meeting agenda. Still, you’re not getting any movement from your colleagues. When people are sent too much communication they have to prioritize. Unfortunately, this means that sometimes tasks go unanswered and undone. When this happens, understand that your co-workers aren’t being rude on purpose when they ignore your initial request. They’re simply busy. By sending a reminder you’re more likely to get the response you need. Instead of typing the familiar “Just Following Up” subject line, use this opportunity to state clearly what you need and when you need it. In the body of the email, continue your short sentence structure and include again the deadline of your request. You now have on record that you’ve communicated your needs more than once.

Influence Without Authority
Unlike the military where the line of leadership is relatively clear, the civilian sector can sometimes be ambiguous. Employees often wear many hats and have more than one boss. Sometimes this causes confusion as to who an employee’s loyalties are to. Here’s where you can practice influence without authority to help co-workers help you. The point of this is to build rapport through effective communication techniques that motivate (without forcing) colleagues to want to meet your deadline. A few ways to do this include:

  • Set upfront deadlines and expectations that work for their schedule
  • Learn something about your co-worker that doesn’t relate to work and then talking to them about it
  • Thank co-workers in public for their work

Be Predictable
One way the military was so efficient in communicating was by holding regular formations. By physically standing in formation, you were able to get the information you needed without distraction. Another reason it worked was because it was a predictable part of the job. In fact, when it came to what was expected of you, a lot about being a soldier was predictable. Use this same mentality with your communication at work. A good mantra to adopt: Always be on time, always end on time, and never cancel meetings. As mentioned above, build a reputation of sticking to your timelines. When you say a meeting will end at noon, end it at noon whether you met your objective or not. This will not only show your co-workers that you value their time, but it will also help you plan more efficiently for your next meeting — making you a more effective communicator.

Learn Technology
In business, some aspects of military communication are a benefit — and some aren’t. While in the service, you probably had your ‘little black book’ of appointments and important dates to remember. Your new workplace will require a much more streamlined approach to scheduling. Enter: The G Suite. This suite of Google tools is going to become your technology of choice in the business world, and learning to use it is essential in maximizing effective communication in the workplace. Tools like Google Calendar are especially helpful in keeping track of calendar items. A good rule of thumb in the civilian sector is if it isn’t on the calendar, don’t expect it to happen. Also, check out what Google is doing to match Veterans with suitable civilian careers.

SAVI believes that successful integration into the civilian workplace is a reality attainable for every Veteran. Contact us today to learn how we can support your transition by helping you capitalize on the skills you already have.

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