How to Address Communication Skills in an Employee Evaluation


Good communication is essential for an effective, smoothly operating workplace. HR, team leads, managers, etc. are continually striving to strengthen and develop their team members and their team, as a whole. One challenge I hear about frequently is the issue of how to approach a team member about their communication skills when they are lacking. 

Doing this requires a level of sensitivity, since a "flaw" is being pointed out, and we all know how it feels when a weakness of ours is revealed. Also, you never know if you may be bringing to the surface an insecurity; one that you may not even be aware of, and the last thing you want to do is to alienate the person. By contrast, providing feedback, when approached in the right way, can work to strengthen relationships and instill in an employee even greater loyalty and comfort within the organization.

Here are some tips for addressing communication issues that not only show that you respect and value the person, but that they are worth investing in, both as an individual and as a team member.

1. Schedule a time to meet with the person for the purpose of reviewing their performance evaluation. Make sure that the meeting location is private, either in your office or an enclosed area where no other employees are present.

2. Begin by explaining to the employee that throughout the evaluation period you noticed them struggling to properly communicate with their co-workers, customers or managers orally. Do not state that the employee is bad at communicating or infer that they have a problem; simply state that you believe it's a weakness that they can fix.

3. Mention to the employee contexts in which you observed them having difficulty communicating orally. This provides evidence that they do struggle to convey their thoughts and ideas to people. Be specific; for example: "I noticed you made very little eye contact when talking with (a specific client);" "Sometimes you provide information that is vague and other times, you struggle with details and getting to the main point, for example, in Thursday's meeting;" "You often speak in a very low volume, speak fast, or mumble, making it hard for people to understand you."

Do not state that the employee is bad at communicating or infer that they have a problem; simply state that you believe it's a weakness that they can fix.

4. Explain the importance of oral communication. Tell the employee that a failure to communicate effectively can lead to misunderstandings between co-workers or customers and prevent the employee from fully expressing their ideas and unique perspective. Misunderstandings can cause delayed projects or result in improperly completed tasks. Explain that proper oral communication also makes the employee appear more confident and credible.

5. Instill confidence in the employee. Tell them that every one of us has weaknesses and that excellent communicators have learned to recognize and address theirs effectively. Assure them that you believe the areas they need development in are ones they can strengthen and grow. Talk about their strong work performance, or excellent work ethic, if applicable, and explain that better oral communication will help take them to the next level in their role.

7. Suggest that they would benefit from communication skills training that focuses on their unique challenges. Instill confidence, encourage, and support the person throughout the training period.

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