Avoid Communication Breakdowns in Your Office
By Karen Geier
There are times when the communications in every office feel like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange – pandemonium. Unfortunately, most offices are guilty of some kind of communication dysfunction. For all of your company’s efforts to streamline budgets and increase efficiency, when was the last time your company reviewed the framework by which your teams communicate? Every time something goes without an answer or needs to be repeated, that’s real company time being wasted, and time is money.
How can you effectively streamline internal communications in a way that leaves the fewest number of employees behind?
For Teams: Set the Stage for Communication
There are many different ways to communicate with teams and team members, but not all of them make sense for every office. If your teams are far-flung or used to telecommuting, you should look at the most effective avenues to get quick, effective communication between team members. This may involve eliminating ones that don’t fit or don’t have great uptake. This might mean your team needs to ditch voicemail.
Yes, it may seem harsh to eliminate one form of communication, but consider that millennial workers never check their voicemail, and that voicemail, with no real clock associated to responding, rewards team members for not replying in a timely fashion.
Another radical change you may want to make is to put a moratorium on certain times for in-person meetings if it means your team members don’t have enough time during work hours to tend to reams of correspondence.
Alternatively, you could put your teams on a scrum system: a rapid fire, rigorously timed period every morning where your team members update each other on the most pressing issues for a given project. This can help eliminate emails and eliminate larger meetings where the outcome will likely be the same as they would have been from a scrum.
For Team Members: Leverage Internal Messaging Products
Several products exist for instant messaging, but for maximum impact and uptake, you should consider having one or two preferred messaging systems.
Yammer – the paid, hierarchical option: Yammer is a messaging system that can automatically manage teams and allow you to assign who can message who centrally from an IT desk. It operates the same as any messaging system you may be familiar with, but allows for easier identification of team members you might not have met, or who are new to the company.
Yammer also lets you see lots of activity and conversations at a glance. You can post documents, and share feedback across groups. This allows you the speed and ease of a group chat with the paper trail of meeting minutes.
Google tools: If your team is small or your budget is smaller, Google has messaging and hangouts to help your team communicate. The Google solution involves three separate tools: GChat, Hangouts, and Google Docs collaboration. These tools work well together, but they aren’t as seamless as Yammer, and you don’t have the same ability to create teams easily or have a trail of updates in a timeline. Google has the advantage over Yammer in the real-time document collaboration solution, however. You can have multiple people view and edit any document stored in Google Docs easily.
For the Company: Getting Anonymous Feedback
Don’t neglect the one feedback loop you should be regularly monitoring: feedback. You should find a way to regularly solicit and compile anonymous, honest feedback from teams to get an understanding where as a company you could do better. You can do this simply with an anonymous form that allows employees to tell you their pain points, or if you’re trying to verify a strategy direction, you could create an anonymous quiz to encourage unencumbered feedback from employees. The people who live and breathe your company will know where the pain points are and will likely have good solutions you can build upon.
The most important part of the feedback loop is acting on the feedback. Even if you can’t change something big, change as many small things you notice that are feasible and you can engender respect from a staff that feels heard.
Communication is the most important thing to get right in an organization. If you don’t have the ability to get the right people to give the right message at the right time to stakeholders, you’re putting your company’s efficiency at risk. Insufficient or improper communication can also put your morale at risk and breed team cohesion problems that might fester and put projects off schedule or bring down the motivation of a team as a whole. Revisiting your team communication is essential. Don’t be afraid to take some methods off the table that don’t serve the team as a whole.