Effective Internal Communications is Everyone’s Responsibility

During a discovery interview last week, a senior executive noted that if the communications team was left to manage this particular communications initiative, the outcome of the project was going to be far too narrow. His point was that internal communications is a company-wide issue rather than the prerogative of a single department. And as Jocabim Mugatu so wisely allowed in Zoolander, “he’s exactly right!”

Effective communications inside a company is the responsibility of every executive, every manager and every employee – everyone has a role. It’s leadership’s responsibility to prioritize the importance of consistent and appropriately transparent communications as well as ensuring that information is properly cascaded throughout the company. It’s the responsibility of managers to interpret the communications and relay it to front line and non-desk employees. It’s everyone’s responsibility to act on the communications and provide feedback whenever necessary.

To get this done, though, the communications team is critically important. Their role is to support business communications that enable the company to be as productive as possible. To provide the most effective channels for communications. And to ensure that barriers to open communications are minimized.

It starts with a keen understanding of the vision and values of the company’s leadership. What is the company trying to achieve? How will they go about it? How will individual employees and teams achieve the company’s goals? What do employees need to know on a daily basis to in order achieve the goals?

When an initiative or a significant change is happening, the communications team should understand how the initiative affects various demographics throughout the company – from business leaders to front line sales to production floor employees. It’s rarely a one-size-fits-all conversation. While everyone doesn’t need to know everything, there should be a broad understanding of what the company is doing, and how the initiative helps achieve company goals. There should be an understanding of how employees’ individual roles contribute to the success of the initiative.

Communications channels are a key consideration and will likely be different based on the target audience and the type of message. There are a number of questions that should be answered. Do employees use computers for their work? Do they have access to the company intranet? Do they have a dedicated email address? Do they have mobile access? What are the realities of the work environment? How involved or complicated is the message? Knowledge of the effectiveness of various channels for different types of employees (and for different kinds of communications) will minimize communications roadblocks.

The tone and positioning of the message must be appropriate given the subject matter and audience. Is this a serious communication? Clearly, it’s not appropriate to be too terribly funny when messages might have a negative impact on employees’ livelihoods. However, there are many times when a novel channel approach or a witty headline might help the message get through to employees. Keep in mind that these communications have a lot of competition for mindshare – even in the work place.

Finally, we should ensure that the communication worked as intended. Many times this will be obvious based on the actions of employees. Other times, internal research is required to measure improvement to understand if the message or changes are taking place as intended.

So yes, the entire company is responsible for effective internal communications. Most often though, having a skilled communications professional on board will ensure that the communications work as planned. Tribe can help.

Involving home-based employees in collaboration efforts

Promoting a culture of collaboration is hard enough when employees are all in the same place. Even companies with only one location can be so siloed that people in the same building but different functional areas resist collaborating.

So how do you get employees working from home to collaborate with others? That starts with laying some groundwork that will be the foundation of future collaboration.

Employees are more likely to collaborate with people they know. In Tribe’s national research with employees of large companies, respondents told us they feel much more comfortable sharing ideas when they already have a relationship with their collaborative partners.

Home-based employees don’t get the opportunity to bump into people in the hallway. While office-based employees may exchange a few words in the elevator, the break room or the cafeteria, home-based folks probably see the UPS guy more than their co-workers.

Building human connections happens one conversation at a time. But even just having a face to attach to a name seems to help. In our research, employees said they’re better able to collaborate by phone and email with colleagues in other locations when they’ve met them in person at least once.

It’s important to provide home-based employees with opportunities to brush shoulders with their office-based colleagues. For major projects, try to have them attend some meetings in person, even if that means travel. If there’s an annual managers’ meeting or sales conference, they can build the beginnings of relationships there, especially during the non-meeting portions of the meeting where people have an opportunity to interact socially.

Another brick in the foundation for collaboration is to help home-based employees not feel invisible. Being the only voice on the Polycom phone in the center of the conference room table is tough when all the other meeting participants can see each other. Promote a meeting culture that’s consciously inclusive of remote callers and gives them a chance to weigh in on the conversation.

If there are company events they don’t customarily attend because of travel, don’t forget your home-based employees exist. When Tribe helped plan a global employee event that occurred on the same day in 28 offices around the world, we sent the small minority of home-based employees an event in a box. They received a package (no doubt delivered by their buddy the UPS guy) that included the same T-shirt everyone else received at the event, plus the themed collateral, printed buttons, a noisemaker and even a cookie.

Those sorts of tactics may not seem directly tied to promoting collaboration. They may even feel a little fluffy. But you can’t just tell people “Okay, now collaborate.” First, you have to help them feel comfortable doing so. Not so ironically, there’s a clear business benefit to treating all those office-based employees with common courtesy and kindness.

Interested in building engagement and collaboration in your work force? Tribe can help.

 

Slack: An app for the slacker in all of us

Slack is an app that just hit the market last February. The brainchild of Flikr.com founder and Silicon Valley celeb, Stewart Butterfield, the app promised to make “working life simpler, more pleasant and more productive.” It caught on quickly, with early adoption from companies like Sandwich Video and Buzzfeed, and started making waves in the tech world. It’s one of those ideas that is so simple, it’s surprising that no one beat them to the punch.

It organizes all of your messages in one, searchable portal. Slack is team communications for the 21st century, as they put it. It takes your email, G-Chat, and any other messaging system your company is using and creates channels based on content and teams.

To fans of the TV show, The Office, it might sound similar to Ryan Howard’s app WUPHF. But it’s a bit more refined than that.

Some big names are using Slack. Including The New York Times, airbnb, and Spotify. Their clientele consists mainly of younger companies that presumably have more of a penchant for emerging tech. The app is organized through hashtags, so it seems to be geared toward employees that are familiar with the interface and cadence of social media correspondence. Something to keep in mind for companies considering it, but it feels like the enterprise social trend is becoming the norm.

In a little over a year, the company’s value has doubled. On the one year anniversary of its launch, Slack announced that they sign $1 million in new contracts every 11 days. We live in a world of inflated valuation, especially in start-up tech companies, but just look at those numbers. This is real growth showing great promise in markets across the world. It doesn’t seem to be a flash in the pan.

If your company needs a way to streamline all of your company’s communication channels, Slack might work for you. It integrates with almost everything, including Dropbox, Google Hangouts, Twitter and MailChimp, and by all accounts it works very well in a variety of fast-paced business environments. It’s a simple, intuitive platform that has caught on for a reason. The best part? You can use Slack Lite with your company for free, with unlimited users until you decide to upgrade (which they assure you will).