Sometimes at work we can get a little … backed up. When things aren’t flowing properly, it can be uncomfortable, to say the least. Fortunately, all it takes to get things moving again is the proper alignment and technique.
Every organization lives and dies according to how it moves information from one person, team, or department to another. A kink in the communications pipeline can have dramatic effects over time and make it difficult for workers to do their jobs properly. Consider the following quote from a paper published by the Institute for Public Relations: “The competitive advantage of strategic internal communication comes not only from the obvious benefits of employee satisfaction and productivity, but also from the positive contributions that well-informed employees can make to a company’s external public relations efforts.”
In fact, according to a study commissioned by Cisco and Forrester Research, 77 percent of respondents stated “if their company became known for rapid problem resolution and reduced delays in internal communications, customer satisfaction would improve.”
Proper internal communications—when critical information is accessible, free-flowing, and easy to find—help businesses succeed. Alternatively, tangled, messy internal communications can have the opposite effect. Lacking an effective strategy, employees can become disengaged from the business as a whole. And according to PDP Solutions, actively disengaged employees turns into productivity losses of about $450 to $550 billion.
With that in mind, here are a few tips and solutions to consider when streamlining your own internal communications and information flow.
Internal newsletters are great—except when they’re not. Admittedly, a lot of internal newsletters are not that great. They’re often routine, dull, and easily lost among the background noise of the workplace. Why else would the industry standard for e-newsletters be an abysmal 20 to 40 percent open rate? In other words, many companies sometimes struggle to have between one- and two-fifths of their employees read company newsletters, which can take days or weeks to compile.
Rather than continuously pumping out the same old content, why not scrap the old format and remold it into something your employees will not only open, but actually find to be useful? And to prove it can be done, you need look no further than how a Microsoft global advertising group increased engagement through shared storytelling.
The group not only reformatted its newsletter from a slow-drip email into a dynamic, organic, and crowd-sourced team site, but it restructured its content to be more engaging and dynamic. Through this restructure and reformat, the advertising group saw its employee engagement rates increase from 35 percent to 85 percent. That’s more than double the industry standard.
It does you no good to bottle up information. This is commonly portrayed as working in silos, which can stop work dead in its tracks. ClearCompany found through a survey that “97 percent of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project.” In other words, people have difficulty working when they don’t know what others are doing.
On the other hand, you can open up your workflow by working out loud. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, working out loud is exactly what it sounds like: In as much as you can, you make your work visible. You take notes in the open. You create projects openly. You provide feedback in the open. There are, of course, exceptions (some degree of privacy and discretion is always necessary), but you try to abide by the philosophy that company information is better when it’s freed from silos and accessible by all.
Granted, this way of working does require some acclimation among you and your employees. After a short while, though, you will begin to see the benefits of unchaining information and processes. Working out loud helps push new, innovative ideas to the forefront. It allows employees to evolve their work on the fly. It helps bind your company around a common purpose.
There’s an old expression that says when you have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. This is often the case with internal communications tools. At work, there are many types of communications, but we often try to pigeonhole all of our messages—regardless of length, tone, and urgency—into the inbox. In that way, we’ve stripped the sanctity of email and tried to force it to do things it was never built for.
A simpler, better option, is to divvy up communication based on the tool that best suits it. This means dividing communications into conversations (informal), creative tasks (work), and consumption (formal publishing). At Carpool, we call this process compartmentalization, which is a fancy way of saying we allow our tools to work for us and suit our needs, rather than trying to make our needs fit the tool
For example, we don’t hold large discussions over email, but instead house those conversations on our enterprise social network. We don’t issue a newsletter, but instead encourage employees to publish articles via the Carpool Team Site.
Using this principle, we avoid the pitfalls of an overextended, myopic communication strategy, and unchain the communications that were once held back by email.