Communication is today’s most important skill. People communicate via texting, emails, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and a million company-required apps. The options are endless, but all the options make streamlining processes in the workplace that much more difficult. Finding a way to get information across to colleagues can be inefficient, unclear, and frustrating.
Your employees (or American adults age 18 and over) spend an average of 25 hours a week on social media, according to a 2016 Nielsen report, meaning they likely place a high value on digital communication. Channel that value in a way that can get your messages across to your team in ways that can be rewarding and fruitful for your business. Here are five ways to make it happen.
1. Foster the right environment
Building a communication strategy that works starts with creating an environment conducive to open communication. Communication works both ways, as the cliché goes. Ensure your employees know they can come to you by both literally and metaphorically keeping your door open as often as possible. Your employees should know you are there to talk to them whenever they need. Before anything else, this is an important first step.
2. Look at the technology
Identify the technological modes of communication you are going to use and stick to them. Don’t overwhelm yourself or your team by choosing more than two. Of course, in-person talks should always be used for the most urgent tasks or notifications. Perhaps a phone call comes right after, followed by email as the third option, for example.
Make sure to keep these consistent across the entire team. We all know the feeling of being out of the loop. Everyone else in the room knows what is being discussed except for you, and as a manager, it is your job to make sure everyone is on the same page. So if you choose in-house messaging as one of your primary modes of communication, be sure to initiate a group chat everyone must use to keep all team members in the loop. It may be for something small, such as announcing you will be late to a meeting, or a larger issue. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to keep everyone in the know.
3. Encourage face-to-face communication first
As mentioned above, in-person communication is always preferable whenever possible. Many of us are guilty of messaging or emailing a person who might be in the cubicle next to us or in the office down the hall. The inherent value in face-to-face communication can get lost in other forms. Before picking up your phone, think for a moment about whether or not your message could merit an in-person interaction.
Many companies value deep work time in order to get work done. If a face-to-face meeting will disrupt a colleague, find another method of sharing information where employees can come together asynchronously. Try an internal messaging system like Slack or Hipchat, or collaborate around project objectives by using a project management tool that allows comments on tasks or activity logs. These tools give employees the freedom to control their work environment and stay connected at the same time.
4. Get creative
Sometimes there is no other choice than to send an email. But nothing is worse than the monotonous email, and if we are being honest, emails often go unread or are skimmed lightly. Keep your emails short and to the point, and use bullet points if possible.
If you really want your content to be read, spice it up with photos, videos, infographics, and other eye-catching graphics. Think of your emails as small presentations, to keep your colleagues engaged and passionate about your vision.
5. Take a 360 approach
Communication isn’t always about talking. Time is often wasted on figuring out where company files and information can be found. Spend the time to really go in and organize all shared files in one place for everyone to access. These don’t need to be limited to your internal organization.
Use a filesharing tool like Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive to share files with your clients or partners outside of your organization. Each allows you to control what content is shared with password-protected links and/or advanced access controls.
Most people find being in the office at all times unnecessary unless there’s an important meeting or another good reason to be together in person. There are countless situations where communication can happen electronically, but having a defined plan for communication is key to ensuring that everyone gets the message.
Neha Tandon is a writer for TechnologyAdvice. She is a graduate student of journalism at Syracuse University. With a background in marketing, PR, and advertising, her true passion is for business journalism.