10 Ways to Improve Digital Communication in the Workplace
Communicating in the digital workplace is an integral component of any modern organization. Today, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many of us to work remotely, it’s taken on even greater significance with the majority of the communication between employees happening digitally.
Employees use daily communications tools like email, collaboration software, video and voice chat, among other ubiquitous technologies. However, they are often so bombarded with communications that relevant data is lost in the shuffle. That’s why companies must formulate a digital communications strategy that fosters true interaction and limits the white noise. It’s the only way to maximize the employee experience at a time like this.
Here are a few strategies to get you started:
1. Introduce a new communications platform
Internal communications are easier than ever thanks to technological advancements in hardware and software systems. Platforms integrate widely available programs and display company information in a centralized hub that presents pertinent news in a clear manner. This saves each user from having to check multiple applications or web servers and decipher what pertains to them. Furthermore, these platforms can place departments or groups of employees into special categories that receive targeted data. Since less of their time is devoted to mindless busywork or sifting through data, your employees’ productivity and engagement increases.
Be sure that the platform you pick can meet your company’s specific needs. Your solution of choice should be a comprehensive employee communications tool that prioritizes the employee experience. It incorporates popular social media functionality into an elegant, understandable user interface. Users are able to network and collaborate seamlessly while managers process feedback and analyze back-end data.
2. Train employees on the platform
Improperly trained users can render even the most comprehensive communications toolsets inadequate. You need to be prepared to roll out detailed training to all employees who will be using the platform. Get everyone familiarized with the functions of the new technology and what areas will be specifically useful to certain departments. Once employees are comfortable with navigation and how to execute important processes, stress and anxiety over the system changes subside. Then the true benefits of the new platform are realized.
The best way to make a training program that fits the needs of your company is to ensure your new platform is well-documented and supported. Your training team needs to fully understand its capabilities. That’s why it’s so important that your vendor of choice provides detailed guides on every aspect of the social intranet. For any question not covered, you should be able to speak to a qualified customer service professional to provide your training team with the info necessary to formulate a great training course.
3. Have important conversations face to face
It may sound odd in an article about digital communication in the workplace to mention face-to-face communication, particularly while so many of us are stuck at home, but it is still extremely important. Emails and other forms of text communication lack important visual social queues that clue recipients in about aspects such as urgency. A research, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, shows that face-to-face requests are nearly 35 times more likely to get accomplished. Emails fall through the cracks and go unseen, while face-to-face meetings aren’t forgotten so easily.
Sometimes, especially now with so many of us working remotely, you can’t stroll down the hallway to have a face-to-face chat with an employee. These are the situations where you would employ video chat technology. People still get important visual cues and the detailed information this way. They also benefit from the social interaction that so many of us are craving while being quarantined.
4. Communicate, but be efficient and thoughtful
Workers spend an average of 209 minutes every day checking their emails. In fact, according to a recent report from Workfront, 53% of employees say that “excessive emails” are a major issue that reduces productivity. Before sending out a digital communication, consider whether it is necessary. Look through your scheduled daily communications and see if any reports can be consolidated or even eliminated.
Ask for employee feedback. If you’re using an intranet platform that has feedback capabilities, take advantage of surveys or comment boards and put the question out to your employees. You may glean insights as to what information is unnecessary.
5. Be direct and professional
Everybody loves a good cat meme once in a while, but remember that every minute an employee spends searching for the perfect reaction GIF is a minute lost to distraction. Keep it professional and avoid wordy digital communication in the workplace.
The interaction seems more genuine when face-to-face. Try to keep general personal conversations (e.g., How was your weekend?) to face-to-face meetings when possible. If you start sending these types of personal communications, you’ll start to have the same problem as you did above – over-communicating and overwhelming your employees.
6. Schedule communications appropriately
Managers who regularly send out emails after working hours may be doing their employees more harm than good. Even if the manager doesn’t expect a response until the next day, workers could feel pressured to respond immediately anyway – especially now with so many of us spending much of our day online to help cope with isolation. This increases stress and anxiety levels during a crisis that is already challenging enough. Plan your communications accordingly.
Just because a manager is working after hours, doesn’t mean they have to reach out to hourly employees during that time. Many platforms have calendars and scheduling integrations. Communications can be prepared at any time and then sent out in the morning during typical business hours.
7. Have a plan for urgent messages
Sometimes, a project will need an urgent update or a more immediate response than usual. These high priority communications should be differentiated from standard messages in some way. Otherwise, they may be treated as common and put on the backburner.
Use different channels, such as voice or video calls. This conveys a sense of importance that a red “tick” on the side of an email simply cannot.
8. Give and receive feedback regularly
Communication is a two-way street. Managers and lower-level employees need to be on the same page. Research shows that businesses that have consistent feedback policies experience nearly 15% less turnover than those who do not.
Consistency is the key. Managers should have weekly feedback sessions with their employees where they are encouraged to discuss thoughts on recent projects, issues, ideas and more. This establishes an open work environment that promotes teamwork, problem-solving and strong relationships between employees and upper management.
9. Encourage connections between employees
Teamwork helps develop employees’ problem-solving and communication skills while providing opportunities for engagement with their peers. Encourage this mindset so that everybody is pushing together cohesively toward the common goal.
Assign projects to groups of employees rather than individuals when practical. When projects are completed, have employees present them to others. Whichever platform you ultimately choose should provide a fun, social media-inspired framework where people can comment and show appreciation for others’ efforts.
10. Align communications with company’s goals
Be more transparent internally and communicate with your team about business goals. Salespeople in the loop about important metrics are more motivated to meet them. Discuss roadblocks, updates on competitors and important achievements on a regular basis.
Don’t introduce new business practices without reporting on the logic behind the changes. Involve employees in new marketing campaigns and gather feedback. Make the lines of communication between management and employees more defined. Let business goals be more transparent and get employees to buy in on achieving them.
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