Successful communication in the workplace gives your employees the information they need to perform their roles. It’s also critical for effective teamwork and for building trust and commitment. In other words, communication is fundamental to the success of your organization, and a lot of it is facilitated by digital tools today.
This is especially true in the context of COVID-19, where dispersed teams and work-at-home arrangements have seen employees relying on digital platforms more than ever. Over-communication, inappropriate usage, and security can be some of the hurdles facing any digital-communication strategy.
Here, we look at the best tips for encouraging efficient, effective digital communication among your staff:
1. Choose the right tools
It almost goes without saying, but which is the right platform for your workplace will depend on your needs. In addition to the ubiquitous email client, your business could benefit from several or all of the following platforms, channels, or features:
- Instant messaging and chat, with private group chat features
- Intranet and internal blog and digital bulletin board
- Discussion forums
- Project collaboration
- Video conferencing/meetings
Not surprisingly, too many platforms can overwhelm your staff, making it a challenge for them to filter and identify the messages relevant to them. If you can find a platform integrating most or all of the channels you need, your team will find it much easier, as they’ll have fewer platforms to check and keep track of.
Similarly, some of these might integrate with each other, offering features like centralized hubs to streamline updates and messages. Generally speaking, focusing on two or three channels or one unifying platform could encourage more efficient communication, less distraction, and higher productivity.
2. Provide staff with training
Adoption of new digital-communication tools can at times be challenging. In some organizations, employees can be sceptical about new technology. As such, avoid leaving it to your team to embrace new communication tools, and keep in mind certain platforms might not always be user-friendly.
Offer training so your employees can maximize utility from the platforms you’ve invested in. Feature explanations, along with examples of use cases for individual departments or team members, could encourage usage. Provide detailed reference guides and/or access to a help desk to support ongoing learning. Making certain everyone understands how to perform key processes will reduce frustration and resistance with embracing new platforms.
3. Guide communications with best-practice rules
Training is essential for uptake, but if you want employees to continue using your platforms appropriately, best-practice guidelines and rules are a good idea. These rules can minimize team members getting messages or communications that aren’t relevant to them. Consider setting out the following:
- Channel rules – Offer usage guidelines for different channels. For example, you might specify that private chat is the best for ad hoc clarifications and discussions, while posts should be used to share information relevant to the whole team.
- Consolidate messages – Digital communication is fast, convenient, and easily replicable. On the other hand, over-communication can be a common pitfall when it comes to your team’s digital interactions. You could have a guideline encouraging staff to consolidate their chat messages, emails, or group posts. This can ensure team members aren’t bombarded with multiple items in quick succession, which, if left unchecked, could lead to distraction and prevent work from getting done.
- Language and tone – If appropriate, encourage staff to adhere to a succinct, professional tone with their communications. This can make messages shorter and easier to read while encouraging a collegial culture.
- Urgent communications – Provide responsiveness standards for urgent situations where team members need a quick response. Set out how priority conversations should be highlighted or what channels they should go through.
- Notifications settings – Notifications are important, but they can be a source of distraction. For instance, a majority of employees find staying on top of notifications to be a waste of time. Establish notification policies to minimize time-wasting distractions while enabling the relevant notifications to get through to given team members. These can include disabling certain team/channel mentions, channel notifications, and muting chats.
At the same time, as a leader or manager, you can support your staff in their adoption of new platforms with an empathetic approach. This can minimize friction, frustration, and misunderstandings that can easily arise with digital team communications. Also, lead by example with articulate, precise communications that are adapted to each platform or channel.
4. Establish clear governance policies
Governance policies are additional rules that could further enhance your digital communications framework and support better efficiency and security. For example, you’ll want to be clear about who can establish new groups for teams and introduce new channels. Rules about whether and when staff can introduce external users (such as contractors for the organization) can be useful for protecting confidential data, including customer information.
These types of rules could come with guidelines on permissions to be granted to these external users. Other governance policies could include those dealing with team communications on unapproved apps or external websites. You could specify that, for example, staff only use approved, reputable encrypted apps for work purposes.
5. Seek feedback
You won’t know how well your digital communications setup is working if you don’t obtain feedback from your team. Ask your employees about their views on the tools and channels they’re using, and encourage them to provide their honest opinions on your communication policies and guidelines. Use apps, surveys, and boards to invite staff to provide their perspectives on what you could do to improve the setup. Review their comments and adjust or change your tools and policies if appropriate. You can also gain insights to drive necessary adjustments by collating and analyzing back-end data on team usage from your digital channels and platforms.
Whether your company is a small business or a large enterprise, your digital communications channels probably play a fundamental role in staff productivity and collaboration. Choosing the right platforms and training your staff to use them are starting points. Establishing usage rules and governance policies are another essential element in your digital communications strategy. Finally, seeking feedback from your team and making the necessary adjustments are also important for maintaining staff engagement and productivity.