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Communication cultivates understanding and engagement. A recent Gallup poll showed that 70% of U.S. employees are not engaged at work. That’s a worrisome figure. It means that companies must do more internally to become more transparent, break down communication barriers and eradicate information silos that consistently hamper companies that would otherwise be poised for growth.
Companies that implement effective communication practices are more likely to have highly engaged employees. I’ve been running OpGen Media as a distributed team for three years, with full-time employees, contractors and an overseas research team. We’ve improved communications greatly by doing an annual in-person meetup, along with smaller ones throughout the year, and biweekly all-hands video calls. We centralize important communications in Asana, leaving email and Skype as secondary sources for internal or urgent matters when needed.
Here are a few of the tried-and-true steps that you can take to improve internal communication and facilitate the flow of information within your company.
1. Give your communications a home.
Removing barriers to information sharing is important. However, companies should still try to maintain a unified strategy toward improving engagement and communication across their teams. While your team will share information through numerous channels based on convenience — email, social media, Skype, Facebook Messenger, etc. — giving them a unified hub for collecting relevant information, sharing important updates and tracking milestones is critical. For remote teams, it’s incredibly important that you have a central hub for your communications.
Using a unified project management or collaboration system gives your important business information a home. A lot of communication will take place outside of those systems, which is completely fine, but having a centralized repository for important communication revolving around projects, clients, internal matters and more to archive for future reference will have a positive impact throughout your team.
2. Lead by example.
A culture of open communication and transparency has to start at the top. Everyone from the CEO to middle management to entry-level team members needs to work together to set the tone and create an environment where employees share information and opinions openly. If you expect your employees to practice clear and concise communication habits, those traits must be recognizable in your own communications.
Luckily, executives and managers have many opportunities to set the tone for their communication on a daily basis. You can convey how communication should be handled within your company in your written correspondence, the conversations that you have and the way you deliver both positive and negative information. Creating specific policies is important, but your own actions may have a bigger impact on how your teams react than policies would.
3. Develop educational content.
Misinformation can kill even the most strategic communication initiatives — even (or perhaps especially) well-intentioned misinformation. When an employee asks a question about the company or an internal process, there is a high probability that it is not the first time the question has been posed or thought of by a member of your team.
Instruct your teams to view common questions among your team as an opportunity to develop content and create standardized answers. As remote teams become increasingly common, it’s even more important that you have documentation in place to answer common questions. Without educational content, there is a higher likelihood that incidental misinformation and confusion will spread. Create content that provides direction, answers questions and spells out internal processes. A robust selection of internal documentation and educational content should be a part of every internal communications strategy.
4. Install a true open-door policy.
Even as a company with a distributed team, you can maintain an “open-door” policy that allows team members to feel comfortable coming to you. You’d be hard-pressed to find a company with effective internal communication practices where employees, at any level, are hesitant to approach management with concerns and ideas.
Encourage your employees to share ideas with one another, their team leads and management when the information is relevant. A true open-door policy doesn’t just improve the flow of information — it helps management spot highly engaged and motivated employees who may be suitable for future positions.
5. Create systems for collecting feedback.
Internal feedback is worth its weight in gold. But most feedback (positive and negative) with remote teams is either not shared at all, or is done so among employees in a more direct, private manner. The easier you can make it for employees to leave feedback, the more open your team will feel — and the closer you’ll get to the truth.
Teams, projects and departments should each have their systems for collecting feedback. Give employees the opportunity to share their thoughts at every level of your company and you’ll find that you identify areas for improvement and close communication gaps more regularly. Collecting and transparently utilizing the feedback that you receive will boost morale and improve the flow of information within your company.
Take a company-wide approach.
Companies that enjoy excellent internal communication start with a company-wide approach. From the CEO down to middle management and entry-level team members — the way that you deliver information to your employees sets the standard and defines expectations. A consistent strategy paired with the right systems can help companies to revamp their communications practices and create a happier, more effective workforce.
April 29, 2019 at 09:06AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs