9 Ways to Improve Communication Across Your Organization
Few things hinder the success of your organization more than poor internal communications. It leads to:
- Poor employee morale
- High turnover
- Lower productivity
- And can also make a serious dent in your company’s bottom line
Nobody wants that! So what can you do about it?
I've compiled a list of tips for boosting your company's internal communications – from cutting out wasteful meetings and stepping up your content efforts, to researching helpful software options and placing special emphasis on team building.
Take a few minutes to check out these ideas, then share them with your team. You’ll be glad you did.
1. Assess your current internal communication strategy.
Communication problems within a company can be pretty easy to spot. Even if you think your communication strategy is working pretty well, there are undoubtedly areas that could use some attention.
Your company’s not alone, though, just take a look at this research:
PC: Dynamic Signal
While every organization is different, your communication strategy should accomplish the following:
- Provide a clear plan for consistently communicating with your employees and how to achieve your business goals through it
- Define which internal communication methods you’ll use and how you’ll measure their effectiveness
- Enable your internal communications team to focus on activities that will bring the biggest benefit
How to Tweak Your Plan
It’s important to make sure your communications strategy is aligned with your business goals. (If your organization doesn’t have a clear business strategy, stop reading this article and work with your team to create one.)
Make a list of your communication strengths and weaknesses. Gather data to show how close (or far) the current plan has come to helping you achieve your goals and what you need to close the gap. These items could include a bigger budget, a formal process, a new internal communications tool, a bigger team, or simply a reorganization of your existing resources.
Use the data you collect to “sell” your organization’s leadership on the updated plan, then implement the amended plan, making to sure to track engagement – email opens, clicks, social reactions, and other metrics.
Action Item: Talk to the people who use your communications plan. Conduct group interviews with teams or groups of team leaders, and consider allowing team members to respond anonymously via surveys.
These interviews and surveys will give you valuable insights into how your communications are working, what topics need attention, employee moral, and much more. Then take that information and apply it to your strategy.
2. Optimize your meeting strategy.
Most organizations assume meetings are necessary for maximizing communication and productivity. There is some truth to that.
The problem, though, is that 37% of meetings provide absolutely no value and can actually be counterproductive.
Make your meetings meaningful.
Wasteful meetings lead to wasted employee hours and wasted company dollars (and low morale), so consider these tips:
- Do not use meetings to share routine information. Instead, share that info via memo, email, Slack, or some other internal communications tool.
- Establish a goal for each meeting. If there is no goal for a particular meeting, cancel the meeting.
- Limit attendees at each meeting to only those team members who are responsible for achieving the goal of the meeting.
- Set a time limit for each meeting. Try to find ways to shrink the time limits of future meetings.
- Provide any pertinent materials to attendees before each meeting. Ask that they review the materials thoroughly before attending.
- Keep cell phones and laptops out of each meeting—unless they are needed to achieve the goal of the meeting.
- End each meeting with a clear plan. Do not schedule a follow-up meeting if pertinent information can be shared later via another method.
Action Item: Consider encouraging your teams to conduct short (5 to 10 minute) scrums each morning where they discuss what they’ll be working on that day, any help they might need, and any team announcements that might affect them.
I’ve worked with companies that utilize daily scrums, and I’ve found they provide many benefits, one of which was eliminating the need for other, longer meetings.
3. Conduct regular 1:1 meetings with team members.
While you should strive to reduce wasteful team meetings, you’ll likely benefit from more one-on-one meetings between leaders and team members. These meetings will build trust with employees, making them feel more engaged, more productive, and less likely to look for employment elsewhere.
One-on-one meetings are a great way for managers to ask employees in-depth questions, offer feedback, provide training, and try to resolve any challenges team members may be dealing with. Employees can use these meetings to ask questions of their own, express concerns, gain a better understanding of how the business operates, share ideas, and discuss their career goals.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how often (quarterly, monthly, weekly, daily, etc.) managers and employees should meet, but it’s safe to say that once a year during an employee’s annual performance review is not often enough.
Schedule meetings as often as needed, and set aside extra time to meet with quiet, unhappy, and problem employees. A little one-on-one time will go a long way toward clearing up misunderstandings and solving problems!
Action Item: If you unsure how to structure your meetings, consider starting with a few quick questions like these:
- How do you feel at work. Do you feel valued?
- Are you meeting your goals? If not, why?
- What are you most excited about?
- What are you least excited about?
- How can I help you be more successful?
After you’ve had a few successful meetings, consider letting your employees set the agenda. This can save time and further boost your employees’ trust and engagement.
4. Involve your team members in the creation of internal content.
“Content marketing” is creating blogs, guides, emails, videos, etc. that share helpful and valuable information with your customers. The goal of content content marketing is usually to improve your reputation or increase your revenue, but it works internally, too.
In fact, if your company publishes an employee newsletter sends out regular email blasts, or uses an intranet, you’re already using internal content marketing. The trouble is, if you’re like most companies, you’re not using it to its full potential.
Create a culture of content.
By creating a steady stream of valuable and useful content, you can help your people do their jobs better. You can also build trust and relationships within your team, thus improving communication across your entire organization.
The more employees you involve in creating content, the more your organization will be focused on its goals. And the more your organization is focused on its goals, the more successful it will be.
Whether you’re looking to create training videos for your marketers or a series of instructional podcasts your salespeople can listen to while they’re on the road, the goal is getting your people—all of your people—to participate.
Action Item: Getting everybody on your team to buy in to content creation can be a challenge, but it’s easier when you meet them where they are.
The goal is to leverage the perspective and expertise of your team members without them feeling rushed, or like they have to do a bunch of heavy lifting.
Here are some ideas:
- Have a Q&A session with them about their work, and compile their answers into blog posts
- Record interviews with them for podcasts, or to create articles
- Shoot video of them to use on YouTube or social media
- If they’re willing to write, help them come up with topics
5. Leverage technology to enhance your team’s communication.
Poor communication leads to low employee engagement, and low employee engagement is a huge problem. In fact, only 30% of employees say they’re engaged at work. More than half say they aren’t engaged, and nearly 20% would describe themselves as “actively disengaged.”
While the levels of disengagement are eye-opening, the feedback gap is even greater, with 62% of employees saying they don’t receive as much feedback as they need.
Thankfully, there are numerous technology solutions that can help your business improve team communication, employee engagement, and the bottom line. Here are just a few:
- CRM (customer relationship management) software is a central platform that allows team members to manage and share customer data, as well as collaborate on various tasks related to marketing, sales, customer support, and vendor relationships
- Digital workspaces emphasize interaction and innovation, allowing teams to create and share content and conversation
- Online collaboration software platforms like Slack, Basecamp, and Asana help team members manage assets, projects, tasks, and overall workflow
- Business apps like Text Request can enhance how your team members communicate with each other, as well as with current and prospective customers
- Intranet software now draws inspiration from social media, providing organizations with a user-friendly internal hub that allows employees and leaders to share information, brainstorm ideas, and build a sense of community in a relaxed setting
PC: Hyper Office
Action Item: While you’re pondering which software solutions will best boost your employee communication and engagement levels, consider expanding your telecommuting options.
The number of Americans working virtually has increased by more than 30 million since 2010, and a whopping 82% of these employees report that they experience less stress, while 80% say they have higher morale, and 69% miss fewer days of work.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Remote Working
6. Share bad news quickly and clearly.
Do you have to lay off some people? Did you lose a big client? Are you unable to give raises this year? Do you have to discontinue certain benefits or perks that your employees currently enjoy?
Every organization has to deliver bad news from time to time. How you share that news can either reinforce or compromise the trust that should be at the core of your communications plan.
In fact, as this (lengthy but valuable) video explains, it’s possible to deliver bad news and build trust at the same time:
Use these tips to make bad news more bearable.
- Be prompt, clear, and thorough. Don’t hide from your people, beat around the bush, or try to spin the news (like some companies I’ve seen) by sneaking it in at the end of an upbeat, unrelated team meeting or company-wide email message.
- Seek to take responsibility rather than placing blame.
- Explain how the company plans to respond. Make sure the company follows through with those plans.
- Give your team members time to process the information. Let them ask questions, and vent, if needed. Listen to what they have to say, and be empathetic and encouraging (but also honest and transparent).
Action Item: It’s not a matter of if you will ever have to share bad news with your people, but when. With that in mind, it’s always good to be prepared.
Meet with your fellow leaders to practice delivering (and receiving) bad news. Put a game plan together for the inevitable. Give and accept constructive criticism, and designate specific spokespeople to be the point persons for the various potential issues that may arise.
7. Place an emphasis on team-building activities.
Team-building activities often get a bad rap. Employees roll their eyes at the thought of being forced to participate in silly activities, and leaders questions whether it’s worth the time and money.
That viewpoint is shortsighted, though. Team-building activities don’t have to be silly, and there are several reasons why these activities are worth the investment:
- Team-building exercises break down communication barriers between team members. Employees get a chance to interact with peers and leaders with whom they might not interact much otherwise.
- This increased level of communication impacts your company on a daily basis. It boosts your organization’s levels of teamwork, innovation, and creativity for both solving problems and generating new ideas.
- Your team’s ability to work better together also increases individual performance.
Your team wasn't built in a day.
Organizations that treat team building like an annual afterthought are going to produce team members and leaders who think little of the concept. Instead of throwing together a workshop or picnic once a year, make team building a year-round part of your culture.
Here are a few ideas:
- Organize events for the whole company and just for smaller departments
- Encourage group projects within and across teams
- Identify conferences and retreats your employees can attend
- Create spaces around your office that encourage employee mingling
When it comes time to hold big, company- or department-wide team-building events, make sure to include fun activities (like these or others) as part of the agenda:
Action Item: Not all team-building activities have to produce “actionable insights” or “practical lessons” for your team to apply to their work. Simply going to a ballgame, or sharing a meal — without anyone even mentioning work — can bring everybody closer together as a team.
8. Reduce one-way communication.
Every organization needs strong leadership and clear directives from those at the top (otherwise) your mission can get fuzzy and your team can become confused). But if you lean too heavily on this one-way, top-down communication, you’ll miss valuable input from employees and hurt morale.
While it’s important for leaders to pass information and directives down the ladder, it’s equally important that they be willing to accept feedback, ideas, and questions that come back up the ladder.
A healthy blend of these communications provides a couple of key benefits:
- It ensures everybody feels like their voice is being heard, which increases productivity, a sense of belonging, and employee retention
- It cultivates useful feedback from (and about) team members and leaders
Action Item: During your next round of performance evaluations, consider using 360 reviews, which gathers information from a wide range of people each team member interacts with, including peers, supervisors, and customers.
PC: The Balance
9. Encourage employees to share information about themselves.
The more employees share their expertise with coworkers, the more their companies benefit from improved creativity, innovation, and performance. But employees often withhold knowledge from each other because they fear sharing could place excessive demands on their time, cause them to be criticized, or even cause them to lose their jobs.
To persuade employees to share their expertise without fear, start by encouraging them to share some information about themselves.
For example, at one company where I've worked, we devoted time during each weekly department meeting to ask a different employee ten questions based on a survey created by Bernard Pivot. There were always interesting and entertaining (if not downright hilarious) answers, and it always boosted the camaraderie and collaboration across our team.
Action Item: One quick way for your employees to learn about each other is to host staff profiles on your intranet or other internal communications channels. Encourage your team (including managers and other leaders) to open up about their lives (family, hobbies, activities, achievements, etc.) as well as their professional expertise.
These profiles can serve as valuable ice breakers that can help team members feel more comfortable when it comes to approaching others for help or collaborating on projects.
Communicating effectively can be difficult, especially if you work in a larger organization with tiers of management. But communicating effectively is also critical to building a healthy and thriving enterprise!
Take the nine steps in this guide back to your team, and discuss how you can begin to make positive changes in your own department and across your organization. It might just be the best decision you make.