While companies understandably focus much of their energy to control and their outward communications and amplifying key marketing messages, the relevance of good internal relations can sometimes be forgotten. This is a huge mistake that can present a serious obstacle to profit-making and company growth if it’s not proactively corrected.
Improving internal communications is often a matter of attitude and awareness, so good managers and team leaders would be wise to explore some creative ways to stimulate an open exchange of ideas and opinions. Borrowing successful techniques that were demonstrated to be effective in similarly sized companies is a smart approach, and it’s easy enough to adjust them to fit the situation.
This article will discuss some methods for facilitating easier team communication between co-workers without requiring a huge amount of effort or a big budget.
It’s much easier to talk to someone when you know their name, which is why in large business systems wearing a badge or card with the person’s name and position clearly displayed should be mandatory. This allows people from different departments to address each other in a more personal manner, eventually contributing to easier relationship building. New employees in particular benefit a great deal from this measure as it gives them a quick way to learn the identities of their new teammates.
Short daily meetings designed to quickly touch on all matters affecting the team are a popular way to boost engagement and avoid critical instances of miscommunication. Such meetings can last only ten to fifteen minutes, which is more than enough for everyone to say what’s on their mind. Skillful managers can help team members to open up with well-conceived check-in questions, or lead the course of the meeting towards a tangible business objective.
It’s natural for people in lower positions to be very careful what they say at work, especially if they know that others had previously been fired for expressing their complaints. When a culture of fear takes hold of the office, it can be very difficult to reverse or resist. The initiative to install a more tolerant culture must come from the top management level, and be supported by actions and not just statements. Once established, open communication style can persist and easily motivates new employees to adopt it.
Social networks are the most powerful relationship-building tool that exists, but the extent of their use within a professional context is often debated. Workers should still be allowed to maintain their privacy and shouldn’t be forced to add people from work as friends, but organic connections are very desirable. Environments where co-workers frequently communicate through social media or mobile apps are usually more welcoming and characterized by better interpersonal relations.
It’s highly important that every worker has access to his superiors and understands that he can talk with a manager confidentially. A good way to instill this knowledge is to set up a weekly session when any worker can come to the manager’s office to discuss any private or professional problem. There are numerous issues that people might not be comfortable stating publically, and having a formal window of time to address them may be extremely helpful.
There are many fun activities that can be performed collectively, either in the office or at a neutral external location. In fact, larger companies may even hire a teambuilding agency to help them organize retreats, trainings, company parties, or other events that bring the entire workforce together. Similar activities can also help smaller teams to establish deeper connections and learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of each member.
Allowing the employees to occasionally take some time off to do something they love is good business. Letting them promote their hobbies and congratulate their successes in them is a big step towards having a worker-friendly office. Most people have multiple interests and they are likely to be more balanced and happier at work when they are able to pursue them. Additionally, this provides plenty of convenient conversation starters when employees from different offices or departments meet.
Anonymous feedback tends to be the most direct, and sometimes is the only way to discover the truth on particularly sensitive matters or receive bold proposals. It can be facilitated in various ways, from simply putting a suggestion box in the hall to using sophisticated software solutions. For this technique to be effective, it’s necessary to encourage people to use the available anonymous input mechanism and make it absolutely clear who will see the messages submitted through it.
This is another old-school trick that can be even more impressive in the digital era. Creating a company newsletter on a weekly or monthly level is a great way to stimulate discussion about important topics and keep the entire staff well-informed at all times. Digital newsletters can include photos and multimedia, and can be distributed instantly through e-mail or another channel. The content can evolve over time based on which items are drawing the most attention and driving the most engagement.
A single person can poison the atmosphere of the entire company, especially if placed in a position of power. Any serious business must have policies in place to prevent individuals from using an abusive vocabulary, discriminating based on any factor, or intimidating others either directly or indirectly. All employees should be encouraged to immediately report such behavior and to support colleagues who decide to speak out against bullying or mobbing.
Who is responsible for deciding how to improve internal communications in a company?
Larger companies might have a high-level position of Chief Communications Officer (CCO), which carries the responsibility for both internal and external communications. In smaller companies, an HR executive or a PR chief might take that role. Ultimately, the CEO and ownership must also take part in defining and enforcing the major internal rules.
What are the greatest risks when attempting to develop internal communication procedures?
Poorly designed or implemented policies are at risk of being largely ignored by the employees, or respected merely to satisfy the form. Another risk is that information bottlenecks might occur, preventing different departments or teams from effectively sharing valuable ideas or fresh updates.
Is formal or informal communication a better approach in a corporate context?
The need for formalization grows in direct proportion to company size. Companies that have only a few dozen employees can function very well even without having too many official communication policies. On the other hand, huge businesses with hundreds of workers and multiple locations must implement clearly defined procedures to avoid complete chaos and disorganization.
Modern generation of business people and managers is much better educated about the value of internal communications for long-term success. At the same time, the most skilled employees are increasingly gravitating towards environments in which they can feel more relaxed and act more naturally. This is why companies should be open to adopting any measures designed to increase either the volume or the quality of direct interactions between co-workers. Achieving harmony is never easy and may take some time, but it’s possible with the right mindset and an appropriate methodology.