In a world where we are swimming in different ways to communicate with each other, doesn’t it seem that we are sometimes lacking in this area? In working with my clients, one of the items business owners and leaders always want to address is this:
How do we improve our internal communications?
The answer is normally much easier than people think. Here are 10 ways you can completely change the communication culture within your office…for the better.
Set communication standards. First and foremost, employees want to know the rules: what is and what isn’t acceptable. It makes sense. So, figure out what your communication policy needs to be, and lay it out to everyone. Make sure they know YOUR expectations with regard to communication. This isn’t just between employee and employer. This applies to employee/employee communication as well. Set the tone.
Create an internal, employee only, employee recognized vocabulary. We all want to be part of something special, something different, something that is “ours.” Set up your own jargon internally. Whether it be through fun, creative, or descriptive acronyms, or internal quotes that are repetitive and understood, it’s important to establish an internal language. For instance, anytime someone says “ABC,” I immediately think, “Always Be Closing.” Why? It’s fun AND memorable. Try it out.
Encourage “mingling.” We’ve been told, for the longest time, that business is business and personal is personal…and we should separate the two. BOLOGNA. It’s impossible to separate it (anyone with children KNOWS this is true). So, encourage mingling, encourage employees getting to know each other. It’s not a bad thing! This establishes an automatic trust and communication highway. It’s much easier to misinterpret someone when you don’t know who they are, where they come from, or what they are currently dealing with.
Keep one-way communication at a minimum. There are times when, as leaders, we must address big topics to the entire team. That is understood. Keep that to a minimum, though. Being “talked to” when you have zero chance to ask questions or respond is the antithesis of good communication. We all know it’s needed at times. Whenever possible, encourage discussions, Q&As, and the like.
Find ways to include introverts and “shy” individuals in a way that doesn’t make them feel put upon. Many times, we do our best to create a culture of communication, but we forget that some in the office struggle with it. Whether they don’t know how, or they just don’t like it, it’s important to ensure that their voices are heard as well. We tend to cater toward those who talk a lot, or the “squeaky wheel.” Ensure that both the lion AND the mouse have equal opportunities to be heard.
Encourage more face-to-face interaction. Email and text are so darn convenient, aren’t they? The problem is, you can’t read body language, vocal tone, or any of the other things that allow us to really understand what and how the other person is relaying the message through this written form. For instance, you can’t tell that right now I’m sticking my tongue out at you! Make sure that only small, unimportant or mundane discussions happen via text and email. Important items should always be communicated face to face, or through…
Weekly or monthly updates via video instead of email. Use video! It’s more personal than email, it shows that you took more time and put more thought into delivering the message, and people will enjoy it. Put together a weekly or monthly video for your team. Show them your personal side. After all, that’s what we want in communication, isn’t it?
Make communication consistent. In order to become effect with internal communication, employees need to know when to expect it. Yes, sometimes the off-schedule discussion needs to happen. Make sure that most of the communication, though, is something they can expect. Be consistent with the when and how.
Encourage open idea sharing. Your employees have ideas. Sometimes, those ideas are amazing. You’d never know that, though, if you don’t have a platform or system available for sharing ideas. Set up a system that easily allows them to share. I’m not talking about the “idea” box that is completely anonymous. I’m talking about an open platform that encourages idea sharing in a group setting. This gives employees a sense of ownership and it supports open discussion.
Encourage leadership/employee partnerships. Many times, in a lot of organizations, job descriptions don’t blend. The boss does what the boss does, and the employee does what the employee does. Why not, on occasion, set up partnerships on projects that enable both management and staff to work together on specific items? Give the employee the chance to learn from the leader. Give that leader the opportunity to openly communicate on a regular basis with someone with whom they otherwise might not.
It’s important that you get this communication thing right. Start today and create the kind of vibrant, engaged, and efficient office that only comes with amazing internal communication! Contact the author directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.