The days of the notorious office memo are gone. Modern workplaces are busier, more dispersed and more IT dependent than ever, making fluid communication a challenge for managers and employees.
Better office communication means more efficiency, happier employees and, ultimately, more satisfied customers. So follow these ten tips to keep your office communications flowing with ease:
1. Devise a strategy for office communication
The first step towards improving office communication is to come up with a good internal communication strategy.
Start with your objective. Do you want to simplify company messaging? Do you want to share company news? Maybe you want to implement a two-way feedback system?
A clearly defined objective will form the basis of your communication strategy and help you come up with a plan that best fits your business goals and company values.
2. Try instant messaging
Some conversations just don’t work over email. You might need a way to encourage those spontaneous discussions outside the inbox, even when your employees are out of the office.
Instant messaging (IM) tools are great for this, and you’ve got a lot to choose from. Yammer is particularly popular, but there are a number of other instant messaging systems and clients to consider.
3. Go mobile
Chances are, your co-workers are already using personal devices to perform simple tasks in the office.
Embracing mobile applications and introducing a ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) policy will not only help your organisation adapt to this trend, it will also increase flexibility around how and where people work.
By allowing the use of devices that your employees are already comfortable, you'll make it easier for employees to adapt to new communication tools, increasing efficiency and productivity.
4. Make collaboration easy
Encouraging collaboration among - and across - teams is crucial.
Tools like Basecamp let you share documents, work together on tasks and gain visibility into other’s workloads. You don’t have to stick to the ‘name brands’ here though - there’s a lot of great collaboration software out there. The best tools are the ones that are easy to use, accessible via mobile device and secure.
5. Consider visual tools
A picture says a thousand words. Visual project management and sharing tools can be a great way to stimulate conversation.
Illustrating workflows and tasks will help people view and understand projects as a whole. Tools like Concept inbox are especially useful if you have an extensive feedback process, or if your work is ‘design centric’.
6. Video conference
If distance or conflicting schedules are a barrier to communication, video conferencing can be a great way for small businesses to facilitate conversations.
Tools like Skype allow your employees to interact with each other, and with clients, from anywhere and any device. Having a face-to-face conversation online can build better relationships and be more productive than communicating through email or IM.
7. Embrace transparency
Making some changes to your company culture, like embracing transparency, can improve productivity and encourage better communication.
Consider creating a company-wide calendar or ‘notice board’ to let people share news, events, and other important updates. Alternatively, you can try moving the furniture around to create a more ‘open’ workplace.
8. Create dedicated spaces for conversation
You may have access to a meeting room, but having other less formal, but still private, places to meet can improve office communication.
Placing a few chairs around a small table in a corner will give your employees a dedicated space to work and talk, without the pressure or formality of a boardroom. Think of it as recreating the ‘water cooler’ environment with comfortable seating.
9. Include your clients and customers
Choosing tools that allow you to provide visibility into your organisation can be a great way to improve communication with clients and customers, as well as within your team.
Most collaboration tools have permissions structures that let you invite clients in to project management and share information. With everyone on the same page, there’s less risk of miscommunication.
10. Get face-to-face
Standups and ‘daily scrums’ are standard practice in many industries, and anyone can do it. Schedule short meetings that give everyone a chance to update the team on what they’re doing and address any issues or obstacles.
Leankit have found that short face-to-face meetings keeps people from working isolation, and stimulates more productive discussions both online and offline.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to improve office communication in your organisation. Devising a strategy and trying out some new tools can radically change the way your team communicates.
And if you’re not sure what’s best for your business, consider teaming up with a business technology partner who can help you choose, integrate and implement communication tools that suit the way your business works.