Less emails, more productivity: Improving internal communications systems in your business
Communication is consistently ranked among the top problems that entrepreneurs face in their companies, particularly as business expands and grows. The more employees that join the team, the more complex the communication issues become. Whether it’s employees feeling like they’re being left in the dark, or teams spending more time responding to emails rather than on other priorities, communication breakdowns can magnify over time and result in a lot of lost productivity.
To streamline and improve internal company communications, it’s helpful to take a step back and evaluate communication as a system. As with all company systems, it needs to integrate well into the daily process of the company, and it needs buy-in from all employees for it to work. While there is no catch-all solution when it comes to designing the perfect communication system, there are a few important steps you can take to improving internal communications within your business.
Relieve the bottlenecks—establish open communication channels, and communicate clearly what they are
One of the biggest communication challenges in growing companies is the bottleneck—when employees feel they need to turn to the same person for all their questions and approvals. Instead, establish open communication channels where employees are encouraged to turn to fellow team members for information, and empower teams to handle certain decision-making processes on their own. But be strategic about it: give employees the resources to know exactly who to turn to so they are not on a wild goose chase for information.
Put yourself in the shoes of a new employee and answer the following questions: What do I need to know? Who knows it? What is the appropriate channel to ask for it? From that you’ll be able to build a centralized database of general company information that can employees can easily access and reference.
Include within those resources a detailed company roster that delineates specific roles. If employees can’t find what they need from the resources, then they can identify the appropriate person to ask regarding their question.
Move team collaborations off email
Email is not the most effective tool when it comes to working effectively as a team. It doesn’t handle group conversations well, it’s difficult to find key information later, and it’s a poor way to track files and project tasks. As much as possible, use email mostly for third-party communication (such as customers or vendors) and move team collaborations onto other platforms.
The platform that works best for a team is highly dependent on the type of work. A general chat and collaboration tool like Slack or Salesforce Chatter works well for many teams, but others may find more of a need for structured project management tools such as Asana, Basecamp, or Podio. Multiple teams within the same company may even find a need to use different platforms.
This is one area where decentralization can be a good thing. Allowing teams to choose their own platforms and decide which one is the best for their needs helps to facilitate buy-in and participation. It also helps to strengthen team culture and build a sense of identity.
Require consistent team reporting to keep close tabs on the KPIs most important to your company
Although loose rules and free-flowing conversation are great for facilitating team collaboration and strengthening work culture, it’s still important to make sure that employees stay focused on the company’s primary goals. That’s why establishing regular reporting on key performance indicators is crucial to keeping everyone aligned.
Regular KPI reporting allows managers and business owners to easily track employee progress without getting bogged down by the little details. The metrics should be specific yet concise, so that reporting doesn’t require too much time of employees. For example, the customer service team leader may required to submit weekly updates on the number of customer support tickets received, number answered, tickets by type, and average resolution time spent per customer.
Consistent reporting also allows company executives to identify and target problems ahead of time, and helps to keep the company’s operational processes in line with its financial goals.
Become an open but structured leader in your company
Transparency is a key factor in building trust and creating an engaged workforce within any company, and it starts with the company leadership. To start, executives should be clear and consistent about communicating the company’s overall vision and goals to employees. This helps them to see the big picture and understand what their role is to the success of the business.
Company leaders should also encourage an open dialogue within the company where appropriate. Employees that are empowered to communicate openly will be more likely to contribute value feedback and ideas, particularly when it comes to overcoming potential challenges and obstacles.
But instead of allowing a free-for-all where employees feel as though they say anything at any time, create a structured environment that allows for employees to contribute feedback at regular intervals through appropriate channels. Whether that needs to be a weekly lunch or monthly meeting depends on the circumstance; the important thing is to maintain a consistent frequency and defined rules. This helps set expectations with employees and ensure that they stay focused on priorities.