From trying out the Four T’s approach to understanding your team’s communication style, here are the 12 answers to the question, “What are your top tips for improving communication across your organization?”
- Use the Four T’s Approach
- Ban Emojis
- Create An Open Leadership Culture
- Record All Communication
- Construct Out-of-Work Platforms for Trust Building
- Hold Town Hall Meetings
- Keep Conversations Centralized
- Try Overcommunication
- Strive for Radical Candor
- Have An Open-Door Policy
- Set Communication Goals
- Adapt to Your Employees’ Communication Styles
Use the Four T’s Approach
To improve communication, you need to foster a culture that enables people to work independently without siloing. Technology can help you do this, but that’s just part of the puzzle. I call it the Four T’s approach.
Technology: Use your technology to communicate with your team. At the start of each day, schedule the time you want for yourself and the periods when you’ll be free to communicate with your team. That gives you space for heads-down time but also gives your team a timeframe for when you’ll be available, which allows them to manage their own time too.
Transparency: Be transparent with your team about when you’ll be available and when you’ll be offline and make clear what you expect of them in that time.
Trust: Trust your team to get on with their own work, but keep track of projects through quick catchups throughout the day.
Timeframes: Give timeframes so they can manage their own schedules.
One small, but significant change we’ve made company-wide is banning the use of emojis in internal communications. This is a move that was not popular at the time we made it, but has drastically improved clarity in our communications.
One thing we noticed a year or two ago was that people were using emojis as a shortened form of drafting the text, and it left several employees confused as to the meaning. An emoji that means one thing to a 22-year-old video producer means something entirely different to a 54-year-old product manager.
In short, with emojis, people aren’t always on the same page. So by banning emojis on Slack and in email, it removes any room for interpretation. What you see is what you get. Of course, people hated this, and it makes things less playful, but clear and fulsome communication is paramount, and this move has contributed to that.
Create an Open Leadership Culture
Many people find themselves in leadership positions because they’re good at their jobs. For example, an engineer who can solve problems may eventually lead a team of engineers.
The problem arises when such a person doesn’t have formal leadership training. Often, they adopt an authoritarian style of leadership because their position was based on their ability to do the job. So, they naturally believe that they have all the answers and that the team should execute their own vision.
Instead, create a culture where leaders are trained to give their teams the spotlight. They should encourage other team members to come up with solutions, and when a team member has an alternative to the solution presented by leadership, we should encourage them to speak up.
This will reduce the fear among people who might otherwise speak up but choose not to, because of the authoritarian style of leadership exercised by management. Start at the top and improve communications across your company.
Record All Communication
“He said”, “She said”, aren’t just about arguments, but they can seep into businesses in executing plans or moving forward with implementation.
With our projects, many workers focus on a solution or work together to complete a task. Because there are so many people working on a project, communicating is key.
That’s why we use BaseCamp to keep track of the communication and have it on record. If someone approved a design or is assigned a task, it’s on record of who and at what time. When communication is kept in check and on record, it helps facilitate projects and puts fewer questions on the table.
Construct Out-of-Work Platforms for Trust Building
As humans, we are incredibly prone to a subjective interpretation of information passed to us. Interestingly, a large slice of those subjective interpretations is influenced by pre-existing biases or relationships we have with the sender. Therefore, a message can either be seen as offensive or playful, depending on the levels of trust and social bonding between the sender and recipient.
Installing social bonding infrastructure in your organization can significantly reduce communication hazards. Preferably, you should have platforms outside of the perimeters of work (and its associated pressures) for your staff to safely commune and freely bond.
This way, colleagues get to sentimentally connect with themselves on a human-to-human level instead of just seeing each other as an “unemotional bag of skills filling a job role.”
With such an existing platform of trust and acquaintance, communication becomes a breeze as colleagues relate not only as colleagues but also as friends.
Hold Town Hall Meetings
Communicating effectively across your organization can be difficult. Not all employees routinely check emails or read company newsletters. Therefore, when there is important information to be shared, holding a town hall-style meeting works best.
This enables all employees to hear the same message. These meetings can be recorded and shared with those on leave or travel. This presents a forum for providing updates and changes that may affect employees while giving them an opportunity to ask questions.
Keep Conversations Centralized
My top tip for improving communication across my organization: keep it centralized.
Covid-19 has scattered teams as work-from-home increases in prevalence. Don’t let communications turn into a haphazard jumble of apps, text messages, emails, and phone calls. Important information will end up slipping through the cracks.
Instead, create a dedicated Slack channel for each project or topic, and insist that your team keep conversations there. That way, anyone involved—even if they’re new to the team—can quickly get up to speed by visiting a single page or chat.
Details can be confirmed with a simple scroll back, and project managers can check progress regularly.
There is no harm in over-communicating with your employees, as it bars the apprehensions that come with minimal or unclear communication. Try not to leave any gaps when communicating with your employees, and be as descriptive as you can be during online or offline conversations, one-on-one calls, and so on.
To communicate effectively, use multiple channels if required. This will ensure that your employees clearly understand your thoughts and decisions, hence improving communication across the organization.
Strive for Radical Candor
We uphold radical candor as one of our most important values. This means that we always expect to hear about any of our shortcomings directly, and promise to do the same for our coworkers.
Working with feedback is one of the best ways of improving yourself and noticing your mistakes. Moreover, we think the observations we share with others should be constructive and well-meaning, but as we don’t believe in anonymity (it undermines the possibility of really working with feedback and questions the entire premise of radical candor), we understand it might not always be completely comfortable.
Still, in the long run, this is the best way to operate as it ensures all shortcomings are addressed and there are attempts are improving them, which is great for the company, but also prevents any build-up of tension among the employees which promotes healthy relationships at the workplace.
Have An Open-Door Policy
Having an open-door policy has been one of the best ways I have improved communication across the organization that I have been part of. This means having a space where team members can come with questions and ideas and discuss any issues they might have regardless of their position within the company.
By creating this space of trust, we encourage team members to talk to one another and build trusting relationships, ultimately leading to smoother collaboration.
Above all else, I strongly believe that having an open-door policy goes beyond increasing communication among different teams. It emphasizes giving everyone in the organization a voice which creates a more meaningful working environment for all.
Set Communication Goals
This may seem like little else than another round of goal-setting for your organization, but setting communication goals will leave your workforce a lot more rejuvenated.
In any company, communication takes a backseat after the initial onboarding of an employee, and soon enough, conversations and interactions only become rarer. Setting communication goals across the organization for employees, managers, and even leaders drives every stakeholder to commit to communicating with others, thus breaking down barriers that invariably creep in over time.
Without goals to pursue or answer to, communication channels will never receive the timely rounds of unclogging they deserve.
Adapt to Your Employees’ Communication Styles
Learn your employees’ different communication styles and adapt to them. When you have an organization composed of different individuals with unique strengths and weaknesses, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t always work.
If you’re seeing a communication breakdown in your business, look inside and see if there’s a reason. For example, if many of your employees are visual by nature, conveying information through meetings where they sit and listen may not be the best move.
Adapt your communications at work to reflect your team’s styles, and it should improve the flow of information.