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The way we communicate with one another has completely changed in the past few years. Where email and text messages were once the most immediate methods of communication with friends and colleagues, we now have Slack, Twitter, Instagram stories, Snapchat, What’sApp, and more. The ways in which we can contact one another makes face-to-face interactions virtually unnecessary. This is compounded by research claiming that our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than they process text. Companies are now finding themselves with processes and technology that no longer flow with how their teams and their brains work. It’s crucial to review these systems to ensure maximum return on employee and technological investments.
You probably think those company-wide newsletters and monthly team meetings are meaningful for your team. They are directed to everyone, after all; rallying your entire company—remote and internal workers alike—to notify them of important and exciting news. While inclusion is a nice thought in theory, newsletters are skimmed at best and meetings are generally a bore and waste of time in the eyes of employees who relish productive work time followed by relaxed personal time. Similarly, one-off coffee chats between managers and their direct reports show interest in one’s progress but the intention of the meetings are misguided.
These well-intentioned methods are probably holding your business back. The personalized and unstructured approach makes it so teams are hearing and interpreting key messages differently, leaving holes in messaging and tone. There’s often no point of reference aside from word of mouth when employees discuss messages from managers, leaving them confused and, after a prolonged period of confusion, disengagement. Newsletters are deleted or discarded, depending on their format. Proactive employees seeking out information waste time asking around without a singular information hub.
When you can’t get the information you need, and give information you need others to absorb, you can start to see where a lot of business problems stem. Clear communication channels in the workplace deflect misunderstandings, tedious back-and-forth messages, and ultimately quicken the pace of the productivity.
Here is a theory you may have a problem with: email is the worst. Our current use of email is far and away from the original purpose. It was never meant for “rapid, deep, ongoing productive conversations.” Important information is often buried in not-so-interesting chatter or messages are simply ignored because employees put little importance on the content of emails. Consider how many emails you delete or unsubscribe from in a day—that lackadaisical attitude is then attributed to emails containing relevant information.
At this point, it’s unlikely your business will be able to separate from email completely. Therefore, when outlining your communications strategy, clearly designate the purpose of email within the scope of communicating. A specific definition and monitoring of the policy will reduce the fodder and redistribute energies on more powerful communication tools.
The success of your corporate communication strategy and its ability to improve employee engagement depends on your consideration of how your employees process information as well as their communication needs. To do this, you need to identify your workforce. According to Gallup polls, Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. It would be prudent to get ahead of the curve and start implementing changes with this prediction in mind.
Gallup also notes that only 29% of Millennial are engaged with their work. You may buy into the idea that Millennials are entitled and this is why they lack attachment and excitement when it comes to their work. But, in contrast, the needs of Millennials in the workplace do not differ all that much from their older colleagues. No matter their generational category, employees require clear expectations, performance goals, and communication as it relates to priorities. While it is true that Millennials are full of ambition and initiative, they have yet to perfect mind reading.
Millennials value collaboration and purposeful work; therefore, the best way to engage them and your other employees is through appropriate communication. It needs to be inclusive, dispensing with top-down mandates in favor of collaborative conversations among teammates. Given the equal value places on reaching goals and progressing through a structured timeline, communication of such work must be regular, standardized, and actionable.
Now that we’ve dispelled the myth of email as effective communication, it’s time to discuss the best way to design a communication strategy that is rooted in employee engagement. According to recent Pew Research reports, Millennials and Gen-Xers make up the largest group of social media users and the entire U.S. labor force. With both of these categories in mind, using social programming to develop effect and engaging communication is not only prudent, but necessary. Digital signage and gamification technology is increasingly popular and showing clear results in its ability to dispense information and motivate employees effectively.
Facebook is still the most popular social media platform. It is the foremost news source and communication tool for most people. Piggybacking on this strategy, digital signage, which includes television displays throughout workspaces, computer dashboards, and mobile applications, broadcasts important “newsworthy” information, like team wins and client acquisition, as well as more social messages, such as employee birthday and work-anniversary notifications. Additionally, digital signage utilizes graphics to convey these messages through infographics, photos, illustrations, etc.
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