"Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success."
– Henry Ford
No one read your last email. No one listened at the last company meeting. The company handbook is at the bottom of a pile of paperwork somewhere. And yet, you expect your employees to collaborate.
If your organisation only employs robots, you can skip this one. However, if your organisation does employ people, you need to communicate with them and empower them to communicate with one another. By engaging your team on this level, effective collaboration will follow. So, what does communication really look like?
What you need to be talking about
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that employees like to be included and appreciated. They like to know their hard work has been noticed and take part in celebrating successes. And, they need information about the company, the projects they’re working on, and the targets associated with the business. With more and more of your workforce going virtual, internal comms (IC) are the unsung heroes in this latest Marvel release.
How? Let’s take a look at five reasons internal comms will determine the future of collaboration in the workplace.
1. The virtual workforce doesn’t exist
There’s a new way of working, and for many, it’s here to stay. Whether you’re returning to the office or going for a hybrid virtual work model, lots of us now have experience with this so-called “virtual workforce.” But those bobble-heads on Zoom still have legs. Humans are still at work, even when they’re at home.
So, how do you address the needs of your very real, very present team? How do you keep them connected over the long haul?
IC managers are communication experts. They can handle your employees’ new habits and expectations, taking charge of things like:
- Asynchronous delivery of information to suit employees on a different schedule.
- Making the best use of the more frequently used internal comms channels.
- Providing consistent messaging during the shift from in-person to virtual working.
- Creating a space where everyone can air their grievances and celebrate successes.
Here, internal comms becomes integral to creating a collaborative team. This is no mean feat with today’s multigenerational, time-zone variable workforce. To sustain cross-team collaboration, businesses will have to develop IC strategies further to cater to everyone: in-office, external and remote working teams.
2. Giving your employees a laptop isn’t enough
Guess who’s behind a successful remote working policy? No, it’s not only IT. They’re half the battle. Sure, IT help support the company by maintaining the tools you use. With more remote working in place these digital tools are vital.
However, tools on their own can’t align your employees around what your business is trying to achieve. They don’t get a new employee on board with your direction of travel. That requires a shared vision.
An intranet platform and digital channels allow you to get company information out there. IC is therefore able to connect leaders with employees (and vice versa). Now, values can be aligned, goals conveyed and progress shared. This paves the way for a strong working culture - even in a remote setting. The real job of these tools is to enable communication and collaboration. Not to bog people down in IT support tickets.
3. You need to join the dots of your company culture
Employees are at the centre of creating your company culture. To boost collaboration, your teams and leaders need to focus on creating a culture that encourages open discussion and provides opportunities to nurture these interactions.
Both formal meetings and informal chats are important - even when you’re not in the same location. Things like virtual social hubs, tea and cake breaks, ‘pints down the pub’ and activities after company meetings are invaluable.
50 percent of the positive changes in communication patterns within the workplace can be accredited to social interaction outside of the workplace. By promoting this joined-up culture, you give your staff the opportunity to get to know each other better. This way they build healthy, friendly working relationships.
4. Shared innovations become new ideas
Collaboration has the power to stimulate innovation in the workplace. Embracing individual perspective encourages creative brainstorming and boosts innovation. Many businesses recognise the importance of collaboration. Yet, there are still roadblocks that impede working together creatively. These include:
- Different opinions
- Lack of respect or trust
- Poor listening skills
- Inadequate knowledge
- Lack of alignment around goals
- Employee competitiveness
- Information hoarding
- Departmental silos
An IC manager is ideally positioned to bring your far-flung workforce into an innovative and collaborative space. They tell stories of how departments have solved problems and benefited the business. IC can communicate details of new projects and how individuals might take part, connecting people that might not speak to or work together normally.
By sharing these celebratory stories, you inspire yet more ideas. For example, a McKinsey study reports that building connectivity between specialists in other groups helped one company increase its revenue 2.5X in one year.
So, start building connections across departments. Yesterday, sales and marketing had no idea what each other were doing. Today, they’re collaborating, coming up with new ideas and selling more.
5. IC is hungry for it
Compared with external comms, IC hasn’t had a seat at the management table. But over recent years, this underdog has become a pivotal part of the business in today’s world of “digital workforces” and constant change.
In fact, internal and external comms are learning to work together(!). Employees shouldn’t find out about your company news after the press do. So, businesses are learning how much goodwill they stand to gain by bringing IC into decision-making, and by giving them the means to craft messaging and convey feedback.
Internal comms is only getting stronger by enhancing business bottom-line results. You need to provide your employees with clear communication guidelines, insight and inspiration to make collaboration a reality.
Improving communication in the workplace
Three out of four employers rate teamwork as important, but only 27 percent of employees get the right training and are comfortable with communication methods in the workplace.
Long-term, tools alone can’t keep your organisation connected. Your internal communications are what make remote working, work – that is, the stories you share and the human connection you work together to build. IC teams and managers could be your saving grace. Use them to their full capacity.