5 Practical Steps for Communications that Engage Your Team
Effective communication is critical to keep teams engaged and achieving your company’s goals. But what makes communications effective?
We use these five steps to help our clients communicate in a way that resonates with their unique teams.
- Be Transparent
- Use What Works
- Test Different Tools
- Open Feedback Channels
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln
Fortunately, you won’t need the tools of a lumberjack for this. Just answer: WHO, says WHAT, in WHICH channel, to WHOM, with WHAT effect? Last, plan out WHEN and you are on the right track to a solid communications plan.
Check out our template for designing a communications plan. Our clients live by them when delivering organization-wide transformations.
2. Be Transparent
Some say ignorance is bliss, but that’s never a reality at work. Transparency in communications is always important, to build trust. In times of change and challenge, transparency must be maintained, even when leaders don’t have all the answers. Here are suggestions for improving transparency in communications:
- State the clear facts and focus on the “why”.
- When goals aren’t met or projects struggle, commit to examining how the organization’s efforts failed and share what leadership learned from reflection.
- Acknowledge when you don’t have all the information and commit to a time-frame to provide an update.
As a leader it is your job to provide both the good news and the bad news. The more open you are with your teams, the clearer they understand the state of the organization, their work, and why specific actions are being taken.
3. Use What Works
Employees want to consume information at work in the same way they do at home. Think about what you like to (and choose to) spend your time reading and viewing outside of work. This is a great filter for what communications will engage your team. Chances are, you are attracted to content that is clear and concise, visually appealing, or entertaining and personally relevant. Here are some tips for creating communications that meet these criteria:
- Keep it concise. If extra detail is necessary, consider providing a self-service platform (i.e. SharePoint, intranet, Slack, Yammer, etc.) where employees can find what they need through a search instead of having to scan through endless emails or local documents.
- Format for retention. Shorten text passages, use bold headlines, lists, or bullet points to ensure readers can identify and absorb key takeaways.
- Mix in visuals. Not everyone takes in information the same way and many find a video, diagram, chart, or process flow easier to comprehend than words or text alone. Visuals are proven to be more memorable than text.
- Use consistent templates. When you have recurring communications, deliver your messages in a consistent format. This will make it easier for your team members to identify and understand key takeaways.
- Use professional social platforms. Build fun and inclusivity into your culture and communications. Celebrate birthdays and important life events as a team, share praise for reaching goals or acquiring new skills, and support each other in times of need. Platforms such as Yammer, Microsoft Teams, or Slack are a great place to create a channel for this type of communication.
4. Test Different Tools
Gone are the days when email was the powerhouse of internal communications. Email has its merits and is still a viable tool for some information. However, it may not always be the best option for your team, specific individuals, or the most effective way to deliver the type of message and content you desire. A few examples of recommendations we’ve made to clients:
· Quick messaging typically is better over a chat tool rather than filling email inboxes.
· Undeveloped ideas may require a one-on-one or team meeting rather than a long email thread.
· Sharing and collaborating on documents can now often be done within the document platforms themselves (e.g. Microsoft Office applications have built-in collaboration features).
· Lighter messages and announcements can go on your professional social platform.
At Ignite Consulting, we accomplish much of our collaboration and chat using Microsoft Teams. If you are interested to learn more about our experience and how it can be used within organizations to effectively craft and deliver communications, contact us.
Test what works best for your organization. Many tools will allow you to view metrics, so you have data-backed insights into what tools drive the most engagement. Over time, you can refine plans to use the tactics that drive the most engagement.
5. Open Feedback Channels
Your role as a leader may be to instruct, but it is also to listen and respond.
Provide public and private opportunities for employees to ask questions and share their thoughts and concerns. Options include surveys (which are a great way to compile actionable data), Q&A sessions (with individual leaders or a panel), one-on-one meetings, round-table discussions, or soliciting input via the professional social channels. Use feedback channels to get a sense of what is relevant to your teams. Collecting and analyzing feedback will help you understand what to share and what is unnecessary or overwhelming.
Your role as a leader may be to instruct, but it is also to listen. Each team member knows their role best and may feel the effect of changes differently than you expect. Consider following up on negative feedback and partnering with employees to create and launch solutions, acknowledging when employee feedback leads to specific changes or improvements (dedicate time to this in every all staff meeting) and sharing specific actions you’re taking to meet their needs by responding to feedback on your leadership. Let your team know they are always welcome to share their point of view and provide public and private options for doing that.
Effective organizations have a culture of communication. Avoid miscommunication and disengagement by implementing these five important actions within the teams you lead. They will put you on the right track to engaging communication.
Have a question about your team’s communications you want our help with? Get in touch and we will be happy to share what we have successfully implemented within our clients’ organizations in the past and prescribe the solutions we think would fit yours best.