By Heather Claycomb
Two years ago, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, organisations were forced by necessity to smarten up their internal communications.
For many in the corporate sector, improved staff communications and relationships was one of the upsides of the pandemic. For many, staying connected during remote working and building regular wellbeing check-ins into the work-week has reaped benefits in terms of staff loyalty and enhanced team dynamics.
If we take our signal from overseas, however, we know that 2022 is likely to be one of the most disruptive years for office life. If the “big sick” takes over New Zealand, as it has elsewhere in the world, we are all going to need some robust internal communications systems and channels that help minimise chaos and maximise productivity.
Be proactive and protect your business. Take the opportunity now to ensure your internal communications channels are ready for whatever 2022 might hold.
Before you go changing anything, ask your staff what they think. Do a staff survey. It does not have to be formal, costly or complicated – have a discussion at your next team meeting or for larger companies, use some of the simple on-line survey tools available like Survey Monkey. Ask what communications channels and activities are working and which are not. Get a handle on how well staff feel the company keeps them informed, find out what they would like to see improved, ask which channels staff feel will work in more disruptive situations and which ones might fall over.
And remember, always go into a staff survey with the commitment that you will listen and make changes based on feedback. Staff trust will erode quickly if you do not make some meaningful changes based on the survey results.
Prioritise team talks
Regular team meetings are probably the best channel for staff communication. But I know from experience that as things get busy, it is tempting to cancel or postpone. That’s a big mistake as even one missed meeting during stressful times can lead to workstreams unravelling quickly. Ensure your team leaders schedule a weekly or fortnightly team meeting and stick to it.
And remember - it is not enough just to “check in” during your staff meetings. Give your team leaders some help in developing an agenda that goes beyond corporate chit-chat. You’ll frustrate your high achievers, especially, if meetings aren’t purposeful and impacting team efficiency.
One regular mass channel
It is important as an organisation that you have at least one staff communication channel that reaches all team members as “one source of truth.” For small businesses, this may be your weekly team meeting. For larger companies, this might be your online staff portal or newsletter.
Whatever works for you, commit to it and ensure you develop engaging content to encourage absorption of the most important messages. Plus, always build a feedback mechanism into the channel to foster two-way communication.
Avoid email overload
A mistake many organisations make is using endless emails for every staff message. The danger in doing so is that staff will start to tune out if they receive too many. That is when your most important corporate messages can be ignored.
We have so many immediate, digital channels available to us. While there’s email, you can also use text messages, WhatsApp groups, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, staff Facebook pages and more. Rather than using email for everything, I would recommend doing a stock take of all the digital channels you are using or could start using, then put some rules around which channels you use, for what purpose and when.
Once you have established the channel rules, teach and encourage your staff to use each channel efficiently.
Have some fun
And finally, remember to have some fun! It does not matter if you are a senior manager or a graduate recruit, we are all human and we want to have fun with the people we spend 8+ hours with each day – especially during challenging times when a little levity goes a long way. Of course, there is a time to be serious and communicate with a corporate voice, but there are also times to relax, celebrate and share more lighthearted team news.
Purposely including some ‘playful’ (but tasteful) content into your staff communication will go a long way towards building job satisfaction and cohesion among your team.