Create A Communication Plan for Your Teams
With the countless communication tools available now and of course, good old calling or meeting someone face-to-face, it’s no wonder that communications are lost. People forget conversations, emails are lost in unopened count that only continues to grow, and texts are overlooked. It seems like there’s a downfall to every possible communication solution, and that’s why you don’t need one solution.
Instead, focus on creating a communication network. Using single solutions are great on paper. Everyone uses the same system, and then no one can overlook anything, right? Except it’s not right. People get frustrated; they deviate from the system or use the methods of communication in the system that will time out or rotate out of sight in a thread.
What Problems Will A Communication Plan Address?
The key problems that you want to target are communication avoidance, lack of documentation to support decisions or actions, and information sharing. These are all issues that managers on every level are familiar with. You’ve probably heard something like, “But no one told me,” or “I talked to Jim about it yesterday, ask him if he remembers.”
These are serious pain points for managers, but for the staff, they’re a great way to ditch responsibility or avoid being in trouble. The network and some of the other aspects of communication addressed below will minimize the chance of these issues happening.
Ideally, a communication network will put the responsibility of communicating and having logs of specific communications onto the employee. It should make each person responsible for what they say and how they react to shared information or other communications.
Before you start looking for specific solutions, you need to understand the specific problems. Answer these questions: Can your employees quickly share information? Are your staff able to receive widespread messages? Do current communication paths have bottlenecks or disconnected segments?
Then, take a step back and answer some of the bigger questions that people forget about when it comes to laying a framework for communication. Do your staff members use the communication methods available now? If not, why? Email is a common example here. Employees may send each other emails for the sake of doing so, but if they’re left unread, then it doesn’t serve any purpose.
Combining the New with the Old
Is face-to-face communication necessary? Absolutely it is, and without it, employees would feel disconnected or even abandoned. But, there are times when a face-to-face conversation isn’t enough. Someone needs to document the conversation so that everyone involved will remember, or there is some follow up that is necessary but doesn’t require another meeting.
Always reserve the opportunity for face-to-face discussion either on a one-on-one basis or in meetings. Although technology is available, it can detract from a meaningful discussion, especially with brainstorming or talking through ideas. Face-to-face meetings are a critical part of leadership, don’t put them aside because texting or messaging is more efficient for you, instead focus on your team.
Then bring in the new. Possibilities with technology are endless, but the vital parts when it comes to communication is knowing that first, the information or message was sent and that it was read. For companies that prefer to stick with email, make a habit of requesting a read notification upon opening the email. Of course, there’s the issue that with Outlook and Gmail, the recipient can simply choose not to alert the sender that the email was read.
Instead, many companies are switching to Asana, Slack, or similar project management communication tools. These tools often work very well outside of project management and fit in with a mixed preference of communication. With nearly all of these, you can modify your methods of communication, contact specific people or entire teams, and have read receipts for anyone who opened the message.
When choosing new-age solutions for communication, look at options that fit in well with traditional methods of communication. For example, in Slack, you can tie documents to particular conversations, making meeting notes, agendas, or one-on-one conversation briefs easy to store in relevant places.
A communication network will ultimately include the schedule of your regular meetings, scheduled one-on-one meetings, and windows of time for face-to-face discussion. But, it will also include the company’s email server, software solutions for instant messaging or communication, and communication pathways for who responds to whom.
Finally, before you go an pitch your new communication network idea to your managers or team, you need to have a few safeguards in place. Setup documentation to support the use of the network and to identify employees who are using the network inappropriately or avoiding it.