Bill Gates is quoted as having once said “I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other.”
From a human resource point of view, Gates’ words hold real significance when thinking about ways to improve (and continuously re-evaluate) a business communication strategy so that it remains purposeful, and gives a clear picture about where the company is headed in the short and long term.
We often speak to clients who are struggling to balance traditional communication methods with more modern approaches. They are juggling an array of communication styles around teams of people meeting face-to-face in locally based, head office type environments, with individual staff members dialling in from remote or offsite locations, and those working from home.
It’s clear their process and protocol for “internal” communication requires a new approach to adapt across new workplaces, spaces and younger generations who are shaping the future of business, but often they’re not sure where to start.
Get the message right
Younger generations – Millennials – are less likely than Baby Boomers and Generation X to simply accept a company’s big vision mission statements because it’s written on an internal memo, and that’s not a bad thing. Despite preferring to leverage their independence to achieve goals in the workplace, Millennials still also expect that the entire business structure and their place within it is clearly set out and communicated.
How clearly could you paint an exciting and compelling picture of your company right now to a group of newbies? Would your existing team say they clearly understand where the business is headed in the short and long term? Is there a well-defined plan that old and new employees are following every day to set themselves and the company up for future success? There is no right or wrong here, but, now is the time to get your message right.
Educate and give context
As a leader, your primary job while building a connected communication strategy that will resonate with Next Gens, is facilitating critical thinking, educating and encouraging teams to find the right ideas and solutions for business problems.
Be willing to start quality conversations with all your employees, especially the more junior staff, on a regular and consistent basis. Challenge the notion of traditional workplace performance reviews and work with your HR team to think about ways of re-designing your annual or quarterly review model, shifting to holding monthly one-on-one meetings with all your employees.
Even though you are the boss, thanks to the social media and ‘sharing-economy’ age we now work in, millennials are really comfortable with the idea of having casual and open conversations with their leaders and managers about how they are doing personally at work, problems they are experiencing or sharing ideas about changes they’d like to see happen in the company.
Of course, it’s important to look at how much of the younger generations’ feedback the business can legitimately take on, but, if there is merit in an idea or insight they’ve shared, then let them know and help them understand the best business case for making it happen. You may need to help them understand the time-frame goals, tracking measures and the resources required to be put in place first.
Make communication everyone’s business
If you do commit to providing opportunities for idea sharing or holding regular meetings to set and review targets or mentoring younger staff, it is really, really important that you commit to this on a regular basis.
In a recent PWC report, it was identified that companies who hold regular, clear goal setting and structured feedback sessions with millennials are the businesses that are most successful in managing them. These businesses recognise that the younger generation welcome and expect detailed, regular feedback and praise for a job well done.
Practically speaking, connecting your teams through an enhanced, open communication strategy doesn’t always need to be done in person, one-on-one. Use technology to your advantage. Company chat software such as Yammer, cloud technology, collaboration tools and digital signage can play a part in establishing and maintaining a more connected workplace by making internal knowledge easily available, quickly sharing common goals and highlighting company successes.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to communicate and connect.