You have a great team at the office. You have a specialist in every department, people get along, your numbers are great, but there's just one problem. Communication. Whether it's over-communication, under-communication, or disjointed communication, anything short of a clear and streamlined network of communication will eat into everyone's work day and lower productivity. Here are seven things that you can do to get your team truly humming.
1. Be Intentional
From company-wide emails where everyone hits "reply all" to a variety of chat features and apps that keep everyone connected, it can get pretty overwhelming to keep track of information. Was that on a paper memo or an email or a Slack message? Who was in charge of that process, are they even still employed here? By being intentional with your communication systems, you can keep everyone and everything organized. Choose a primary communication system and use it for all work-related communication.
2. Be Organized
Communication also relates to your daily tasks and processes. Individuals with institutional knowledge are great—until they leave the company. If the only person who knows how to onboard a new employee leaves, you lose tons of time while you figure it out and make a poor impression on your new employee. Standardize processes and procedures in a written format that is stored in a centralized area, both digitally and in print, so that company norms are always accessible by someone.
3. Be Automated
In the IT world, runbooks are the organizational system that network engineers use to streamline their processes. It's a reference guide that spells out step-by-step how to deal with various incidents from frequent issues (lost user logins) to random occurrences. The best part is that runbooks can often be automated to improve efficiency. Certain tasks that are the same day in and day out, such as an employee collecting client data, can be automated so that not only is the process the same every time, but that info can be stored and generate invoices, create client profiles, and link incidents and other data automatically without anyone having to take the time to do those things. Let the software work for you.
4. Be Consistent
Adjusting to a new system of communication is difficult for some people because many people don't like change. If things start to slide back to an old means of communication, or people start doing their own thing and work against your systems, explain to your team why it's important to streamline your communication. Offer training and support to people who are confused. If you're focusing on documenting everything anyway, there should be an accessible step-by-step guide that can make things easier.
5. Be Flexible
If at first you don't succeed, try again. Consistency is important, but don't be consistent with a failing system. If your new communication system doesn't seem to be going well, pivot, and try something different. There's no sense in forcing adherence to a process that isn't working.
6. Be Protective
You want to maximize efficiency in the office and streamlining communication can help with that. When the printer is down, there should be a clear process: (1) Notify the tech team, (2) Tech notifies the office via automated message, (3) Tech fixes printer, and (4) Auto message lets everyone know the printer is back up. If fifteen people email tech about the printer, ask for updates, and otherwise interfere, tech can't focus on fixing the printer. Use your communication systems to protect your employees' productivity.
7. Be Up-To-Date
It's great that your systems are in place, but how often do you update them? Having a process for reviewing your processes keeps your company up-to-date. Collect feedback (via your primary communication system) throughout the year and stagger your review of your systems at regular intervals so that your documented policies aren't ten years old. Clearly communicate updates to your team.
It won't be pretty at the beginning, because changing habits or "the way we've always done things" doesn't come easily to a lot of people. But if you keep at it, the effort at the front end will result in a smooth system of communication that makes your team stronger.