September 23, 2015

4 Brilliant Ways HR Managers Can Solve Internal Communication Problems

This is a guest post from Dr. Cristian Grossmann. Grossman is the of CEO Beekeeper, the communication tool for reaching and engaging everyone in an organization.

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With the proliferation of social media and the rise of messaging apps, companies must adjust to the ways their employees communicate outside of work.

This pull from outside forces is a good thing because it makes implicit issues and gaps in communication explicit. HR managers can quickly inventory the tools their employees use to communicate and pinpoint where internal communication channels fall short.

However, not all communications problems can be solved by throwing technology at them. Many are difficult to identity in the first place because employees tend to disengage when there are persistent issues. Below are some common internal communication problems and a great mix of solutions you can institute to fix them.

1. Make Transparency Company Policy

Arguably the worst communication problem is not communicating at all. Why? Because when employees are in the dark on your firm’s short and long-term goals, or are left guessing about why decisions are made, they tend to become disengaged.

Startups like Buffer take transparency to a new level by ensuring there are no mysteries about how their sausage is made. They’ve created a transparency dashboard that is open to the public. It shows the company’s, equity breakdown, employee salaries, revenue, and even code.

Now it might not be realistic to ask management to start publishing employee salaries, but there are many other ways to become more transparent. For example, you can broadcast management level meetings or discussions to all employees so they can better understand why certain decisions are being made. Or after a company-wide employee survey, you can create a report on what management is doing to solve issues — plus what they aren’t addressing and why.

2. More “Talking Up,” Less Talking Down

New enterprise software solutions such as Basecamp and SharePoint help give employees a larger voice. But even with these communication tools in place, managers and leaders in too many companies still talk down to their staff.

Which is a shame because any healthy organization’s biggest asset is its people. Yet when company directives and communications consistently come from on high, employee engagement falls due to a lack of autonomy.

Forward thinking startups like Facebook build “talking up” into their culture with regular town halls with CEO Mark Zuckerberg that are broadcast company-wide. Something much easier to execute, like a live Q&A webinar with management will make your employees feel heard and more invested in your company’s mission.

3. Unlock Employee Devices with a BYOD Policy

Between laptop, smartphones, and tablets, your employees use multiple device throughout the day. However, most companies still lock their employees into specific devices and don’t offer regular upgrades as technology improves.

A great way to keep your employees communicating on company email, intranets, and messaging software is to institute a BYOD policy. By giving your employees a yearly device allowance and letting them communicate with the devices they feel most comfortable with, you can ensure they won’t start avoiding communication simply because of outdated technology.

4. Walk the Talk, HP-style

When Hewlett-Packard was doing its part to help create what we now call Silicon Valley, they started the “HP Way.” It was an internal communications policy that required management to walk around the floors of the office and talk with employees every day.

Bob Kalsey, whose father was one of the original HP employees, has said of the policy:

“People there felt their work and opinions were valued, and they took pride in that. We all want to feel genuinely a part of something larger than ourselves, and when we do, we are loyal and eager to go the extra mile. Unlike many C-level people who insulate themselves from low-level workers, Dave and Bill weren’t absent from their employees’ daily lives.”

For companies with remote employees, daily walk arounds are more challenging. But with telecommuting on the rise, remote worker communication is going becoming increasingly important, Weekly or monthly video check-ins with managers via Skype can go a long way towards making remote employees feel involved with the team. HR can also implement live Q&A sessions with employees via chat or messaging software so issues are regularly addressed.

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It’s important to have technology in place that fosters communication — but it’s all for naught if the tools go unused. This means companies must create a culture centered around healthy communication. Each of these solutions help pump essential communication into the company’s bloodstream. By using these initiatives, you can give your employees a bigger sense of ownership in your goals, improve communication flows, and keep your employees engaged and involved.

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