As we entered lockdown about a year ago, communication went out of control. We didn’t know what to expect. The uncertainty brought up fears. Leaders and HR in many organisations worked around the clock to secure guidance. Yet, news quickly became old news. Employees noticed increases in anxiety and felt overwhelmed by the communication overflow. With the pandemic far from being over, leaders need to be smarter with their communication.
Employees receive 9 strategic communication emails per day. An employee receives 120 emails, including these 9, per day. Add shared inboxes, text messages, What’s App messages, messages sent via Slack, Teams, IM, phone calls, Zoom or Teams calls, it’s no wonder employees feel overwhelmed.
Identify the most appropriate channel
Emails may seem like the best channel for official communication. Individuals can read it when they have time. They can re-read it and can save it for future reference. Combined with meetings, important information shared via email can be absorbed effectively.
Calls allow for individual and group conversations. Announcing a new initiative over a daily or weekly team call provides an immediate opportunity to ask questions. Skype seems to have been replaced with Zoom and Teams. Their additional functionality like breakout rooms and file sharing in one place allow for smoother collaboration. Having the camera constantly on exhausts participants (yes, Zoom fatigue is real). A traditional phone call makes an effective change for 1-1 conversations.
What’s App, text, Slack or other messaging platforms allow for quick chats and actions. They can be used to collect and share feedback on projects. However, may not be appropriate for sharing sensitive company information.
Define the preferred means of communication
Knowing what messages need to be shared, there may be no choice how certain communication is distributed. Company often sent out email announcements for all employees across different locations and time zones. Leaders may follow them up with team or individual meetings.
When a leader and their employee, however, know and use the preferred channels, it supports an environment of respect and increases productivity. Questions like these can help identify the preferences:
- What communication channel(s) do individual team members prefer?
- Does it differ depending on the topic?
- How does this work with your preferences?
- What adjustments do you need to make to communicate more effectively?
Don’t be afraid to use a variety of channels when communicating.
How do you and your employees communicate? What activities will require an email, e.g. those which require documentation for legal reasons? When can What’s App be used?
Do you prefer to bundle up all questions and go through them in one session? Or should questions be asked as they come up, knowing that this may increase the amount of messages sent and received? When would a hybrid model be appropriate?
Personalise the message
Start with the audience and tailor it. Why is this message applicable to that particular group? What do they need to know? What do they already know?
How will they likely react? Can you already respond to these expected reactions? Does the channel require interactivity?
And what do you want to accomplish with this message? How can the individual recipient help?
Find the right timing for your message. If you send too many emails at the same time, the message may be swallowed up and missed.
Use simple and clear language
While the topic of your message may require a more formal tone, ensure your language is easy to be understood. In a multi-cultural and multi-lingual region, slang or acronyms can created unwanted confusion and misunderstandings. What does EOB (end of business) mean? The end of the working day in your location? In the location of your employee? The end of the calendar day?
As your employee or your team respond, listen actively. What are they sharing? How can you take their feedback on? It’s not just in employee surveys that suggestions, concerns and feedback are shared. By asking open-ended questions, employees can share more details without being steered in a specific direction. The open dialogue allows you to clarify misunderstandings and drill down, exploring new options and opportunities.
At the same time, pay attention to underlaying messages. We communicate 70% with our body language. If this do not match the spoken words, address it with you team members. 1-1 meetings provide the safe environment to open up. Find out how your team member doing, thinking or feeling. In what way can you support them?
Make leadership development part of your HR strategy and empower your leaders to guide and coach their team members. Contact us and find out how we can support you with our tailored leadership development programmes, coaching your leaders to success.