It’s safe to say that workplace communication has become an essential part of running a successful business. While less than 30% of employees feel engaged at work, higher engagement leads to stronger productivity, higher profitability and reduced turnover—so it makes sense to tap into this engagement component.
Today, workplace communication isn’t just about making sure that executives and lower-level employees feel comfortable talking to each other, it’s also about evaluating the technology available for communication and understanding how it can be adopted to improve collaboration, performance and ultimately, advocacy.
As more industries begin to recognize the importance of employee engagement and communication, the McKinsey Institute conducted a study on the use of social technology in the workplace. We’re going to share some of our thoughts on McKinsey’s view of the evolution of workplace communication, discussing how you can evolve your employee engagement strategy.
The Changing World of Workplace Communication
According to the respondents in the McKinsey Global Survey, in companies where messaging platforms have become more popular, social tools have acquired a more significant presence within the professional environment. As companies focus on ways to reduce communication costs while streamlining collaboration strategies, social tools—from messaging apps like Slack to advocacy platforms like Bambu—are becoming a more natural way to bring those once disconnected teams together towards a shared goal.
The McKinsey study outlines that over the past three years, social tools in the workforce have helped employees to communicate more freely in the workplace, with 80% of employees communicating often with other people in their teams (compared to only 65% of staff not using message platforms).
At the same time, these technologies are giving people the freedom to self-organize more freely, with 63% claiming that they can organize themselves within their teams thanks to stronger communication platforms. The change in communication technology has meant that the nature of work has begun to transform, with groups focusing more on projects than function-based work.
How to Effectively Communicate: Tips for Implementing New Strategies
The major findings from the McKinsey Institute show that communication technologies allow people to better organize themselves within the workplace environment—particularly for companies that use message-based platforms. Employees have more discretion choosing which tasks they should work on (17% compared to 15%), and the formal hierarchy of the organization begins to diminish, allowing for a stronger sense of community within the workplace (29% compared to 27%).
Of course, the key to using any kind of workplace communication tool is making sure you choose solutions that respond to the needs of your workforce, rather than trying to fit your employees into distinct boxes.
As agile working becomes a more natural component within the modern business, it’s important to remember that businesses need to choose tools that respond to the unique needs within your organization rather than expecting team members to change their routines to accommodate to new tools.
So, how can you use the latest data to help you facilitate effective workplace communication and engage your employees?
Step 1: Keep it Simple
There’s no single communication strategy that works for everyone within a business environment. The McKinsey survey shows that 45% of respondents consider social practices to be deeply integrated into their day-to-day work.
However, what those social technologies involve will depend on the needs of your employees—some will prefer phone, others may gravitate towards email, and you will see more and more people becoming comfortable with video conferencing.
The key is to be clear about which tools are meant to accomplish which tasks, and to identify one centralized location for employees to go to for information that can them point them to the next relevant place.
Step 2: Don’t Expect Everyone to Use the Same Technology
Although messaging solutions like Slack are growing increasingly popular in the workplace, they’re not the right option for every employee. As we progress into a more diverse, multi-generational workforce, chances are that different members of your team will have different preferences for how they want to communicate.
Sometimes, the best solution is to make sure that there are different strategies available, as well as one central social hub for your workers.
Today, 62% of employees at companies with message-based platforms spend their time using traditional tools for communication, such as email, phone, and texting, compared to 38% that use video conferencing, collaborative apps, and platforms.
Step 3: Create a Dialogue, Not a Monologue
One of the most important things to remember when you’re learning how to effectively communicate with new technologies is that it’s not about simply sending out instructions from the top down. In fact, the McKinsey study indicates that message-based platforms are allowing companies to remove the formal organizational hierarchy (29% compared to 27%)
This means that the focus should be on using communication strategies as a message of engagement, designed to delight and support employees wherever possible.
Your communication strategies should also make it easier to allow for comprehensive support throughout your workplace community, for example:
- Using instant messaging like Slack to respond immediately to employee questions and concerns
- Posting updates on your employee intranet that allow you to schedule regular team-meetings, through video-conferencing, one-on-ones, or other methods
- Making sure employees know which technology to use to collaborate with people from different business sectors and environments
The Importance of Communication in the Workplace
Today, more companies are beginning to recognize that one-way communication is a thing of the past. Employees who feel as though they’re being listened to are more likely to stay with their employers and contribute to the workforce with enhanced performance.
Today, 39% of employees believe that people in their own organization don’t collaborate enough, and technology is a way of addressing this problem. However, it’s important to implement strategies that are suitable to the needs and goals of your company, rather than just adopting new technology because it’s the latest thing on the market.
Don’t just jump straight into instant-messaging platforms and intranets. Think about the holistic changes you want to make to your communication strategy and how you can make that strategy work for your business. From there, you can choose the technologies that will support you on the way to your goals.