With email, slack, teams, meetings, phone calls, video calls and zillions of other company communication channels, what is the secret for how to choose the appropriate channel for workplace communication?
Leadership may prefer to send a detailed email as their channel to communicate strategic decisions. But what if employees actually prefer face-to-face interactions to consume that type of information?
As you might imagine, the answer is not a simple one. In fact, it depends largely on the situation and the scenario surrounding the information to be communicated. This article examines 8 scenarios with recommendations on how to choose the appropriate channel for workplace communication by stakeholder.
If you’re not sure where to start, Gartner created this channels of communication chart to show the pro’s and con’s of each channel:
Some decisions are non-negotiable. There are a number of scenarios in which the call on how to communicate with your employees should come from company leadership or your communications team. Let’s examine each of them in more detail.
If you already know what your employees prefer, make them official. This applies to companies who have done extensive internal communications research and have received recommendations from teams across the organization. In that case, it’s just about making a final call, and streamlining the process throughout the company. Of course, ensuring effectiveness through goal-setting and measuring your success still makes sense in this scenario.
Example: If your leaders are on teams but 85% of your employees are on slack, consider making slack the official company chat channel.
It’s very important that employees feel their efforts contribute to the success of the company Most employees tend to agree that they don’t hear enough about their company’s strategic decision-making. While building a strategy to solve that need is highly recommended, the nature of that strategy should come from you. Communication here depends on preferences by your C-suite, and the channels in which they are most comfortable. For top-down communication efforts like this, the company should have the choice on execution of the tactic, so long as it’s delivered consistently, employees know where to get their information, and therefore are accountable for reading the email, attending the meeting, checking your intranet etc.
Example: Quarterly meetings that are recorded, summarized, and share on your intranet (or another ‘single source of truth’ that your company uses).
The more varied the groups of employees that you need to communicate with becomes, the more difficult it becomes to leave the choice of channel up to them. Different groups (and generations) will have different preferences (just ask a baby boomer and a Gen Z how they feel about receiving text messages for work to see how differently they react!) it will be impossible to please them all. We suggest gathering feedback on preferences but ultimately keeping all information on a single source of truth. Presenting strategy in a meeting? Important news shared in huddle? Monthly newsletter? Changes to vacation policy? Sharing documents over email? They can get lost, forgotten or ignored, better make a copy and host on your SSOT.
Channel of choice will vary, but dictate a reliable ‘single source of truth’ your employees all have access to, just in case they miss a meeting or an email.
Finally, it’s important to realize that you’re not operating in isolation. Sure, your employees might love to engage in videoconferencing or a messenger pigeon (how cool would THAT be in drone form?!). Your company’s technology infrastructure, or security requirements might just not support these preferences. When employee recommendations go into these types of impossibilities, company executives make the call on what channels to leverage.
We work with a lot of financial institutions and healthcare facilities who’s top concern is security. Make sure your employees understand the importance of secure information sharing with mandated channels.
The above range of options, of course, only describes a few very specific scenarios in which company leadership should make the call. On the other side of the equation, you will find a number of situations where employees are best equipped to choose their preferred communications channels:
Collaboration is key to the success of any modern enterprise. Prescribing how that collaboration should take place, however, can be difficult and dangerous. Your employees want to work together – but at least to some degree, they want to dictate the terms of how that will happen. Allow your teams to set their preferred collaboration channels when possible.
Examples: Teams/slack, discussion forums…try to avoid email for collaboration.
When what’s been done just isn’t working, it’s time to look for alternatives. You might have tried to communicate internally for years, with little effect on your various teams and employees. In that case, it might make sense to switch up the equation. Allow your teams to choose and recommend the channels that might be more effective, then test them out to see if your strategy begins to work more effectively.
We see this a lot with people trying to share documents or collaborate over email. Email was never meant as a collaboration tool! Save the headaches and look to diversify your channels based on what works for you. See the channels of communication chart for ideas.
Communication is always a two-way street, and part of that process has to be feedback and recommendations for improvement. Your strategy likely already includes this component. Even if it doesn’t allow your employees to choose exactly how they prefer to send feedback your way. The more you accommodate their preferences, the more likely you will be to actually receive actionable feedback that improves your strategy long-term.
Use your intranet to set up quick polls, or send through survey monkey. Take some advice from your customer success team on how they get feedback. Just ensure there is the option to maintain anonymity.
Finally, when it comes to internal communications, don’t try to change employee behaviour for trivial concerns. Allow them to choose their preferred channels takes work off your plate while at the same time optimizing their time. That might lead to some meetings turning into emails or emails turning into town halls. By allowing your team to choose, you gain trust and let your employees focus their efforts on more complicated challenges.
Don’t attempt to change employee behaviour over trivial concerns. Feed them the information they need in a channel they prefer and your internal communications will make an impact.
An internal communications strategy is reliant on the channels you use to share it. Our top recommendation in channel strategy for your internal communications is to have a single source of truth. No matter what channels your employees, leadership or partners are on, they should be confident in knowing where to find the information they need.
To learn more about a single source of truth and how it can help your company, speak to a product specialist today!
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