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Between group texts and always-on social media networks, your employees already consider screens and keyboards as vital means to ongoing conversations outside of the workplace. And your company likely uses social channels to build brand awareness, target users with focused messages, handle customer service conversations and more. Now, increasing evidence shows that better communication and using social tools within the workplace can foster increased connection and productivity.
A recent study found a significant correlation between the self-reported use of social technologies across the enterprise and self-reported employee engagement in 7 of 9 factors of employee engagement – a significant contributor to employee productivity.
Hard to believe? Not when you consider how much time you – or your team – spend on just two critical but time-consuming activities.
- 36 percent (17 hours) – Portion of workweek spent responding to email
- 20 percent (9.3 hours) – Portion of workweek spent tracking down information, or seeking the person needed to provide information related to a given project
Think about that … almost one-half of at-work time is spent sending, responding to, looking for, then following up on email.
Now, thinking on your own workday, consider how much time is spent sending or responding to some variety of email asking, “Did you get that thing I sent you?” And no matter how many people are copied on that ever-lengthening email string, the only thing being created is confusion. Un-needed, unproductive meetings get scheduled, time gets wasted … it’s exhausting.
Unsurprisingly, people and connection are more effective fixes than simply rolling out a newer, better tool. Below are four ways to boost productivity (and workplace happiness) through better communication.
1. Strengthen Connections Between People
A recent Harvard Business Review study looked at a large financial services company’s implementation of an enterprise-class social platform. During implementation, roughly half the company had access to the tool. The other half continued to use traditional tools. At the end of the six-month intro, HBR called the results “remarkable.”
Simply by observing conversations taking place on the social channels, users reported themselves:
- 31 percent more likely to find coworkers whose skills would help them meet job goals.
- 88 percent more likely to know how to find an expert on a given topic.
In the same time period, the half of the company without access showed no improvement in these key measurements.
Enterprise social fosters quicker, more spontaneous collaboration across departments and can boost productivity. While increasing numbers of tech and service companies use platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and the like for work-critical tasks and conversations, now is the time for every employer to lean in and fully embrace what enterprise social can do to increase employee connection and engagement.
You can take internal channels one step further. Taking a cue from Reddit’s AMA (Ask Me Anything) threads, internal social channels can be a great places for specialists to share what they know. For example, HR could host “Ask Me Anything About Vacation Policy” that includes relevant links to your company’s intranet, updates, holiday schedules and the like.
And don’t overlook the importance of non-work-related communication/collaboration spaces. Establish a channel that allows your workgroup (or the whole company) to interact outside of the day-to-day tasks. Additionally, the channels and chat areas that are dedicated to projects or ongoing strategic discussions can stay more focused.
Of course, enterprise social carries liabilities with it similar to email and other platforms that connect with the outside world. Your HR and IT groups should work together to build training, usage and retention policies that cover your company’s obligations to protect internal documentation and IP while retaining as much of social’s ease of use as possible.
2. Kill Your AM Status Meeting
What comes out of your typical weekly (or daily) status meetings? If you’re like most companies, blame, bitterness and resignation are the typical deliverables. But status meetings don’t have to be like that. Simply by changing the way your traditional AM meeting works can lead to huge gains in productivity.
Change your standing status meetings to actual STANDING status meetings. Get out of the chairs, out from behind the laptops and up on your feet – then do a quick roundtable of what is actually happening today for each person in the group.
This is a meeting that should focus on what the group is working on today, rather than why the group is working on it.
Everyone in the meeting should answer two questions:
- What are you working on today?
- Are you missing anything in order to do the work?
By focusing on actual work in progress for the day, the entire workgroup gets a picture of the most immediate priorities. And by bringing up needs or work blockages in an open setting, the entire group gets a better sense of how all the elements of a project fit together. Save all the complicated coordination pieces for your project management software and 1:1 conversations with teammates. Don’t have a project management software? Get recommendations here and start managing your projects more smoothly.
A note of caution: “Are you missing anything?” isn’t meant for calling out co-workers who haven’t delivered or complaining about what another group is or isn’t doing. By focusing on what is actually needed to do your work (“I need the most recent TPS report from accounting in order to create the slide deck”), managers can help run down deliverables and get the work back on track.
3. Consider the Whiteboard
If Kanban has taught the world of work anything, it’s that visualizing your group’s work is a powerful tool for knowing what’s working and what’s not on a day-to-day basis. But you don’t need to be fully bought into Kanban to reap key benefits.
Use the humble whiteboard to track actual work in progress and the items your group is working on today. It doesn’t replace Gantt charts, project management systems or the more detailed to-do lists that everyone uses to keep track of workflow. Instead, the WIP Whiteboard (or WIP board) creates a powerful focal point for that new AM stand-up meeting you just initiated. Also, publicly erasing the previous day’s work as it’s completed is strangely gratifying, considering how simple an act it is.
4. Food Makes Everything Better
It’s a simple idea: the path to a more connected, more productive workplace is through your coworkers’ stomachs.
Consider getting the group together over pizza, boxed lunches, food truck fare or even BYO. Then invite the head of sales, the new business people or your boss’s boss to come and discuss successes, give a quarter-in-review update or just talk about how your group’s work feeds into the company’s progress as a whole.
No workgroup is an island. But sometimes, seeing the results of your work is difficult. Lunch-and-learns are the perfect setting to share insights from outside the four walls of your department.
The tone should be informal—no PowerPoint decks, no handouts. And your invited guest should be prepped to ensure the focus is on what works, rather than running down shortcomings and losses. This lunch-and-learn is focused on giving everyone a clearer picture of how what they do every day helps keep the company running smoothly and successfully.
The More Things Change…
The evolution of the workplace is constant. Deeply staffed departments occupying multiple floors in a central HQ complex are being replaced by smaller, more nimble workgroups. Rapidly shifting business models and a hot job market means that today’s perfectly oiled machine of a team is tomorrow’s alumni group. Your coworkers are more likely to be a combination of full-timers, contractors, freelancers and some guy named Derrick who works remote from Vancouver.
The key to increasing team productivity in the new world of work, however, is pretty straightforward. Communicate early. Communicate often.
We’re social animals. It’s important to have the immediacy of face-to-face conversation. In this age of always-connected distraction screens, sometimes the most powerful thing we have to communicate with each other is actual attention and interaction.
Did you know 78 percent of companies with a communication strategy were able to improve their employee experience? And let’s not forget the role recognition plays when it comes to enhancing the employee experience. Access Achievers latest report on “Building a Business Case for Social Recognition” to learn more.