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A Look at the Fight for Better Internal Collaboration

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A Look at the Fight for Better Internal Collaboration

February 06, 2017
By Anna Johansson

When it comes to unified communications, the focus is mostly on how businesses are interacting with customers. And while that’s fine, it’s impossible to ignore the importance of internal communication and how it affects external communication. Thankfully, there are a handful of options available to businesses that are looking to grow in this area.

Practical Ways Businesses are Improving Internal Collaboration

The cost of poor internal communication isn’t just frustration. According to a study from People Driven Performance, the cumulative cost of productivity losses resulting from communications barriers is $26,041 per employee per year – and it doesn’t stop there.

Poor communication also affects other areas of business. For example, insufficient communication during a time of change – such as during a round of layoffs – has been correlated to a 42 percent increase in misconduct.

As important as healthy internal communication is to the overall success of business operations, it’s simultaneously difficult to master. That’s why businesses perk up when they see other organizations successfully implementing strategies that work. Here are a few of the more practical ways leading businesses are taking this challenge on.

1. Eliminating Unnecessary Email

According to an oft-cited statistic, the average U.S. white-collar worker spends 6.3 hours per day checking email. The time is almost evenly split, with 3.2 hours devoted to work emails and 3.1 hours spent on personal messages. For employers, that has to be a scary thought. Even if the numbers are slightly inflated, you have to assume that they’re pretty accurate. Therefore, the average employee is easily wasting 20-plus hours per week on email.

What’s the solution? Many tech companies have figured that offering streamlined tools with fewer distractions would solve things. To an extent, apps like Slack have helped many businesses. However, the issue runs much deeper. Employees are in a mindset where they’re scared to not use email. If they spend five minutes away from their inbox, they get shaky. (Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but you get the idea.)

Instead of just replacing traditional email interfaces with new systems that are supposed to be more efficient, businesses are finding that education on email protocol is better. By teaching employees to do things like use abbreviated language, only CC people who need to see the message, and better organize email inboxes, suddenly email becomes less of a time-suck and internal communication benefits as a result.

2. Improving Training Processes

Employee training is a big deal in many organizations where there are frequent changes or lots of turnovers. The problem is that most training processes are archaic. Throwing a bunch of people into a boardroom and having an instructor read off PowerPoint slides doesn’t work. Businesses need to let corporate learning catch up with the rest of the business world.

Leading businesses have learned that, by modernizing their approach to corporate learning and training, employee engagement is higher and the results are superior. In 2017, many are starting to rely on collaborative practices and social features – such as gamification, video conferencing, online forums, etc. – to improve both learning and retention.

3. Developing Better Feedback loops

Every organization wants to know how they can entice their employees and inspire them to maximize their potential. But most of these companies are looking in the wrong areas.

“Unbeknownst to many, it is the feedback loop that has been most recently credited to incentivizing and inspiring employees to always give their best by opening up clogged arteries of communication,” entrepreneur David Hassell explains. “Regular communication creates the energizing, healthy work environment that has been found to be the cornerstone of employee engagement.”

Businesses need to get better at developing formal feedback loops that allow everyone in the organization to have their voices heard.

4. Adopting the Right Technologies

Thankfully, today’s businesses don’t need a manual approach for internal collaboration. With the right tools and technologies, communication can be efficiently streamlined with very little kickback. Here are a couple of the tools businesses are using:

  • Social intranet software. With businesses relying on many different tools and platforms to keep things going, information often gets dispersed and lost. That’s why many companies are turning to social intranet software that creates a centralized and searchable hub in which all conversations and documents are stored.
  • Messaging apps. Email has its place, but it’s far too distracting. That’s why a lot of companies prefer messaging apps – such as the aforementioned Slack. These apps minimize distractions and offer unique functions that traditional email can’t mimic.

The key is to avoid adopting too many tools. At some point, relying on too many tools defeats the purpose of simplification and only muddies the waters.

5. Communicate About Collaboration

Finally, successful businesses communicate about collaboration. That may sound strange, but it’s true. In other words, they aren’t afraid of having difficult conversations and discussing ways to improve current processes. This may not seem important, but it makes a huge difference when upper level management isn’t afraid of recognizing weaknesses and seeking out areas for improvement.

Internal Actions Dictate External Actions

While everyone wants to talk about how businesses are communicating with supply chain partners, customers, and other individuals, the fact remains that internal actions dictate external actions. Until internal collaboration is mastered, it’s virtually impossible for an organization to become proficient at external communication. The sooner business leaders recognize this, the faster they’ll experience results. 

Edited by Alicia Young

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