During the pandemic's peak, many companies started working remotely. For many of them, it was their first time doing remote work. As a result, there were sweeping changes to how their company engaged, talked and worked with each other.
As employees start going back to the office, companies now have to figure out how to make communication work. Oftentimes, they have a mixture of remote employees, hybrid employees and in-office staff, resulting in a combination of face-to-face and digital interactions.
As a result, businesses have to grapple with communication equity and ensure their business communication strategies are effective enough to move the company forward. Let's take a moment to talk about business communication strategies and how to develop them in your organization.
Defining business communication strategies
To be productive, meet goals and excel at employee engagement, a company's communication has to be seamless. There are many types of business communication. From internal corporate conversations to external conversations with customers, clients and partners, business communication strategies cover everything and consider all the different components of business communication.
A business communication strategy should offer a guideline for when, how and why people associated with the company communicate. However, just like creating meeting strategies and employee engagement strategies, there's no right way to create one. However, all business communication strategies should entail:
- Message what the company wants to say and who has the authority to say those things.
- Content: how to frame the company's goals for each content piece.
- Channels: what channels the company uses to communicate its message and content.
Contrary to popular belief, business communication strategies are not lists of equipment and tools for communication. Instead, the strategy should serve as a guide for what the company hopes to achieve through communication. For example, a company might alter the channels it uses to communicate. However, the overall vision stays the same.
Developing a business communication strategy
Ideally, your business communication strategy should fall in line with your overall business strategy. If you stay focused on your big goals, it makes it easier to understand where communication fits and how it can help your company achieve its overarching objectives.
Your strategy doesn't have to be lengthy. In many cases, it won't be more than a page or two long. It just needs to be long enough to outline a clear vision. In most cases, communication strategies begin with a single statement that defines the vision. The rest of it simply offers directions on how supervisors and employees can help accomplish the mission. However, it doesn't need to get into the nitty-gritty details. Instead, stay high-level to avoid making your strategy too prescriptive.
Historically, communication strategies were focused on and driven by the executive and senior staff. Now, a more employee-driven approach seems to be better. Rather than working top-down, getting the employees involved opens up conversations and helps avoid making the communication strategy something that's siloed or static.
As a result, it's wise to get the whole team involved from the beginning. To do this, simply take stock of the current state of your organization's communication channel via employee surveys. Ask the employees what they think works and doesn't work about your existing communication platforms. Then, use that information to create an employee-led strategy.
After you feel good about your business communication strategy, you can begin to get more granular about the types of communication you want to see. For example:
- Should separate departments and teams have their own internal communication channels?
- Is there a streamlined way for employees to escalate issues?
- Do supervisors have enough support communicating with remote employees?
- Is the current marketing and sales approach effective?
- Is the customer service department succeeding at keeping customers happy and brand advocates? If not, how can communication evolve to solve this issue?
After answering all these questions, you can begin to see the communication mechanics and what channels you need to be using more clearly.
Choosing communication channels
Employees want their work communication to be similar to how they communicate with their family and friends outside of the office. This preference is especially prevalent in younger employees. In fact, 91% of Gen-Z employees say that technology is a difference-maker in choosing a job.
That's a primary reason mobile tech and instant messaging apps are becoming must-haves for many businesses. With the rise in remote work, these digital communication tools are becoming even more essential. These digital solutions enable communication with people inside and outside the physical office. Plus, when you use familiar tech, you remove the learning curve and exponentially increase adoption rates.
Defining the hardware and channels isn't everything. You also need to use insights and data from the surveys to shape and create your policies. Then, these policies should influence the types of messages your team sends.
The best communication policies establish boundaries to keep communication respectful, which decreases the risk of bullying and harassment. Your entire team needs to know the policies and you should have a clear set of consequences for what happens when someone breaks the rules.
Business communication's role in change management
Organization-wide change is a true test of your business's communication strategy. Change often brings uncertainty, and your team will look to leadership for answers. The rapid move to remote working during the pandemic's peak is a perfect example of this. Now, as we all collectively shift to our "new normal," your employees will be looking to you again for that guidance.
Currently, there's a significant emphasis on employee experience (EX). Most organizations actually improved their company culture during the pandemic because the call to enhance EX was so high. Now, many businesses are hoping to capitalize on employee experience as they move toward the future. Communications will play a pivotal role during this transition.
In order to communicate through a period of change, organizations must understand that change is inherently uncomfortable. In fact, 73% of employees who experience change report feeling stressed. As a result, an organization's communications can't be cold and disconnected. It has to be reassuring, human and realistic.
Here are some things to keep in mind with your communication strategy in times of change:
- Figure out your messaging and ensure it lines up with your broader business strategy.
- Figure out who the change is affecting and how it's affecting them, and determine how the change will affect people in different roles.
- Consider how you'll communicate: what channels and messages for which employees.
- Be transparent about the changes.
- Lay out the company's hopes for the future.
- Address any questions and fears when possible.
- Handle rumors by supplying facts.
- Give people an open forum for feedback and a place to express themselves.
Most importantly, continue to have conversations. There's no way to talk too much during a period of change. Communicate frequently via a variety of channels, and be sure to keep everyone in the loop, so they have opportunities to ask questions.
5 tips for improving your business communication strategies
Creating your business communication strategy and putting it into action is only the beginning. To keep your operations running smoothly, you'll need to continually manage, update and refine your strategy as you move forward. Here are five ways to keep your plan relevant and working.
1. Be transparent about your goals
Your organization's mission should be the crux of your communication strategy, so it needs to be clear. Make sure everyone knows the company's overarching missions so more employees will buy into the vision and be aligned with your goals.
2. Manage your progress
Continue to gather data and feedback on your communication approach. Consider using always-on surveys so staff can give feedback while using the company's communication policies and tools. By regularly asking for feedback, you'll be able to notice trends and make changes in real-time.
3. Follow your own guidelines
Be sure to lead by example. Communicate how you want your team to communicate, and use the channels you want them to use. For example, if you want your team to swap to once-daily video call updates instead of continual chats, you should do the same.
4. Allow people to share their thoughts
Give your employees a chance to give feedback and contribute ideas. Then, when possible, act on those ideas to make your team feel heard and valued.
5. Continue to provide training
When you onboard new technology, update policies or undergo change, be sure to take time to provide training to your employees. Consider a mandatory, once-per-year training session where your can make sure your employees are trained on the latest and greatest tools your company has to offer.