Bridging locations and departments is the most prevalent connect-your-company challenge. Even if you’re still relatively small, achieving true connection across your organization can be hard.
Even companies with just 50 employees must take deliberate action to stay connected. Here’s why this disconnection happens and what you should do about it:
The troubling math of interconnection
Back when you were a three-person team, communication was simple. There are just three interactions to maintain. Encounters are easy and frequent, so it’s easy to keep everyone on the same page
But, very few teams are made up of just three people. The typical team size is seven people. In a seven-person team, there are 21 relationship pairs in play. Staying connected now requires a lot more intention and agreed-upon practices.
But, it doesn’t stop there. A seven-person team is rarely working independently. Imagine if it’s working with seven other teams, each with seven people on it. That’s 49 people, which equates to an overwhelming number of relationship pairs. 1,540, in fact.
Communication at the one-on-one level has now become impossibly complex.
By the time your company reaches 50 people, you’ll need tools and processes to efficiently facilitate and manage workplace communications. In this section, we’ve provided three ways you can do this (and all three of them have worked for us).
1. Get a space that encourages interaction
Even when all your employees are in a single location, connection can still be tough, particularly if people are split across different floors. In fact, even when everyone is on the same floor, if the layout does not promote circulation and interaction, disconnection happens.
This happened to us in our last office space. There were 65 of us on a single floor, but our extended C-shaped floor plan (below) meant that certain teams rarely crossed paths and interacted. For example, developers at one end of the office only saw the designers at the other end if they proactively took the time to visit them.
Our new office solves this—not only are we all in the same physical space, the layout promotes circulation We also have lots of informal working lounges and meeting rooms that encourage people to collide and connect.
As much as possible, get your people into a single, contiguous space that promotes circulation and interaction.
2. Actively cause employees to interact
So much value and innovation happens because of chance encounters—two employees connecting things that otherwise would never be connected.
For that to happen, people need to encounter each other. This needs to happen within each of your locations and across locations, either in person or online.
Part of this can be driven socially through team building events, retreats, BBQs, Christmas parties, and the like. But, probably even more potent is creating cross-functional (and cross-locational) working groups to explore opportunities and solve problems together.
At Jostle, we recently implemented something that greatly enhances cross-team mixing. In our new office, the elevator opens directly into our workspace, which means we need a “receptionist”.
Rather than create a new position, we asked for each team to “volunteer” someone to sit with our sales team and play receptionist for a few hours each week. The number of problems that have been identified and solved by people bumping into each other to share this otherwise low value activity is remarkable.
3. Invest in tools that cause communication and collaboration
Providing employees with a modern communications tool or intranet will enable them to find and connect with each other easily.This is especially beneficial for companies with multiple locations.
Your communications tool should be engaging and easy enough for everyone to use. That way, the tech barrier will be low and it will become the hub for everyone to find out what’s happening across the company. If you want to find out more about how an intranet improves employee experience and boosts connectivity, check out this article.
Clear communication is the backbone of a thriving business. When your company reaches a certain size, achieving this will require intention and infrastructure. Addressing your workspace, your practices, and your online connectivity can all help in the effort to keep dialogue open, flowing, and productive.