When we were a small company, communication was so much easier. I’m sure I’m not the first CEO to say that, and I won’t be the last. The struggle is real. As we’ve grown, it has become increasingly harder to keep the proper communication channels open. To complicate matters, there are many ways to communicate – email, company intranets and cool new tools like Slack and Salesforce Chatter. It’s hard to know which one to use and, sometimes, much of the message can be lost in translation when you don’t have the benefit of having a face-to-face conversation.
Back “in the good ‘ole days” it was easy to huddle everyone up and communicate company information and our goals, vision and mission. Now, with offices and employees across the United States, that’s impossible. So, what is the solution? I don’t think there is just one and I don’t have all the answers, but here is how I’ve tackled this topic.
Earlier this year we rolled out a new company Intranet site fittingly branded MarinerNOW. We encourage our employees to use this site to communicate with the entire company. It’s used to share news, press, marketing materials, organizational charts, employee information and much more. Think of it as both document storage and Facebook for business. It even shares birthdays and work anniversaries. I’m amazed at how quickly our company adopted the system. Within a month, 93 percent of our employees had logged in and were using it. We helped them along…changing it to the default screen on their browser and posting items that would normally be emailed. Nonetheless, I would say it has helped keep our employees better informed. The downfall? For us, MarinerNOW is only as good as the information that is put on it…you are reliant on your employees to share the communication.
Quarterly Company Meetings
Every quarter we have a company lunch where I, and other leaders, give an update on the company. This is becoming challenging for several reasons. First, only those who work in the Kansas City area are able to attend. This often makes our partner firms and employees in other cities feel isolated. Also, we’ve outgrown the meeting space we have in our offices. Our last meeting was held in the lobby of our building. It was standing room only and employees from the other companies in our building kept walking through on their way to the parking lot.
As a company, we are doing this more often now. I find it gives all our employees a chance to actively participate in meetings. Sometimes the webcast is live and other times the meeting is recorded and posted on MarinerNOW for any of our offices to watch. It depends on the type of meeting. The benefit of the live meeting webcast is those in other locations can ask questions and have them answered immediately. They can also participate in the conversation.
We tend to utilize the recordings for training-type meetings, or when we are having someone present as part of our Mariner Connections program for new hires. The new hires in other locations attend the presentation via the live webcast, but then employees who are not new hires, but in any of our offices, can watch the recording at their leisure. We’ve found everyone, not only new hires, benefits from the presentations.
It’s important to note, though, when doing live webcasts, you need to be aware of your body language. Even though you may not be the one presenting, your body language is on display and can convey a message of its own…and it may not be a good one.
Managers as Communicators
One of the most effective communication tools I have is my executive team. I am able to meet with this group often and I empower them to share information with their teams and then the managers on their teams do the same with their employees. Initially I was concerned the message may change as it makes its way through the ranks. What I found, instead, is that managers are able to tailor the message to their specific team or department. Specifically, they are able to construct the messaging in a way that makes sense to their specific team.
I can’t tell you the right way to communicate to your team. You need to determine what works best for you and your company. But, I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure communication is a top priority. Without a strong internal communication plan and process, your employees will be disconnected from your company’s mission and vision, leading to poor morale and even performance. At a company where our goals of client retention and associate retention stay constant every year, effective communication is at the heart of it.