I write about the things that matter to me. All opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Harness Hallway Chatter The Right Way

We spend a lot of time writing emails to our employees don't we?

Which they promptly ignore.

We also slave over brochures, newsletters, and web copy.

Scan - note what's critical - forget the rest.

Where are people communicating with each other, and more importantly, paying attention?

You got it: In person there's the hallway, the bathroom (check the stall), before and after meetings, behind closed doors, whispering in cubes. The food court.

Where are they going online? LinkedIn Facebook, discussion groups, maybe Twitter. That's externally.

Online within the organization there is email. But email is old school. It's slow, it's cumbersome, details get lost, it's hard to collaborate in real time.

We need to collaborate and have good information while doing so, if we are to get anything done.

In my personal opinion the way to get employees engaged and productive at the SAME time (this is key - engaged in the work you want them to be doing) is:

Start with one-way communication:

1. Tell them what the vision is - again and again and again and again.

2. Tell them how they fit in.

Move to dialogue:

3. Host official Q and A sessions and town halls.

4. Take and respond to questions and comments electronically and in person.

5. Walk around, do brown-bag lunches, hold office retreats and meet--and-greets.

Proceed and sponsor employee-to-employee conversation:

1. Obtain a range of tools suitable, secure and cost-effective

2. Establish policy to guide appropriate behavior (and staff an internal communications team to oversee)

3. Train people in the use of these tools

4. Give them official time to use them

5. Monitor public fora for discussion (not punishment)

Many people think that limiting idle talk promotes productivity. The twin misconception is that only official communications help people to do their jobs better.

The truth is that only when people talk freely and excitedly amongst themselves about work, does engagement and productivity really take off.

The factory model works in factories. In the modern virtual team, a total paradigm shift is needed. Maybe it sounds obvious in theory, but it's time to shift more universally to practice.

Good luck!