Our business is founded on the importance of collaboration, and communication is the heart of collaboration. At Knarr, we have always been a fully remote organization and intentionally developed our internal communication strategy based on that fact. But many people are not used to working from home every day. You may have worked from home a day or two here and there, but doing it every day, and alongside a fully remote team, is a huge difference and requires a big adjustment. Luckily we’ve spent years working out the kinks in our own organization and are here to help pass down Knarr’s secrets to developing an effective internal communications strategy for your remote team.
Why is it important to manage your business’ internal communications?
Communication is the lifeblood of any organization. Our society, and as a result our businesses, are constructed largely around communication with others, so working to intentionally communicate better and more effectively needs to be at the top of every leader’s objectives.
The keyword there is “effectively,” increasing the amount of time people are talking to each other can sometimes cause more harm than good.
The technology and the processes don’t do anything by themselves, it’s about the people those things enable. Without managing a communication strategy very intentionally, organizations will have issues maintaining high levels of productivity, especially in times like today where COVID-19 is keeping most of the world working from home.
What can be the impact of poor internal communication?
The biggest impact of an intentional communication strategy isn’t about the time saved but comes in the form of accountability. Many organizations and people have taken the word “collaboration” to mean “as many people as possible working on the same problem.” As a result, many people have turned into meeting matchmakers, where they will invite eight people to a “working meeting” about an item they should have been able to do by themselves, without having done any preparation for the meeting.
It’s a practice that is too often tolerated in organizations, and most of the time, people don’t realize they are doing it. Having no communication strategy fosters a lack of accountability, which ultimately affects the quality of your products and services. That’s not to say that everyone needs to be extremely rigid, teams should come together to help solve problems, but meetings should be intentional and specific with an agenda and clear objectives so that you use others’ time respectfully and effectively.
How can I improve my business’ internal communications?
The first thing you should do is understand the differences between synchronous communication and asynchronous communication. Synchronous communication is a real-time conversation. This applies to both verbal communication, i.e. meetings and phone calls, as well as chat communications, such as Slack, Teams, or text messages. These methods of communication imply immediacy and priority, which means they should be communicating things that require a task to be accomplished immediately and at a high priority. Asynchronous communication is when you send a communication to someone and the response is expected at a later time or date or if no response is required. This comes in the form of detailed emails, task lists, and notes.
At Knarr, we prioritize asynchronous communication as much as possible, which means we try to get our work done ourselves until a conversation or meeting is required. This allows for the inherent flexibility within a remote team’s schedule and prioritizes the team’s effectiveness. We try to have only a few standing meetings for critical processes that happen at regular intervals, such as sprint planning. Otherwise, we rely on tools to manage our internal communication.
When we do have a meeting, the expectation is that the meeting will be specific, have an agenda, and all of the meeting participants are prepared with context before the meeting. This responsibility falls on the person calling the meeting, which means that person needs to prepare. We want to avoid situations wherein any meeting participant shows up to a call not knowing what it’s about and what is expected, which allows us to minimize time spent explaining problems and maximize time spent solving them.
What tools or services can I use to help improve my internal communication?
To enable our internal communication we rely heavily on a few important tools, you can read about them in our blog post our preferred tools here.
What can leadership do to strengthen internal communication in a remote environment?
Teams need to be particularly cognizant of the fact that the people you work with are still people. Through only communicating over emails and phone calls, it can be easy to forget that you’re working with other humans who are trying their best to figure things out just as you are. It’s easy to get frustrated with people through a computer screen, but we have to remember, and leadership needs to foster, that we’re all in this together.
People who used to rely on seeing people at the office to ask questions and get things done must adapt. When possible, open virtual office hours or video calls with your team to help foster a personal connection and promote transparency. A lot of problems at companies are solved at the water cooler or coffee station because people run into each other and chat. This can’t happen in a remote environment, at least not directly, so a solid communication strategy and culture of transparency will help continue surfacing both ideas and issues.
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