Evaluating Technology And Tactics For Digital Workplace Communication
Today’s workplaces are dominated by digital communication, from emails and texts to Slack channels and video conferences, but despite the proliferation of these tools over the last decade, there are still a lot of professionals who aren’t fully comfortable with them. In particular, there’s a significant gap in how people of different ages use these tools; those who grew up in the age of traditional conference calls and board meetings may not like video conferencing, while younger workers tend to find overly long and formal emails unnecessary.
As workplace technology continues to evolve, businesses need to emphasize office-wide comfort and competency with all of the tools they regularly use. This isn’t just a matter of worker confidence or technical proficiency, but a critical skill set for the remote era.
Focus On Efficiency
One of the primary reasons that professional communication has changed so much over the last several years is that younger workers, raised on AIM and text messages, crave efficiency. They can, however, fall into the habit of being overly brief, and that can lead to miscommunications and friction with other team members and clients.
To overcome this issue, one solution is to train all workers to ask two key questions about all written communication: first, what’s the purpose of this message and second, how does it serve my reader. This can help the writer evaluate the text to ensure it contains all the important information and reduce the number of exchanges it takes to complete the task at hand.
Another way to keep workplace communications moving along is by encouraging staff to choose their medium carefully – in other words, to evaluate their options and decide whether a topic is best discussed over email, on the phone, via an instant message, or in some other way. Too often, team members won’t change formats until they’re well beyond the “two volley rule.” They’ve already emailed back and forth for more than two cycles and they still haven’t resolved the issue. Two complete exchanges is the cut off for email on a single topic.
Virtual Video Environments
While email has been an office standard long enough that everyone should feel comfortable with it – even if they’re not always at their best in the form – video chat is a new frontier. As such, many people still struggle with basic tasks such as maintaining virtual eye contact and staying on task. Though these might be considered fundamental skills for people gathered around a conference table, but when that conference table goes virtual, it can be difficult to recalibrate.
How can businesses help their teams become more effective in the digital board room? The fact is that it takes practice. In addition to encouraging them to work on eye contact, team members should also practice gesturing purposefully and speaking clearly, eliciting feedback from the audience beyond the room, and using pauses to maintain a connection. It’s easy to forget about the extent of your audience when presenting in a virtual meeting space, but everyone can become more skilled over time.
Set Clear Standards
Finally, when it comes to digital communication, it’s important to remember that there are a lot of options out there, and they’re not all equal, so employers need to maintain clear standards. Slack is a well-established professional communication tool and the company even went public recently. Other tools, like Facebook Messenger, have tried to create a professional front, but shouldn’t be used in office settings.
When it comes to choosing tools, younger workers are far more likely to use unapproved messaging apps to do their work than their older counterparts, and while they may realize this isn’t wise, that won’t necessarily stop them. Managers need to be clear about what tools team members are allowed to use and keep an eye out for any unauthorized tools that may compromise team data. With so many choices, there’s no reason for staff to go outside the bounds of company-approved programs.
While technology has made communication easier in many ways, it’s also added a new layer of complications to any exchange. Rather than just making a phone call, there are a dozen different ways to connect with peers and clients. In order to keep the details from slipping through the cracks, professionals need to choose wisely and focus on clarity, because simplicity isn’t the same as efficiency.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes.