Conversation should always have been an important part of organisational communication. But the reality for many has been that genuine 2-way communication was not always top of the priority list. Listening to the voice of others takes time. Pressures to ‘get the comms out’ and tick a box don’t always allow that time.
But being busy is no longer an appropriate excuse (if indeed it ever was).
People are speaking up more in all areas of their lives, including at work. And they have fantastic things to say. Whether it is a conversation about the post-pandemic working patterns for your organisation or a chance for individuals to share their lived experiences of discrimination, leaders need to listen.
It is the right thing to do for individuals, but more than that, it will make your organisation stronger too.
8 tips to make conversation, listening and evaluating an integral part of your communication
- Make listening an active part of your internal communications strategy. Be explicit about who you’re going to listen to (broader than your ‘usual suspects’ or the people who always agree with the leaders). Have processes in place for gathering feedback, really listening to what they are telling you and what it means, not just writing down the words.
- Done well, listening is a skilled and time-consuming activity, so make sure that you have the resources in place (human and tech), with the right skills and the permission to spend the time listening and analysing. The only way to use what people are telling you to inform decisions is to understand what they are saying, inside and out.
- Put together a structured way to support managers and leaders to have a conversation with their teams about current hot topics at your organisation. It’s not about information-giving, with a set of slides that they can present; it’s about prompts for discussion, with top tips on how to encourage others to speak, questions to get the conversation started and active listening reminders.
- If you’re starting a conversation across your organisation about a particular topic and you know that it will generate a lot of questions, make sure that the relevant subject expert who can respond to those questions has booked out time in their diary. Doing this before you’ve even started the conversation means that as soon as the questions come up, responsive comms can start. This is much more engaging than an employee having to wait hours, days or even weeks to get an answer.
- Providing open forums to discuss topics, suggest ideas and disagree is a great way to treat everyone as an adult. The conversation will be going on privately anyway, so it is far more engaging to give a place where it’s OK to openly say what you think. You can learn from all perspectives, not just people who agree with you.
- Create as many opportunities as possible for people from different parts of your organisation to work together, so that they get to know each other better as individuals and feel part of a shared endeavour as a bigger team. This could be a particular project, such setting up a new client service, or a less formal opportunity such as an online hot choc Friday celebration.
- To have credible conversations with your colleagues about the internal communications which will work best for them, you need to evaluate what you are already doing. Use the data and insight you have about what your audiences are interested in, which channels they prefer and who they respect and trust.
- Gathering input for evaluation of your communication takes time. You need to identify what is going to be the most meaningful for you e.g. what are the top 5 articles for the month, which 5 topics have generated the most discussion on Yammer, what has your poll of the week told you. Then analyse and interpret that input. Investing the time may be painful at first, but it is worth it to make internal communication easier in the long term.
What is the conversation like at your organisation? If you would like help in working out how to get meaningful conversations underway, please get in touch to see how I could help.
Until next time