We live in an era in which digitization and more technology are often assumed to be positive by definition. If you can incorporate more digital communication into your personal life or organization, you are improving it–making it more dynamic, more efficient. But that is not necessarily the case.
Amidst the explosion of new software and tech tools that claim to make communication and collaboration easier, there are those which can end up complicating things more than helping. Overzealousness or simply going with the crowd when it comes to digital tools can hurt your communication and collaboration as much as failing to properly leverage them. With that in mind, below are x ways to audit your communication and collaboration processes to determine whether your tools and procedures are helping or hurting you.
Are Your Digital Tools Hurting Your Productivity?
There has been an explosion of digital communication tools over the last decade, and particularly over the last two years, as organizations have rushed to find ways around workplace closures and new forms of collaborating and interacting. But the digital tools you have selected may be inadvertently hampering your communication and collaboration processes. If you want to better understand why and how that may be happening, you need to create and execute an audit that has a reasonable scope, analyzes the right communication, involves the correct employees and stakeholders, knows that its objectives are, and is prepared to evolve and change as you carry it out and review it.
1. Determine the Scope of Your Audit
Include content generated by all corporate business areas such as human resources, IT, and building maintenance to get the most accurate picture of your employee communication. There may also be committees or internal working groups that create content that is distributed to all employees that could stand to be part of your audit as well. A good workplace analytics platform will be able to give you a better idea of the scope of the undertaking and all of the moving parts.
During the audit, you will likely uncover that certain forms and areas of your communication work better or worse than others. Depending on your budget, you may want to focus exclusively on one area of your digital communication if you determine bottlenecks of inefficiencies are having a disproportionate effect on your ability to collaborate and be productive.
You should also consider how many labour hours you are willing to spend uncovering problems. What kind of resources will you need to free up in order to perform a thorough audit and is this something that might be better spread out over a longer period of time.
2. Collect and Analyze Your Previous Communications
Collect a sampling of all of your digital content from the previous six to twelve months and then use a spreadsheet to keep track of your “Yes” or “No” responses to some important questions. These questions include ones such as, “does our communication get the right messages and information across?” “did we target the right people?” and “did we make it about the employees?”
You should also strive to answer questions such as “was there a lot of confusion about anything?” and “Did we need to re-communicate to clear up any misunderstandings?
It is also important to consider whether or not your communication typically makes use of visuals, such as screenshots, that could help clarify explanations and be included as part of a better communication policy framework or manual.
Communication takes numerous forms, including face-to-face, email, instant messaging, and work management applications. Therefore, part of the audit should also focus on ensuring that people are following communication rules and messaging about approved topics in the right medium to be most effective.
Knowing where to communicate is sometimes half the fight. Because your firm may have a variety of communication platforms, understanding which one to employ is critical. Which tool is most suited to a query or comment? Is it necessary to communicate in real-time, or might an asynchronous message suffice? If you’re unsure, consult with a team member or management about where you should send certain sorts of messages. It is critical that everyone is on the same page.
3. How Will You Collect Employee and Other Stakeholder Insight?
There are several methods for gathering information from individuals who receive content (workers) and those who generate or fund content development (stakeholders). These include one-on-one interviews, both official and casual, as well as surveys, which are still one of the most effective methods of measuring engagement.
It is important that the audit concerns itself primarily with collecting and analyzing first-hand information and evidence. If you want to know where your employees see bottlenecks and inefficiencies, you need to ask them. The alternative is essentially entirely theoretical and may not end up providing you with actionable data.
4. Know Whose Feedback Will be Most Valuable
It is not always essential or feasible to get feedback from everyone involved. In such instances, enlist a diverse group of personnel. It is critical that you examine various functions, levels, and places. You can create a feedback hierarchy by identifying the most mission-critical parts of all your workflows. At which level does communication stand to have the biggest positive or negative impact on productivity?
5. Understand Your Current Communication and Collaboration Landscape
It is critical to contextualize your results. Make a list of your available resources, restrictions, and facts. You need to know, first and foremost, what the goals and objectives are for employee communication. Is it strictly collaborative and, if so, are there any additional types of communication–i.e., informal, trust, and camaraderie-building communication–that may help facilitate it.
You also need to have a clear picture of the channels available for communication as well as an understanding of the structure of your communication. That is to say, is employee communication centralized or decentralized within the organization and what kind of structure do you believe is most beneficial to overall productivity.
Another important collaboration landscape question to address concerns the approval procedure within departments, teams, and the organization as a whole. What kind of signoffs are required in order to make decisions regarding resources, for instance? Are there decision-making hierarchies that are complicating smoother collaboration?
6. Plan for the Future
Make recommendations to yourself using a SWOT analysis as a reference. Maintain as much objectivity as possible, and don’t be afraid to make unpleasant decisions when necessary. You should always start by focusing on the low-hanging fruit (i.e., the most obvious issues and inefficiencies). This is because it only makes financial sense to prioritize those changes that can be carried out quickly and stand the best chance of having a significant impact. Doing so will also help you build positive momentum that you can carry through throughout the audit.
You should also separate decisions into impact categories like cost, efficiency, productivity, corporate culture, etcetera. It is important not to be overly ambitious about the plan that comes out of the audit. Have a six-month plan envisioned, a twelve-month plan, and an 18-month one. You can revisit your progress every quarter and decide whether you are on track or not.
Auditing your digital communication processes can result in massive efficiency, productivity, and, ultimately, dollar savings throughout your organization. But you need to know how to go about it correctly. Keep the above auditing tips in mind and find out what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong when it comes to digital collaboration and communication.
1) On whose shoulders should the responsibility for communication and collaboration audits fall? Chief Communication Officers? Chief Transformation Officers?
2) What are the most important KPI when it comes to digital tools and communication? Is productivity the be all and end all?