After more than 20 years in the story-telling business, first as a correspondent and anchor for CNN, then as an international campaign strategist and now as a corporate professional development consultant, I am certain of one thing: Communications is everything.
My executive clients are from some of the top companies in the world including Deloitte, SAP, Pernod Ricard, Daimler, McKesson and others. To serve them, you can imagine correctly that I travel a lot. In the past twelve months, for instance, I’ve been to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Romania, Hungary, France, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, the UAE, the UK and the US.
Communication underpins Culture
In each country, in each organization, the managers I work with are committed to upping their game – to help employees better connect, collaborate and engage.
They’re obsessive about culture and they understand that communications underpin culture. If your communication channels are not clear, vibrant and inclusive – then your culture won’t be either.
For instance, I recently worked in Stockholm with the Absolut Company– training every presenter who was to speak before an audience of nearly 500 fellow employees at a two-day conference meticulously designed to update, inform and most important of all, to inspire.
Absolut’s Culture and Communications Manager, Kelly Caul, was the mastermind behind this effort to provide coaching for each presenter – from the C-level to a couple of wonderful production employees from their distillery.
When Kelly arrived at her position two years ago, she interviewed 60 employees from across the company – at all levels, with different jobs and different backgrounds.
“I discovered so many great things about the company and the people who worked here. But when I asked the question, ‘What are our company values today?’ only one person in the group could name them correctly.”
Kelly understands how strengthening employee communications strengthens culture.
Why organizations must take a holistic approach to communications
I’ve led thousands of presentation training boot camps, media workshops, message development and delivery programs, one-on-one interpersonal communications role-play events, and provided executive coaching for CEOs across five continents. But for real culture success, companies must take a holistic approach to communications. Why work on improving communications in so many areas, yet continue to use old-school email?
It’s simply not how people communicate anymore.
My daughter is eleven. Lulu and a group of her fellow fifth-grade classmates recently formed a WhatsApp group entitled,“World’s Greatest 5th Class.” (Of course, ‘World’s Greatest.’) But what’s most interesting to me about this group from a communications perspective is that their messages to each other are in spoken word.
We used to complain Millennials don’t know how to spell properly because they write in short-hand, emoji-filled texts. Well, I share with my clients that Generation Z – which outnumbers the millennials – isn’t even bothering to type.They’re communicating differently. Therefore, the tools they use when they start reporting to work, better suit their styles.
I now encourage my clients to move to Workplace from Meta. I first learned about the empowerment and productivity boost Workplace offers through one of my favorite clients: Enablo, an Australian-based, dedicated provider of Workplace.
While I’ve already mentioned that I’ve long been a speaker, trainer and coach on the strategy, structure and delivery of better communications, it was after Enablo’s CEO Daragh McGrath led me on a guided tour of Workplace that I saw first-hand the difference this social-style platform makes in improving communications in an area that must be part of any holistic solution.
More companies are rethinking email
Although we have been sending emails for more than thirty years now, my clients complain that email tennis or ping-pong or whatever-you-want-to-call-it, often creates plenty of wasted time.
Inboxes are overflowing with CCs, BCCs and those seemingly endless email threads that build one by one on top of the previous email into such a long chain, it becomes maddening to try to find out who said what to whom and when. “I know Sean raised an important point about that draft of the project report… It’s somewhere in here… Oh forget it. I’ll just email and ask him to resend it.”That’s not very efficient, is it?
If you want employees to connect, you must purposefully empower them to communicate. In every aspect of their business communications.
Just two weeks ago, as I led a communications training session for a group of senior leaders at a large pharmaceutical company, one of the participants turned to me and remarked, “I love it that you don’t leave out the importance of how teams can better connect in writing and through tools other than email.”
Survey your team to get buy-in on how they like to communicate.
I urge my clients who say they want to help their company communicate better, to actively survey employees to find out what tools they’re already actively using outside of business and what they suggest. Listening and getting pre-buy-in is always the best way to bring about successful change.
Like with my daughter’s (World’s Greatest) 5th Class group, employees prefer discussions and open forums more than simply being informed a change is coming. We all prefer that, don’t we?
Workplace is gaining traction as the best collaboration tool.
My clients give me great feedback. Some say they’re especially thrilled that Workplace can be used on desktop or mobile – all with the friendly, familiar features of Facebook – plus the assurance of additional important security measures.
Other clients point out also how easy it is now to navigate through documents. Employees can respond, comment and ask questions in real-time. Group discussions can be tracked and the data within can be easily searched – and – “There’s that project point from Sean!” – found!
Emails don’t offer audio or video options, and of course, Workplace does. Further, Enablo also offers customized plug-ins designed for specific company needs that integrate seamlessly with Workplace.
After my clients facilitate new and improved ways for employees to convene and converse and spark ideas, they’re finding their subsequent employee satisfaction survey results are going markedly up.
With only about 6% of young people using email in personal life, email is on its way to becoming obsolete in professional life too. I give it another ten years. Max.
And understanding that, companies I’m working with all over the world are now adopting – or are preparing to adopt – more effective, inclusive and efficient tools for communications.
With corporate clients in five continents, Gina London is a premier communications strategy, structure and delivery expert. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and Emmy-winning former CNN anchor. @TheGinaLondon