Note: Today, we're sharing a guest post written by Jessica Lowin, a writer and editor with a background in digital communication and security. Enjoy!
In remote, hybrid or any kind of digital workplaces, communication is key, particularly when it comes to keeping employees productive. The good news is that there are lots of great communication tools available to help you make your organisation's communication seamless.
Long-established communication technology like email worked well for more traditional, office-based teams, but are simply not fit for purpose when employees are working remotely. A digital workplace requires a specific set of tools to optimise its communication processes. The companies that neglect to move with the times can expect lower engagement and productivity.
So what exactly are these advanced communication tools that streamline communication, prompt greater levels of collaboration and empower digital workplaces? Today, we're going to look at 5 of them. And we'll also some communication strategies that can boost employee productivity and engagement, all while enhancing digital employee experience.
Understanding Employee Engagement
Employee engagement in the digital era is all about an employee's connection to their work and motivation to work towards achieving personal, team and company goals. It indicates an employee's intellectual and emotional investment in their role and organisation, so understandably, it's a really important metric for leaders to measure and track.
Key Factors Influencing Employee Engagement
Many different factors influence employee engagement. Understanding them is important for organisations looking to build high-performing teams. Some of the key factors include:
- Effective Leadership
- Meaningful Work
- Communication and Collaboration
- Work-Life Balance
- Learning and Development Opportunities
- Recognition and Rewards
Key Benefits of High Employee Engagement
High employee engagement brings with it a lot of advantages. Some of the most enticing benefits include:
- Increased Productivity: Highly-engaged employees tend to deliver better outcomes and are, on average, 14% more productive in their efforts to achieve personal, team and business goals (1).
- Work Satisfaction: High employee engagement naturally leads to higher employee satisfaction, meaning that employees who are highly engaged are less likely to leave the company. In one major study by Gallup, highly-engaged teams showed 43% lower turnover (1).
- Increased Profitability: High productivity and greater employee satisfaction generally combine to increase customer satisfaction. This explains why highly-engaged teams are 23% more profitable (1).
- Greater Problem-Solving and Innovation: Better communication and data flow, when combined with high employee engagement generally leads to better teamwork and improved problem-solving across the organisation. It has the added bonus of promoting creativity and innovation.
7 of the Most Common Communication Challenges in Digital Workplaces
There are a number of challenges that employees in digital workplaces face, whether they're working remotely, hybrid or working in-office with a dispersed team. Here are some of the most common communication challenges in the digital workspace.
- Lack of Non-Verbal Cues: When connecting with our coworkers virtually, we miss our on many of the non-verbal cues that we rely on with in-person collaboration. Access to body language, emotional expressions, facial expressions, and tone of voice, can be limited, which can lead to miscommunication and confusion.
- Over-Reliance on Written Communication: Written communication is really powerful on dispersed teams, as it limits miscommunication and allows employees to access conversations and notes over and over again, if needed. It also helps teams work well asynchronously. But few employees are naturally gifted at written communication. Without the proper training and supporting tools, messages can be easily misunderstood.
- Time Zone Differences: In a dispersed team, employees often work in different time zones, which makes both real-time collaboration and asynchronous work really important.
- Information Overload: Dispersed teams often fall into the trap of over-communication - there can be so many messages, emails, and notifications, that productivity and efficiency suffers. It's important that any communication strategies allow employees to engage in deep work and don't contribute to employee burnout.
- Lack of Personal Connection: The lack of face-face interaction in the digital workplace can be difficult for some employees, as they struggle to build the strong relationships necessary for great teamwork. This is not something to leave to chance - leaders should take a proactive approach to allow personal connections to grow and flourish.
- Technical Issues: Digital communication relies massively on technology, so when technical issues like poor internet connection, server errors or software malfunctions occur, hours of work can be lost.
- Limited Feedback and Recognition: Employees in digital workplaces often report a lack of meaningful feedback and recognition as less conversations are taking place. This is why so many high-performing teams choose Frankli to promote regular 1:1 meetings and high-quality, detailed feedback across their teams.
5 of the Best Communication Tools for Employee Engagement
As technology advances, there are lots of communication tools available to help build and maintain high employee engagement. Let's discuss some of the most popular ones.
1. Real-Time Messaging and Collaboration Platforms
Real-time messaging platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and virtual call centre software allow teams to interact in real-time from anywhere in the world. Using these platforms, team members can share information quickly through instant messaging, file sharing, and video conferencing.They also allow employees to create dedicated channels and groups based on specific topics.
Of course, this all depends on how these platforms are managed - if you've ever found yourself in more than 10 Slack channels, you'll know what I mean!
2. Video Conferencing and Virtual Meeting Software
Video conferencing software like Zoom or Google Meet allow teams to meet and collaborate virtually. Although these meetings are not always as effective as the in-person alternative, there are lots of additional advantages, including easy screen-sharing, meeting recording, whiteboard collaboration and automated notifications.
Some of these tools have the added bonus of hosting webinars.
3. Enterprise Social Networks and Internal Collaborative Workspaces
Creating a sense of community among employees is crucial for high employee engagement. And it rarely happens through email or virtual meetings. Many companies use enterprise social networks (eSN) like Yammer, Teams, Jive, Chatter, and Jabber to fill this communication gap.
More recently, internal collaborative workspaces offering additional functionality, like Confluence and Basecamp, have fast gained popularity.
4. Mobile Employee Communication Apps
Most of the platforms mentioned above are also available in app form, allowing employees to use them on their smartphones.
This is useful for employees who travel a lot or work flexible hours, but care must be taken not to allow these apps to have a negative impact on employee work-life balance.
5. Dedicated Employee Engagement and Performance Platforms
Regular feedback and 1:1 meetings between employee and manager are crucial for building highly-engaged teams, as are dedicated tools for managing and automating them.
Frankli provides dedicated workspaces for exchanging feedback and managing 1:1 meetings, and there are also tools for surveys, performance reviews, goal-setting and tracking, and employee development.
4 Strategies for Optimising Employee Communication
As we saw above, effective team communication can have a huge impact on an organisation's growth and profitability. Here, we're sharing some established best practices for great employee communication.
1. Establish Clear Communication Guidelines and Expectations
When it comes to effective communication within a team or company, expectations should be clear from the start. Written guidelines are ideal, and should be shared with employees during onboarding. We've got more information on how to do this in our latest eBook.
2. Encourage Active and Transparent Communication Channels
When planning your communication strategies, it's important to consider whether employees will feel comfortable discussing issues or sharing ideas in these spaces. For example, managers may not want to share constructive feedback with an employee in a group Slack channel. Similarly, leaders may not want to involve employees at every stage of reviewing company policies, but prefer to ask for feedback on selected issues via a survey.
3. Provide Training and Support for Effective Use of Tools
Where employees are expected to use communication software, leaders should provide training and links to relevant resources, to ensure that all employees can find success on these platforms.
4. Promote a Culture of Collaboration and Idea Sharing
Research tells us that a culture of innovation simply can’t exist without idea sharing (2). We can do this by being transparent about expectations, publicly sharing company goals, and providing a dedicated channel for idea sharing like the one in Frankli's Feedback space. You'll find more ideas for building a culture of idea sharing here.
3 Tips for Overcoming Communication Challenges
Communication challenges are inevitable in any workplace, not just digital workplaces. There are 3 key things to remember when facing these challenges.
1. Address Remote Work Challenges Through A Concrete Communication Strategy
Companies can't afford to leave effective communication to chance. Leaders should look to establish clear expectations around communication and invest in the right tools for their teams.
2. Manage Information Overload to Ensure Streamlined Communication
Information overload is the enemy of productivity, so a company's communication strategy should have measures in place to combat this. Be clear about which communication channels should be used and when. This way, people will only access the information they need to do their job well.
3. Build Personal Connections in a Digital Workspace
It is possible to build strong professional connections virtually, but managers and employees need the right tools to do it. Frankli's 1:1 Meeting space is a great example of this, promoting regular conversations on a range of relevant topics outside of employee performance, and providing managers with the agendas and question templates they need to strike the right notes.
Future Trends in Digital Communication and Employee Engagement
As technology continues to evolve, organisations are really see the potential of digital communication tools, from virtual meeting software to dedicated feedback channels. The next phase of these tools involves using employee communication habits to generate meaninfful people analytics.
Leaders can now use platforms like Frankli to create actionable employee insights. For example, employees who are not enrolled in a 1:1 meeting with their managers are highlighted, helping leaders quickly identify those at risk of disengagement or departure.
1. Gallup, Employee Engagement vs. Employee Satisfaction and Organizational Culture. 2. Harvard Business Review, Gary P. Pisano, The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures.