During a pandemic, leaders will need to be even more
proactive in building trust with their teams and giving people autonomy to
conduct their work in the way they see fit. And one tool that can’t be
emphasized enough is a well-designed communication platform.

By giving employees
a communication platform to contribute, companies can improve employee experience
and in turn, increase engagement, reduce turnover and become better places to
work. The past decade has seen companies embracing bottom-up and lateral
communication, collaboration and co-creation. As a coach, I appreciate this
shift from command and control leadership to a greater emphasis on servant

When I am consulting on employee experience and communication, what I find most often is team members at all levels feeling they lack a ‘voice’ at work. No matter our rank, we humans need our opinions and ideas (about the work and how the work gets done) to be heard and given consideration.

Here’s a great example of how bottom-up communication saved
the Air Force two years of work and almost $20 million.

Case Study: AFWERKS

In 2015, Tony Perez was working as a KC 10 refueling pilot
at Travis Air Force base near Sacramento. He saw projects put on the backburner
that wouldn’t be solved for years. He also knew others at the base looked at
these unsolved projects similarly to the way he did: as a challenge to be

Perez took action and spearheaded an opt-in internal
incubator to give all Air Force ranks the opportunity to identify and solve
problems they currently didn’t have the time or expertise to work on themselves.
By putting heads together week after week, the group gained momentum on a
number of projects.

One of Spark’s biggest accomplishments was creating a custom
iPad mount for the C 17, a plane that was designed before the iPad was
invented. The mount project was originally estimated to require two to three
years of work and $20 million. Instead, it was completed by a Spark team in
three weeks and saved the Air Force tens of millions of dollars.

Spark was able to have such promising results because the
people who were working close to the problem were able to be a part of the
solution. Not only did this program save money but it gave a group of
volunteer, self-motivated team members an opportunity to work on something they
found personally impactful. This is a prime example of bottom up communication
at work.

Communication platforms as a solution

There have been numerous products developed to solve this
dilemma between the amount of time it takes to make employees ideas actionable.

Culture Amp and 15Five are two software solutions gaining
popularity due to their simplicity (most take less than 20 minutes per week) in
collecting, analyzing and acting on employee feedback. By de-personalizing and
using these kinds of tools (we all know it’s easier to write a comment than to
say something in person), leaders can get more consistent and transparent input
from their teams.

Slack and Zoom have also been launched into the spotlight amidst the COVID pandemic. These are powerful resources, so as long as you use them effectively.  Lesser-known tools like Notion, Miro, Mural and Figma are also quickly being adopted by tech and product teams for real-time collaboration.

Given the simplicity of these tools, expect these to become commonplace for companies looking to create Intranets and empower individuals to share knowledge and work together.

Traditional platforms re-imagined

Here are some more classic options that are still powerful:

Knowledge Shares – It’s useful to know what people outside of your department do all day, and how their job function fits into the bigger picture of their company. Here’s one idea: Get people who don’t normally work together on a video chat. Ask one person to share the following:

  • 5-10 minutes about their job at the company (how it works, how it serves the bigger picture)
  • 3-5 minutes about a problem they are facing at work
  • 10-15 minutes to get input from participants (may include tools or strategies, questions that help the presenter re-frame the problem in their mind)

If your team is a big group, ask participants to give their input via that chat function of Zoom or Hangouts. If you’re a smaller group, have people virtually raise their hand. After 30 minutes of back and forth knowledge sharing, people know one another better, know the roles at the company better and have crowd-sourced ideas for a problem that ultimately affects them all.

Invite outside team members

Open up your meetings to people who normally wouldn’t be invited to your weekly virtual standup or project kickoff.

Joseph Master, the executive director of marketing and
digital strategy at Drexel University in Philadelphia, makes a good point about
the power of meetings to cross-pollinate in a large organization to improve
KPIs and inspire:

“While we work in top-down silos, our team meetings are opportunities to communicate across borders and build the organizational tethers we need— marketing teams should meet with enrollment management, admissions, academic advising and academic affairs regularly. By inviting advising staff to our team meetings, we were able to access data we didn’t know existed and ramp up our undergraduate admissions efforts — which led to increased enrollment.”

Opening your meetings to others not only fosters
collaboration, but it might be some of the best internal PR you do for your
staff. It’s as much a communications tool as it is a team builder.  When others see what your employees actually
do, they’re more likely to invest in them as strategic partners. For your next
weekly meeting, who could join that might benefit from seeing how things work?

Lead by example

Leaders must participate in these team building activities
and show their commitment. They cannot expect others to adopt new tools or
practices without seeing those in charge do the same.

 If your team chooses
to use Culture Amp or 15Five, be sure managers are given the time and resources
needed to use these tools properly. Praise those who use it well (not just
managers) and most importantly share the stories of how these tools and open
communication platforms have benefitted the company and its people.

At last year’s Culture Summit, one speaker said, “To argue with someone’s point of view is a waste of time. To embrace it is a way to co-create.”

Leaders who give employees a voice, lead by example and offer encouragement may be rewarded with better ideas, money saved and more happy, engaged team members eagerly awaiting the next challenge to overcome.

The post Communication platforms that help employees get ahead – and stay there appeared first on HR Morning.

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