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Internal Communication in a Collaborative World

Guest post from human resources consultant, Robin Schooling, SPHR.

Robin SchoolingIt’s a fact of our modern world that most people expect to be connected at all times.

A recent survey found that 84% of US smartphone owners check an app as soon as they get up in the morning. With news, information and updates at the ready, people have come to expect that they’ll know what they want to know when they want to know it.

Yet quite often when these same people walk through the doors of their workplace each morning they enter a communication black hole.

They’re shut off from their outside professional networks as they find Facebook, Twitter and other social channels blocked by their IT or HR Departments in an ill-fated attempt to ensure productivity doesn’t falter. They work in isolation and are dependent upon company wide emails (does anyone really read those?) or team meetings with their manager in order to get the latest scoop on company business.

When breaking news does need to be shared it moves slowly through an approval process from the PR Department to Legal Counsel to the C-Suite before the finely crafted message is disseminated to the masses. Meanwhile that breaking news is released to the public at large leaving employees as the last to know – except, of course, for those employees using their smartphones throughout the workday to maintain a connection to the outside world.

Although there are still business leaders who continue to labor under the impression that they control the message, this hierarchical method of sharing news internally is slowly dying out. Savvy organizations have begun to realize that they can reap some tangible benefits by encouraging their employee’s social behavior in their organizations.

A McKinsey Global Institute Study on the social economy found that “… twice as much potential value lies in using social tools to enhance communications, knowledge sharing, and collaboration within and across enterprises. MGI’s estimates suggest that by fully implementing social technologies, companies have an opportunity to raise the productivity of interaction workers—high-skill knowledge workers, including managers and professionals—by 20 to 25 percent.”

The seismic shift wrought by social media across the global landscape is finally being understood in organizations as they realize that messages can be – and are being – created by anyone, anywhere and at anytime. There is a clearer understanding that corporate communication is no longer merely about broadcasting but rather it’s dependent upon a full-cycle of continuous sharing that crosses boundaries and silos.

While organizations can utilize a variety of are tools, apps and technologies to facilitate this new way of sharing information the first step for any company is to verify that the organizational culture supports and encourages employees to ask questions, share information (up, down and across the organization) and provide input. Encouraging involvement and promoting co-creation of content and information from internal subject matter experts can not only increase productivity but also enhance their engagement.

Stimulating collaborative internal communication allows employees to gain clarity, understand how their individual activities impact business objectives, and permits them to take appropriate and meaningful action within their jobs.

The time is now to tap into social collaboration; the benefits are there for the taking.

Robin Schooling, SPHR, with 20+ years of HR leadership experience, is Managing Partner of Silver Zebras, LLC and blogs at HR Schoolhouse. She works with organizations to develop HR strategies that align with their business objectives and strengthen talent capabilities while focusing on the entire employee life cycle.

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