Business

Saturday 23 February 2019

Gina London: 'New communication tools can spark conversations'

The communicator: Gina London
The communicator: Gina London

Gina London

The message notification chime on my phone rang early last weekend interrupting a particularly nice dream.

I blinked, then squinted over at my phone to peek at what was waking me at 7 am on a Sunday. (Before you - rightfully - point out that I should turn off my alerts at night and not sleep with my phone so close on my bedside table, know that I - probably wrongly - justify it because my extended family lives in different time zones in the US.) Anyway...

The chime told me I had received a survey: 'How Well Do You Know Me?' It was sent via WhatsApp by its creator, my 11-year-old daughter Lulu, who was not in a different time zone; only steps away from me down the hall in her bedroom.

"Uhm, thanks." I typed. "I will happily take your survey. In about an hour from now. It's Sunday!"

"C'mon! I'm running over to you right this minute," she chirped back.

I describe her as possessing a bird-like chirp since that is how she sounded just then. She had not typed her response. She simply spoke into the little microphone icon on her phone.

As promised, she ran in and plopped next to me on my bed as I tried to answer each probing question about how well I knew her:

"Favourite animal?" "Bear."

Check.

"Favourite place to visit?" "Italy."

No. "Bahamas."

"But you've never been there."

"Yeah, but I want to."

Okay. Ultimately, I scored an eight out of 10. Not bad.

If you're an employer or manager, what do you imagine you would score if you took a survey on how well you understand the preferred communications styles of your employees? I'm betting it's less than eight.

We used to complain millennials weren't going to learn how to spell properly because they write in shorthand, emoji-filled texts.

Well, I'm here to tell you Generation Z - which outnumbers the millennials - isn't even bothering to type. For instance, Lulu and a group of her fellow fifth-grade classmates recently formed a WhatsApp group entitled, "World's Greatest 5th Class." Of course. Almost all their messages to each other are simply spoken word.

They're communicating differently. Therefore, the tools they use when they start reporting to work, should suit their style.

Businesses are rethinking the effectiveness of email. With only about 6pc of young people using email in personal life, it's on its way to becoming obsolete in professional life too.

1 Is it time to rethink email? Although we have been sending emails for more than 30 years now, email tennis or ping-pong or whatever-you-want-to-call-it, creates plenty of wasted time.

Our 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."

Not very efficient, is it?

2 Survey your team to determine how they like to communicate: If you want to help your company communicate better, better survey them to find out what they're using and what they suggest. Listen and get buy-in. Like my daughter's (World's Greatest) 5th Class group, employees prefer discussions and open forums more than simply being informed that a change is coming. In fact, we all prefer that, don't we? This is a great opportunity to get your team excited and enthusiastic about the next new thing.

3 Consider a new collaboration tool: Collaborative software provides for the same kind of user experience that many of us are comfortable using in our social media. Responding, commenting and questioning in real-time. Group discussions with data that can be easily searched - and found.

For instance, Facebook's Workplace is a collaborative tool that employees can use on desktop or mobile with the familiar features of the social media powerhouse - plus the assurance of additional important security measures.

Full-disclosure, one of my clients is Enablo, an Australian-based, dedicated provider of Workplace. During a recent session, the CEO revealed they're preparing to expand their territory beyond Asia and the Pacific due to the increasing demand for improved ways to engage employees.

Other employee communications and collaboration software solutions include Slack, Hive, Ryver, Flock, Mattermost and Microsoft Teams - all committed to helping teams work together better.

Email doesn't support audio or video calls. Collaboration tools do. They make it easy to navigate through documents.

Many can be integrated with customised plug-ins designed for specific company needs. Collaboration software can also track tasks at each stage of a project.

Ensuring tasks are done on time increases productivity. Win!

When it comes to how well we know our employees, new ways to facilitate conversations and the ideas they trigger - will also help you improve your employee satisfaction scores.

But take a final tip from me, don't conduct your survey at 7am on a Sunday morning.

  • With corporate clients on five continents, Gina London is a premier communications strategy, structure and delivery expert. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and former CNN anchor. @TheGinaLondon

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