Teams have many ways to communicate in the digital age. However, with each new channel, there are new opportunities for abuse. Put simply: Some people always ruin it for everybody else, unless there's a formal internal communication strategy.
Remember when email was the primary digital office communication tool? People used it for everything, from quick questions to long conversations to inspirational chain emails with vague threats of misfortune for those who didn't pass it along. It was great for collaboration and information sharing, but left unchecked, it wasn't so great for productivity — or for anyone's sanity. A person could spend all day going through junk mail and seemingly endless email threads that really should have been handled via phone.
Next, teams started texting each other. This was great for short messages and quick questions. Then people started sending group texts that made everyone's phones ding like Las Vegas slot machines for the next half-hour, and long text messages that really should have been sent via email.
These days, companies across industries are leveraging business chat programs for quick, real-time communications. Instant messaging combines the writing ease of an email with the immediacy of a text message. Like any other communication technology, it adds value when used correctly. Yet used irresponsibility, it amounts to more rings and dings that distract people from getting any real work done.
By creating an internal communication strategy for instant messaging and other communication channels, employers ensure these tools improve productivity, rather than detract from it. When crafting a communication strategy for your team, consider including these instant-messaging best practices:
1. Chat Responsibly
Effective team communication is about respecting colleagues' time and need to focus. Instant messaging interrupts people and calls for their immediate attention. So, it's best used for short conversations, quick questions, and urgent requests.
Before sending an instant message, ask yourself:
- Is it urgent? If not, email might be a less disruptive way to communicate.
- Does it require a long discussion? If so, talking might be faster than typing. Consider whether a phone call, video chat, or in-person discussion would be more appropriate.
2. Avoid Unnecessary Group Chats
Group chats can be a great way to get quick feedback from multiple people. However, unless everyone needs to be part of the conversation — and needs to see everyone else's response — it's also a little selfish. The sender gets fast answers, but group members get pinged every time someone weighs in.
It's like when a friend texts you a picture of her new baby. At first you think, "What a cute kid!" Then you discover it's a group message, and after getting 20 texts in a row congratulating her, you wish she'd just posted the picture on Facebook instead.
3. Watch What You're Doing
As anyone named Michael, Jennifer, or John can attest, it's easy to accidentally select the wrong recipient for a digital message. It's also annoying for Michael, Jennifer, John, and anyone else who gets accidentally interrupted with messages meant for someone else.
Worse yet, if a message contains confidential information or is personal in nature, sending it to the wrong person could land the sender in hot water, or make that person the center of office gossip.
4. Keep It Professional
Speaking of office gossip, remind employees to keep conversations workplace-friendly.
Depending on the business and company culture, you might want to limit the personal conversations on enterprise communication tools. Then again, some chit-chat among colleagues is good for team-building, especially for virtual teams that don't get the opportunity for water cooler bonding. Of course, everyone should know that messages are logged and are technically company property, not personal conversations.
5. Don't Play Hard to Get
It's called instant messaging for a reason. People expect an instant response. If everyone on your team is following the internal communication strategy, and people are only reaching out via instant message when they have urgent needs or quick questions, then they're probably in a hurry.
Ask employees to use an "away" message or log out of business chat tools when they're unavailable. That way, their colleagues don't waste precious time waiting for a response that won't be so instant.
The right internal communication strategy for your team depends on your business, culture and workflows. These are just a few best practices to get you started. Overall, think about how your team uses business chat — when it adds value and when it slows productivity — and create a strategy that gets everyone on the same page.
To learn more about how business chat could boost your unified communications strategy, speak to a Vonage Business consultant.