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Communicating with colleagues: What are the best methods to use?

doctor-lightbulb_opt-FMJ-Jan2014Q: Bearing in mind the massive leaps made in communications technology over the last decade or so, what do you think is the best way of keeping in contact with colleagues, and are any expendable?

polaroid-Guy-Stallard-KPMG-FMJTHE END-USER’S VIEW

Getting in touch has never been easier with telephone, video conference, email, web, Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, posters, electronic newsletters Lync, Webex etc. Computers and mobile devices mean people are available 24/7.

We have all quickly grown accustomed to instant and immediate forms of contact. Hard to recall the last time I sent a letter by post. However, do these communication channels work in terms of the internal audience listening to what Facilities are saying? Twitter is a brilliant communication tool for the Facilities industry as a whole but not in my view a conduit for internal discussion.

Ease of communication arguably results in over communication. Key messages can easily be missed or ignored given the volume of emails received each day. We are all challenged with keeping our mailbox under control and it is so easy to delete central communications. This is a major challenge for Facilities in two broad areas (i) communication with customers and (ii) communication with our staff and contractors.

In terms of communication with customers weekly updates and use of internal web seem to work well. Posters by coffee machines also still get read and digested by a captive audience. Face to face sessions with executives ensure the business understands and aligns with Facilities goals.

In terms of communicating with my Facilities team both in house and outsourced I am still a supporter of two way communication – face to face is definitely best. If not practical audio conference calls or webex/Lync are much more effective than email. What is key is a two way interaction. Feedback from staff is they see things similarly as they want to understand rather than just read communication. As an example KPMG recently held a ground breaking event at O2, attended by every member of staff and third party contractors, (13,000 in total) to enable the leadership to convey messages about the organisation at an event which also involved fun. Of course, not every organisation will want – or be able – to create an event of that magnitude, but the key point is that interaction generates action.

There is still a role for a Facilities monthly newsletter sent by email to all staff/contractors but more as a way of making staff proud about what the department is achieving rather than as a way of explaining business strategy and aims.

The world is changing and management need to continually adapt the tools they use to ensure interaction with customers and team. A multi channel approach is definitely the right way forward.

Dave-Wilson-polaroidTHE CONSULTANT’S VIEW

I am tempted to nominate some expendable colleagues – but the question does illustrate the importance of clarity of communication, and probably it’s best to focus on that. But “best” is an elastic concept, being so dependent on context, so lets start with that.

There are several critical issues to be considered when selecting the medium for communication: time availability; importance of the messages; convenience of the medium; message complexity and sensitivity; location and status of the participants (especially important in some cultures), to pick just a few. So selecting the “best” communication medium has to take into account all of these factors.

For example, when email was first introduced (yes, I am that old), I thought then that it was inappropriate for intra-office communication – that face to face was by far the best method for short messages between colleagues. Some businesses share that view, and have tried to ban internal email. But you can’t uninvent things, and in any case vital documents and complex messages need to be transmitted internally just as much as externally, for which email is ideal.

Better, I think to take the alternative view: embrace all the possibilities and use what is most productive in the circumstance. If you don’t like using one of the options, there is, after all, no obligation to respond via the same medium: you can pick up the phone to respond to a Tweet, just as much as you can to a letter.

The one thing I would ban would be copying people in to emails: cc’ing was a bad enough habit in the days of paper memos, and blind copies are even more pernicious.

If someone really needs to get your message, put them in the top address – otherwise, save them the bother of deleting your unread email!

About Sarah OBeirne


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