Good communication is the difference between a speech so stirring you can’t help but believe, and an article you skim-read just to get to the end. It’s the difference between leading people on a journey and leaving a room full of scratched heads and blank faces. And it becomes even more crucial in the digital workplace.
Skilled communicators empower audiences, while poor communicators sow confusion.
And for some, it can be a tricky balancing act. How often have you had to ask, ‘Why isn’t that department aware of your project?’ Or overheard a colleague wonder out-loud, ‘How we can share and celebrate our latest completed project with the business?’
Unfortunately, as businesses grow, the challenge to be heard – all while employees are buffeted by workplace emails, IMs and other digital distractions – grows with it.
Working as Communications Lead for Microsoft Services UK, I align our vision to help everyone achieve more. That means ensuring my communications are clear, concise, and, above all, empowering. The right message has a major impact on peoples’ productivity and performance.
That’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly.
These are my five top tips for helping your communications rise above the noise in the digital workplace, so the next time you’re asked how best to share and celebrate your latest project, you’ll know exactly where to start.
5 ways to stand out in the digital workplace
1. Be bold, be different
I’m frequently asked how to help business communications stand out in the workplace. My first piece of advice is pretty straightforward: don’t be afraid to try something new. The status quo quickly becomes wallpaper, if it hasn’t already.
Take internal videos as an example.
Video consumption is on the rise both in our personal and working lives, so it makes perfect sense to use the medium as an opportunity to be heard – the value of a short, powerful video that can be watched by staff on the go is high. However, while there’s a place for a short piece to camera to get a message across, if you’re looking to win hearts and minds you’ll need to get creative and deliver an experience.
Entice the goose-bumps of your viewers by incorporating music. Film from different angles to create an emotional connection. Visit different environments. Involve different people in the process. Include bloopers.
You don’t need to be Spielberg, but if you’re willing to try something new, people will naturally stop and pay attention.
2. Know your audience
It’s impossible to stand out without understanding what makes your audience tick. Are they an email army or Yammer champs? 9-to-5 office lovers or flexible, on-the-road heroes?
Getting out and talking to people on a personal level about what they want to hear and how they want to hear it is an important first step, and one that has to be taken before you can think about how best to move on.
Of course, there will be lots of different ways people like to consume their information. With such a wealth of technology available, they’re spoilt for choice. The key is identifying themes that help employees achieve more without stepping over the line into spamming every method available.
3. Use channels for what they were designed for
Most people have logged into multiple platforms and seen the same message peppered across the screen. To be fair, I can understand the logic behind this – “if it’s on every channel, I can be sure employees are more likely to see it”.
In theory this might make sense, but in my experience it has the opposite effect; overloading a workforce with the same messages turns them off.
Have confidence in your digital channels, take advantage of the different technologies, and understand that everything has its place.
Use Teams for smaller collaborative projects where you need to share documents related to a specific goal or for instant messaging colleagues. Use Yammer to broadcast and share at large. Use email to bring together key messaging into aligned notes, so you deliver one note rather than twelve.
These are just examples of how you might decide to use your platforms, but it’s crucial to breed a culture whereby people know where to find different types of information. Don’t feel the need to litter every channel.
4. Speak like a human
When I say speak like a human, what I really mean is
drop the jargon, drop the acronyms; be conversational and be authentic. Nobody in the workplace has ever been inspired by the thought of a ‘2Q45NNCFPWU’. It’s just never happened.
A friend once asked me how I manage to take complex, technical messaging from stakeholders, then deliver it in a simple, understandable way to a wide audience who may never have come across the project (and now I’m writing this down, I’m starting to think I need to either get out more or get new friends…).
For me, it comes down to three ‘takeaways’:
When receiving your message, what is it that you want people to think, feel and do?
If you can nail those in a succinct, understandable, human way, then you’re well on the way to success.
5. Don’t lose sight of the fact that employees are people too
This may sound obvious, but it’s something I come across a lot. It’s easy to get so close to a project that you genuinely feel you should be sharing every detail with everyone you can.
Trust me when I say you can’t underestimate the value of taking a step back and remembering that in a busy digital workplace, you’re likely to only get a snippet of attention if your message isn’t directly related to your recipient’s working life.
It’s important to go high level – deliver key facts in an easily digestible way, and, honestly, if they want to know more people will ask, transforming a monologue into a conversation.
If I could leave you with one piece of advice for when it comes to your next opportunity to communicate with your colleagues, it would be this:
What would grab your attention? Figure out the answer and do it.
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About the author
Adam Renshaw works as a Communications Lead within the UK Services business unit. His role focuses on landing key strategic messaging, sharing best practices, and celebrating business achievements. Adam’s passion for communications stems from his love of all things creative. When it comes to creating videos, storytelling or developing impactful digital designs, he just can’t get enough. Communications gives him the opportunity, quite often with a blank slate, to share his passion with other people.