One of the wonderful things about digital workplaces – and the seamless, constant flow of data – is that information is constantly in flux, being updated, manipulated, and interrogated.
And yet one of the most challenging things for companies in the digital age is that information is constantly in flux, being updated, manipulated, and interrogated!
With so much potential for agility, sharing, and collaboration, comes the risk that your data stockpile will grow at a furious pace, leaving you with serious challenges. Not least, chaotic information interaction.
This makes it imperative to have a strong communications culture – best practice behaviours and checks over what you say, to whom, and with what response.
Staying up to date
Once upon a time, the latest copies of documents were in someone’s in-tray and once completed they were filed in a cabinet. That was not ideal for sharing and collaboration (or office space management). However, it was physically transparent.
The modern version of that is exciting. Multiple device users can view and interact with information simultaneously, from any location.
However, this can lead to the “perfect storm” of document updating, and unbridled document creation and sharing, leading to confusion. Where do you go for the latest version of the document? How can you be sure you’re working from the most up to date intel? Who has the lead role and ultimate responsibility for document sign off?
“I’ve told you, I’ve looked in that folder but the document isn’t there!” Sound familiar? 😬
Document management is a pivotal part of your intranet software. Data must be organised, curated, and retrievable in a way that is intrinsically tied to your company’s business aims and objectives, and the daily working patterns of your staff.
It also relies on you placing clear search and update perimeters on your data management, and training staff to use them properly. There should be quick, clear hyperlinked pathways within your document management system, as well as author and update narratives that are logical and accountable.
The digital workplace can also lead to companies “oversharing”.
Having the ability to update everyone, instantly, in any location is fabulous; but not if every bit of news and every notification pings off to your entire contact list every five minutes!
Getting notification overload? This can lead to information fatigue and missing out on important messages
Information fatigue can set in. Finding the time to wade through every message and report means that important documents can get ignored or skimmed.
A company which builds the right level of control into its communication culture can be far more confident that the right information gets to the right people, and that they give it the right level of attention.
One of the ways to achieve this is to have a clear and unequivocal matrix of data creators and audiences.
Humanising communication in digital workplaces
All of this careful planning and structuring of your communication processes can’t underestimate the value of ‘warmth’ though. Whilst intranet systems can break down data silos, working digitally (and increasingly remotely) can lead to people feeling siloed and isolated.
One of the steps to create a more free-flowing and friendly communications exchange is to build corporate social networks into your intranet software. These are places for staff to go to exchange news, views, ideas or just natural, everyday interaction.
Corporate social networks encourage free-flowing conversation in the digital workplace
It can also be valuable to create an actual, physical social hotbed in your workplace. Steve Jobs maintained that some of the most outstanding and innovative ideas at Apple came from spontaneous chats among colleagues in the company corridors!
Active listening in the digital age
Having a strong communications culture in your organisation is not simply a matter of making sure data reaches the right device, or even that colleagues get to discuss it openly, and freely.
Senior managers also need to create active listening systems and checks. All of those great ideas in virtual or actual corridors need to be captured!
This is where online meetings and discussions can pay dividends. Voice and video communication can show that decision makers are taking the time to gather up feedback on a virtual whiteboard. If sensitive, this can be kept private to key personnel, or if it’s a general discussion, it can be left online for further comment and updates.
You also need to give staff clear methods of raising questions, queries and concerns. How can they use your intranet to flag up issues before they become a crisis? How can they get in touch with line managers for an instant response to personal or professional worries?
Give staff opportunities to ask questions in your digital workplace
Creating active listening methodology is also about responding to communications swiftly. Even if there needs to be a delay in taking action, a personal response – not an automated notification – should be issued quickly.
Active listening and individualised responses provide your staff with recognition and the potential of reward. You can demonstrate more tangibly that their contribution matters – whether it’s a business improvement observation or being honest about something that has left them confused and unsure.
Digital workplaces built for human interaction
It all comes down to putting people at the heart of digital transformations. Your business processes may be automated, but unless your organisation is now entirely run by robots, you are still going to need to match your communications acuity to the human need for clarity, warmth, and feedback.