You might be wondering why we would wait this long into a pandemic when the world is just now starting to open up to start thinking about ways that you can communicate effectively with your remote workforce. However, we all know that the return to work is going to be filled with fits and starts, with some folks coming in full time and others authorized to work at home most of the time, save for the occasional venture into the office. Acknowledging that folks now say that it’s harder to communicate effectively when you’re mixing in-person and online modes of interaction, we will profile the five types of communication platforms currently available and what they can do for your business, as well as some recommendations from the tech-savvy pros for which services earn the highest grades.
Before we dive in, let’s talk about why it’s so important that your employees be able to communicate. As we learned from the pandemic, being out of the office and physically far apart from the folks you used to interact with for 40-hours per week can be a jarring experience, with workers feeling isolated and unheard. However, when employees have access to a well-designed communication platform, they feel like their thoughts and opinions are being heard – and better yet, considered! Thus, feel more engaged, which in turn leads to a better company culture, increased productivity, and lower employee turnover.
While the terminology may sound foreign, the premise is something you’ve been using long before Covid-19 hit. These internal communication platforms allow for real-time conversations between employees and “authorized partners” via group chats and text messaging without requiring use of cell phone numbers (either personal or company owned). Because of the nature of the information transmitted, these types of platforms must be secure, reliable and compliant with legal regulations. As such, traditional text message platforms such as Facebook messenger, G-chat, WhatsApp, or other social media platforms are not appropriate.
Best Bets: Nextiva, Slack, Confluence
When we think about our pandemic work life, we most likely harken back to all that time spent on Zoom. Indeed, this video conferencing tool has proven a wonderful way to hold meetings, host trainings or other learning opportunities, and even showcase new products through live demonstrations. The beauty of these platforms is that they are generally easy to set up and could be accessed with little more than a personal computer or an app on your phone. Other features that have helped these services gain a foothold in the employee communications field include enabling recording, allowing screen sharing, muting participants, creating break-out rooms, using the chat features, and even remotely raising your hand! In short, this is one medium that is sure to remain a foundation of any company’s hybrid employee communication plan.
Best Bets: Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts
If your own employees aren’t in the building, chances are neither are your clients. However, it’s still crucial for you to stay in touch with them, which is where customer relationship management (CRM) and other similar tools come into play. These platforms allow you to organize customer requests, track customer questions or complaints, and even analyze trends. Some platforms even offer customer service automation that can help funnel sales leads or other lines of inquiries to the right person so that clients actually spend less time waiting for a response. By addressing concerns promptly, your customers will be happier and more likely to continue to invest in your business.
Best Bets: Help Scout, Zoho Desk, Zendesk
Being out of the office can make it hard to keep tabs on where folks are on projects and fishing for updates over email or by phone can quickly feel like micromanaging (or worse, nagging!) Sidestep that landmine by investing in project management platforms that can allow you to set project milestones and deadlines — and perhaps most importantly, track progress towards these goals. In addition, most project management programs allow users to adjust timelines or request backup or expertise from another member without ever having to pick up the phone and make that begging call! Having projects centralized in this way can keep the whole team on track and alert managers to those employees who are up against a tight deadline so that they can better manage their departmental workflow and reduce the risk that an employee will feel overwhelmed or burnt out.
Best Bets: Asana, Basecamp, Monday
If your company culture was based heavily on teamwork, especially projects that cross interdepartmental bounds, you’ll want to really consider an investment in collaboration tools. While the project management tools track progress towards deadlines, collaboration tools are more about helping employees work together in the moment. As such, these platforms allow designated users to exchange ideas using screen sharing, working and editing in real time in the same document, and even brainstorming on virtual whiteboards. In this way, users can show their ideas, which can prove particularly helpful if you’re discussing a more visual idea or medium.
Best Bets: Google Drive, Trello, Cloud App What platforms are you using to communicate with your employees?