5 Things You Can Do To Improve Internal Communication

October 1, 2013

This week, we’re excited to feature a guest blogger in the Brilliant Blog. David Hassell, Founder & CEO of 15Five, shares his insights on simple changes you can make to improve employee communication.

Imagine this scenario, your product team spent the last six months building a new technology for an aggressive growth operation. Once done, your marketing team says ‘no way in hell can we sell this.’ 

What if you had had a 15 minute conversation with the teams five and half months ago? Both the disaster and the grey hairs you got from it could have been prevented. And these stories aren’t just limited to startups, they happen all the time in big companies, too, like Ford or Apple.

“Ford and Bridgestone Firestone lost billions of dollars after their failure to coordinate the vehicle design of the Ford Explorer with the design of its tires,” wrote Manuel E. Sosa, Steven D. Eppinger, and Craig M. Rowles for Harvard Business Review

“Similarly, Airbus’s development of the A380 “superjumbo” suffered major delays and cost overruns because of late emerging incompatibilities in the design of the electrical harnesses of various sections of the plane’s fuselage. These mistakes probably contributed to the loss of Airbus’s CEO and to important changes in the management of the A380 program.”

Communication is one of those business areas that gets a lot of attention often after-the-fact of a disaster with comparatively little forward-momentum. This might be because knowing where to start is simply overwhelming. What you need are changes that you can quickly and easily execute on. Here are 5:

1. A Clear Mission and Vision

What does your company stand for? Why should your employees feel motivated to wake up and come into work every day? Answer this question thoroughly. On paper. Get multiple leaders and team members involved in the discussion. Drill it all down to 2-3 sentences.

Post the results on your walls, email your teams, and repeat this vision on many internal resources. Instill this vision wherever and whenever possible. With two sentences, you’ll unite your entire operations around a common goal.

2. Day One Commitment

What happens when new employees join your team? Do you immediately throw them into the trenches, or do you empower them with a training program? If you’re not opting for the latter, you need to start now. 

Implement a training program that gives new team members a much-needed crash course on internal dynamics (culture!), core operations, protocols, and best practices. If you leave new team members to their own devices to ‘figure it all out,’ you’ll waste time. Save your crew the trouble by showing them the ropes.

3. An Open Door

Empower your employees to have an opinion and share it, even where the perspective of our own performance is concerned. Let them know that feedback is two-way and you’re not only here to offer it, but to receive it as well. 

If everybody’s bottling up their thoughts, nobody wins — the collective minds of 15 to 50 employees are exponentially more powerful than even the smartest CEOs. Emphasize to your employees that they’re safe and that politics are a complete and utter waste of time. Trim the fat, and your company’s ‘good stuff’ will be better than ever.

4. Write It All Down

Encourage your teams to create internal FAQ repositories — or even a company wiki. Your team members are smart and completely capable of quickly self-teaching important concepts. They just need the resources to get up and running. If a question comes up once, it will likely come up again. Eliminate redundancies by making information readily available.

5. Get Out of the Office

Do something fun. Grab lunch or drinks. Be ridiculous, comfortable, and let your guard down. When your team members genuinely like each other, communication will naturally flow — without artificial walls. Have a work-free day or two to really get to know each other. Whatever you do, have a blast. The energy will make its way back to the office for the long term.

Take Action Now

Get up, and open your door. This afternoon, when you need a brain-break, get up and talk to your team instead of browsing social. Talk to everyone — your entry-level social media strategists, your engineers, and your amazing sales team. Then, make everybody talk to everyone else.

David Hassell is a serial entrepreneur and presently Founder & CEO of 15Five, a SaaS company focused on helping individuals and organizations reach their highest potential. Hailed by Fast Company as the "15 Most Important Minutes of Your Work Week" 15Five creates an internal communication process that enables the most important information to flow seamlessly throughout an organization, to surface issues before they become problems, to celebrate wins, discover great ideas and stay tuned in to the morale of the team. David formerly served as President of the San Francisco chapter of Entrepreneurs' Organization and was named "The Most Connected Man You Don't Know in Silicon Valley" by Forbes.

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