I’ll cut to the chase: if your organization’s internal communications environment was already broken, moving to hybrid/remote during a pandemic probably didn’t help. But if you had cultivated a culture where people were encouraged to be themselves and contribute openly, chances are you’re better off than most now and probably will be for a long time to come. Why? Because the genie is out of the bottle and we’re never going back to everyone in the office full-time, no matter if Elon Musk wants it that way.
If you started reading this looking for advice on which channel to use for what, or how often, keep looking. I’m sure there’s no end of listicles with obvious insights like “Slack is a great internal messaging and chat service.” No sh*t, really? I mean seriously, if you needed Slack explained to you in October of 2021, eighteen months into the global pandemic, then you were probably already using soup can phones for a platform. Either that or a Microsoft product. Regardless, we’re not here to talk about the tools. This is slightly more philosophical in nature. So if you’re even remotely involved in internal communications at your organization, either as someone who is sending a message or as someone who is receiving one (and let’s be real, that’s all of us), then buckle up and read on.
Go look at the title of this piece, then come back here.
Got it? Good. No matter the format or cadence of your internal communications, it’s essential always to be mindful that hybrid organizations operate not only asynchronously but also non-sequentially. This means that not only are different people receiving messages at different times but also in different orders. You can’t control if someone reads an email before they see a related Slack message, before, during, or after a meeting that they were supposed to attend which referenced those communications. In order to support the team, the organization itself needs to be present and engaged in all channels and messaging the same thing multiple times as a failsafe. Yes, it can feel like turning on the firehose and expecting people to get a drink. Which brings me to my next point…
As frustrating as it might be, people are people and people are going to not see something or forget. Or they’re going to get interrupted by the dog, or the dishwasher breaking while they are in the middle of writing a Slack message. They might see it on their phone and later forget that they had seen it and poof, it’s gone. It’s history. Bear in mind, this happens. Everyone is different and each of us is dealing with a ton of things that are competing for our attention, constantly. It’s human. We forget. So approach each person and each communication as an opportunity to be patient. Be empathetic. Take anger and frustration out of it. Because frankly, the message will get lost in the mix and all the recipient will hear is the tone and will shut down. And finally to that point…
Stay on message.
It’s all too easy to make one thing about another thing or to try and cram a lot into one email in an “As long as I have your attention” kind of way. But don’t. Resist that urge. Be brief, be clear, and stay on message. Look, no one sees about two-thirds of your room when you’re on a video call, so if it comes down to it, just put sticky notes on your monitor. Being clear about where your priorities lay will help those around you immeasurably. Frankly, I wish I was much better about this last one and it’s one thing that I’ve vowed to focus on between now and the end of the year.
And there you have it. As always, I’m happy to hear any commentary or suggestions to the contrary. And especially: words of encouragement. We could all use a few more of those as we adapt to this increasingly weird world of work.