10 Tips to Share Information More Effectively

Workplace communication is heating up and we’re here to share everything we know about the hot topic.

Nov 2018

10 Tips to Share Information More Effectively

In today’s workplace there are more ways than ever to share information. A myriad of tech tools like Slack and Workplace by Facebook, BYOD-fuelled interactions and then the traditional ways which don’t involve technology, like meetings and even just speaking around the water cooler.

But how many of these methods are actually effectively? For a species that spends all day communicating, sometimes we suck at it. That’s just when we’re communicating one-on-one too. What about those times when you need to communicate one-to-many and make the sharing of information more effective?

In this guide we’re going to look at 10 tips to share information better, like creating a structure to share information, methods,  channels and tips to make sharing information like a well-oiled car. Smooth, silent and just a little bit sexy.

1. Define your communication “stack”

Something we often do as a technology business is think about our “technology stack”. This is all of the different types of software or products we use to build something that works correctly for the end customer. One example is a “front end stack” made up of HTML, CSS and Javascript, which may be tools you vaguely recognize.

When it comes to thinking about sharing information, you can use the same method. For example, splitting communication into online and offline channels:

Ways to communicate online in a company

  • Slack - for quick communication
  • Email - for official notices
  • Company wiki - for shared knowledge
  • Google docs - for information sharing
  • Yammer - for water cooler chat

Ways to communicate offline in a company

  • Daily standups
  • Weekly team meetings
  • Monthly all-company meetings
  • Quarterly all hands meetings
  • Annual company retreats

Often, working out the best way to share information comes down to trial and error and checking out systems that may work for the way your company already communicates.

2. Determine transparency

When it comes to sharing information, transparency is important. In some startups like Buffer, everything from company salaries to equity and even company revenue, is shared transparently on a series of dashboards. Whether you’re that transparent, completely private or somewhere in between, it’ll have an effect on how you share information.

At ScreenCloud we like to have a flat hierarchy of communication wherever possible. This means that most of our communication happens in Slack, with a few tools like Bamboohr to help support the more “official” side along the way. For example, our #hr room on Slack is where we post details of new joiners, leavers and sickness.

All rooms on Slack are set to public via default. What many don’t realize, is that any employee can drop into those rooms, without even needing to join, and can see the conversation between teams. Deciding which rooms are Private and which are Public, is one aspect that needs to be determined when you’re using a messenger system, based on the level of transparency in your office.

3. Information to share vs information to capture

The instantaneous format of channels companies now use to communicate, like Slack, Yammer and Skype invite you to decide what information you want to share and what you need to capture.

Here’s an example: you may Whatsapp your thoughts on a presentation to a colleague on your way to the office. Is this information just to share or information that needs to be captured?

Helping to build a culture and structure for managing knowledge is an important part of sharing information more effectively.

Think of it this way: pick an employee. If they left tomorrow, without notice, how much of their knowledge and experience is documented for the next hire, or the rest of your team, to refer back to? Without having to sift through months of Slack conversations that is.

4. New-age methods of sharing information

Depending on the age and experience of your team, some will have been born into an era where information sharing was firmly entrenched in email.

Nowadays, it’s much more common to receive a company memo by message. It’s instantaneous, more likely to be seen and gets the information to where it needs to be more quickly. At the same time, that information becomes siloed to just the sender and recipient. It’s not even on “digital company property” as it were, which may be fine for a quick memo but what about if that message were an important presentation, or some key figures?

Working out how new methods of information sharing fit with your organization, and your team, is key to deciding what you share and where.

5. Share where employees already are

Which leads us nicely onto thinking about sharing information where your employees already are. One of our customers at ScreenCloud, 3M, has employees in more than 150 locations. When we asked them why they use digital signage (screens placed in important positions like canteens and receptions) to communicate to staff do you know what they said?

“At 3M we have lots of updates happening internally all of the time and it’s very difficult for us to conduct a meeting every time to announce something. We might send an email with information but our scientists already have hundreds of emails in their inbox. Our idea was to find a system where we could publish a message and everyone at the same time would see that message across three office locations.”

Pretty smart right? Finding gaps where your employees already are and using them to communicate is a great way to share information more holistically.

This doesn’t just relate to signage either. Social networks, your home address and channels such as Whatsapp are all ways to place information information where your employees already hang out.

6. Tell people how to communicate

Everyone knows how to communicate, language is one of the basic skills we learn early on. But not everyone knows how to communicate effectively.

Human Made is a development agency that creates Wordpress websites. In their publicly published handbook, they have an entire section dedicated to “Communication”.

This covers areas such as:

  • The importance of meeting up in person
  • How much information an employee needs to “keep up with” (clue: only those things important to their specific role)
  • How to share information through a variety of channels like Slack, email and P2 (a micro-blogging system)

This is a great way to set up expectations early and help everyone understand exactly what is expected of them when it comes to communication.

7. Foster two-way dialogue

Most modern companies know that sharing information isn’t solely a company-to-employee interaction. Two-way dialogue and increasing the feedback loop is essential to sharing and understanding information.

Image source

Feedback loops, like the example shown above, foster authentic communication and lead to a positive relationship where everyone feels heard and responded to.

8. Look for blind spots

If your team is asynchronous, but often in an office too, there will be blind spots around how and where information is shared. For example, if a certain employee misses a meeting how will they gain access to what was shared? If someone isn’t in an email chain or a Slack room, are they missing out on specific information?

Hopefully it will be obvious where the blind spots are in your organization, so that you can implement change. Too many, and employees can begin to feel alienated or worse, like they don’t matter enough to be looped into important updates.

Having a process for documenting, recording and sharing missed information and making this accessible to all employees is a good way to circumvent blind spots. For example, each month when we hold our monthly All Hands, we record the session and upload it as an unlisted YouTube video, so that employees on holiday or working in a non-compatible timezone can catch up and see exactly what they missed.

9. Give the power to employees

Feeling a little exhausted from all of the new communication processes you need to put in place? Let’s get you some help with that.

Some employees will thrive on being asked to document their knowledge and company processes. It’s a fact. Bringing in specific “information evangelists” from your company can help keep internal Wikis, documents and user bases up to date without being a huge strain on resources.

Think about reddit: a community where information and ideas are shared in the form of “threads” with millions of new messages arising each day. Most of reddit’s moderation is done by users, or “moderators” as they’re named. This ensures that reddit doesn’t need to employ hundreds of staff members to sift through comments. Instead, they hand over the reigns to people who are experts in those subjects, for example having a science graduate to moderate the r/science thread.

Employees are often best placed to moderate and look after the sections of information they know best, so why not let them?

10. Measure success

When it comes to sharing information, it’s a good idea to measure how successful your methods are. This could be running an employee survey to locate information gaps, blocks and bind spots. It could also be finding out where information isn’t being shared and the causes. For example, if you have an expert digital marketer on your team some of the reasons they could be reluctant about sharing their knowledge might be:

  • Concern that it may weaken their position in the company
  • Being too busy doing the work to be able to document processes
  • A lack of awareness that the stuff they do could be shared - remember, to them it may feel simple

If you use a web-based wiki or knowledge system you could even use analytics to see the most clicked on or searched terms, plus a voting system for employees to feedback how useful they find the information. This is something you’d often employ for a customer information base, why not use the same for your internal knowledge?

What methods of information sharing do you find most effective? Please send us your thoughts @ScreenCloud - we’d love to hear.

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