One of the biggest challenges for any business owner is how to effectively communicate with staff. Of course, this challenge is compounded today given the impact of COVID-19 and the fact that many organizations of varying sizes are shifting to a virtual work environment. For now, gone are the days of the proverbial “open door” where you could invite staff into your office to share ideas or concerns. So how can business owners and managers effectively communicate with staff in a virtual workplace? Here are 3 communication tips to increase engagement with remote staff.
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Emails are Not Effective
While email is certainly a necessity in business, it is ironically not that effective for communication. Here are some statistics that should give you pause.
- 40% of company emails are not opened by staff.
- The average employee spends 13 hours each week checking, reading and responding to emails.
- The average worker gets up to 120 emails per day.
Ever hear of the term ‘information overload’? If you want to check in with your staff, email is really not the way to do it.
While convenient, emails tend to get buried in inboxes. We can call email a necessary evil, but it should not be where work ever takes place either, because it will get lost.
The strategy with emails is that they should build off prior conversations rather than be used to break the proverbial ice. In other words, emails are more effective when they continue a conversation that began in another format — phone or video call, etc.
Texts are Your Best Bet
If you have an important communication you need to send out, mass SMS texting is probably your best bet when it comes to engagement. Various studies bear this out, too.
- Text messages have a 98% open rate.
- 95% of SMS messages are read within 3 minutes.
- The average adult spends 23 hours texting each week.
If you want to enhance your communication strategy, mass SMS texting needs to be a component of it. This is especially true when it comes to millennials, who report preferring it to any other mode of communication.
If you are thinking about texting individual staff from your phone as opposed to an SMS platform, just don’t forget about the tone you set. Staff are not your friends nor are they robots.
As with any business communication, striking the right tone is the result of thoughtful consideration regarding what you want to say and why.
Video Calls are Great for Informal Communications
While technology like Zoom has existed for years, it was not really a prominent part of anyone’s work day until recently.
Ever hear of a virtual coffee break? These are informal sessions — and as the name suggests, they are really about connecting with staff in an informal way.
Regardless of how you integrate video calls into your communication strategy with remote staff, though, just keep in mind that moderation is the best business tactic.
In other words, you cannot realistically jump into a video call with each employee on a daily basis. Strategic use of video calls can help create that sense of structure that is missing from this remote work environment.
What you do not want, however, is too much face time with staff, because then technology fatigue can set in.
Today’s world is challenging. COVID-19 has many of us working in home offices, and the days where we could manage by walking around may be over as we formerly knew it.
If you want to effectively engage remote staff, you will most likely need to employ some aspect of all of the tools listed above. There are no hard and fast rules, however.
Test out different methods to find out which works better and for whom. You may need to adopt a hybrid communication strategy to increase engagement with remote staff.
The takeaway, though, is that an increase in engagement with remote staff will not take place by chance. It will only happen through thoughtful and strategic planning.