5 ways to keep employees in the loop

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Business leaders and communications experts discuss how companies can ensure that employees stay informed.

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Today, organizations have dozens of options when it comes to employee communication. To find out which communication solution work best, and when, we queried dozens of executives and communication experts. Here are their top five picks for how to keep workers up to date on what’s going on within their team, department or the company as a whole.

1. In-person weekly (or daily) meetings

Despite the proliferation of communication tools, sometimes you just need to meet with your team or department face to face, in a group.

“As an agile office, we have a daily standup meeting each day,” says Mark Tuchscherer, cofounder and president, Geeks Chicago, a website development and design firm. “This meeting is very short and everyone attends, even people [who] work remotely. We use it to discuss anything that needs to be communicated between all teams. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and has the same information,” he explains. “It's the best way for me to get information to everyone very easily.”

[ Related: How to build a high performing team when you work virtually ]

“We hold weekly town halls with our staff,” says Pieter Van Iperen, CTO, Sports Media 101. “We discuss strategy changes, business updates, methods, answer questions and set plans. We actually hold an a.m. and p.m. session to make sure everyone can attend one, and we do them via WebEx so everyone can shout out a question or discuss a topic,” he adds. “Nothing beats face time, even if it’s virtual.”

2. Virtual meetings/videoconferencing

“Having regular meetings with remote team members is almost more important than making sure to carve out time with those who are in-house,” says Chris Battles, vice president and general manager, Citrix, a provider of Web-based meeting and collaboration services.

“In order to enable a connected and mobile workforce, Ford IT has invested considerable time into making it easy for people to participate in meetings via a variety of mobile devices,” says Sara Tatchio, manager, Global Employee Communications, Ford Motor Company. “In particular, using a corporate or personal iPad to run WebEx is a popular solution, although phones work equally well.  Advancements in Web cameras and audio solutions allow this to work well for all levels of employees.”

[ Related: Ford draws on Pivotal to reshape developer culture ]

3. Instant messaging/private group chat apps

“The modern way to communicate with teams of employees is with a group chat app,” says Toshi Yamamoto, founder & CEO, ChatWork, a group chat service provider. “The best group chat apps for business on the market today combine chat, video chat, task management and file sharing in one place to keep teams productive, engaged and communicating in real time,” he says.

“Use instant messaging services like Slack or Google Hangouts for conversations that don't garner long, drawn out explanations and avoid the need for cumbersome email communication,” advises Kyle Olson, senior content manager, Digital Third Coast, a digital marketing agency. “This works best when answers are needed for quick questions or you need to start a conversation with a group of people for a discussion. I've found that I've reduced my inbox overload and encouraged collaboration on projects as a result of real-time communications.”

“For our company communication we rely heavily on HipChat,” says David Batchelor, cofounder and president, DialMyCalls.com, a voice and SMS broadcasting service. The app “allows us all to be able to collaborate in real time no matter where we are located. Think of it as a virtual water cooler where we can all chat, share ideas, files and much more. It allows even employees who work from home the ability to communicate with everyone and feel like they are part of the team.”

4.  Don't forget email

“Email communication is and will remain the bread and butter of business communications. It’s a convenient, established way to send information to a large group of people,” says Nigel Johnson, vice president, Business Development, Zix, a provider of email encryption. “Since roughly one in every three people worldwide has an email account, employers can rally behind email-driven communications with the peace of mind that almost everyone in business is familiar with the platform.  

[ Related: In search of IBM Verse ]

“That said, companies that rely on email as a main communication tool should ensure they have proper security in place, specifically encryption technology, to protect emails containing sensitive information from prying eyes,” he says.

[ Related: Best open source email security products ]

“Once a week we send an email to our staff to give them all the important info they need to know, from strategy changes, to business updates, to new vendors we are working with and how to access assets,” says Van Iperen. “We prefer this over blogs or other internal announcement systems. Simply check your email and read.”

5. Set up a company intranet/portal

“A company Intranet is a great place to store information and documents that employees frequently ask for, such as the paid holiday calendar, time-off request forms and a schedule of events,” says Doug Pinckney, president of Pinckney Hugo Group, a  marketing communications firm.

“At Ford our @Ford Online portal is the central point for receiving news and accessing tools,” says Tatchio. “Our employee communications principles center around delivering relevant, timely and consistent information to all audiences. Ford employees know that they can find whatever they need on @Ford Online."

Spredfast’s company intranet, Sharefast, “is where employees can collaborate, share and archive content by teams, projects and initiatives,” says Courtney White, director of Global Communications, Spredfast, a social media experience management platform. “It provides a place for more than the typical one-way corporate communication topics, such as HR, IT, Travel and Operations. It gives each department a place to highlight their teams and processes. Every employee is also able to create a group around a project or topic of interest and share their knowledge across the team.”

The intranet also allows employees “to share internal updates about our products and other company news updates in a secure way, which archives the information to access with a robust search tool,” she adds. “This allows new hires to ramp up faster and saves our email for true time-sensitive work.”

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