Workplace culture has changed tremendously in the recent past. It has increasingly become a place to bring and discover our best versions and continuously evolve — becoming more of ourselves, as we contribute to the goals of an organization. Organization goals are also no longer set in stone. They are fluid and constantly evolve as a result of the co-creation that happens at each level. This dynamic nature also becomes a significant contributor to an organization’s agility to reinvent itself — absolutely critical for survival and success in today’s world.
Culture is the lubricant that enables new possibilities. While the seeds of change are sown in the leaders of the organization, they need to quickly percolate to each level so that the various microcosms act as one organized organism moving in one direction. It is important to have the right workplace culture to attract the right talent, which is important to build that niche advantage — you get the idea. That’s where tools of communication become important. It’s no longer enough for the leaders of the organization to think groundbreaking thoughts, it’s important to build a workplace culture that fosters transparency, psychological safety, connection, and authenticity, which contributes to agility, reinvention, co-creation, and deep work.
Some organizations have done a phenomenal job of creating a fantastic workplace culture. But there are some others who have been able to create a workplace culture so unique to their existence that their cultures have become their brand voice — a recruitment tool to attract the best talent. Zappos has famously proved it is not just about shoes but it’s about “delivering happiness.” Southwest Airlines have been able to groom an organization of people inspired by a bigger purpose of serving people. SquareSpace, voted as one of the best places to work for in New York, have eradicated layers of management between associates and executives so that the employees feel heard, valued, and respected for the ideas they bring in to the table. REI has been able to build a successful business because its employees are immersed in the same interests as the company. While open office spaces, free lunch, health care, and trips are enablers of the new workplace culture, they are only cosmetic patches. Creating a new workplace culture requires a deeper change, and the culture of an organization can be changed by the way it communicates.
Workplace communication, enabled by various new-age communication tools, can help organizations create a hierarchy-free, flat, self-reinventing, engaged, motivated, aligned, and deep-focus environment. While face-to-face conversation perhaps still remains the best form of communication enabling connection and effective communication, it no longer is an option keeping in mind scarcity of time and resources, and even feasibility given the geographically separate team locations. That’s where it is important to choose communication tools wisely. Some of the old-school communication tools are the usual suspects — phone, emails, video conferencing, and intranet. However, there is a host of new-age tools that include document flow, approval mechanism, and social media integration to make communication effective and relevant, even for the millennials and Gen Z.
Dinosaurs of communication
It’s easy to doubt how relevant emails are in building workplace culture — and when the last time you actually “phoned” someone at work. Emails are more than just a ubiquitous way of communicating — though that also is a big advantage as practically anyone can be reached on emails. They are a way of recordkeeping for reference and accountability, immediate yet nonintrusive, enabling point-to-point as well as broadcast communication. Emails can be integrated with so many new features to make them more potent tools of communication — calendar and task integrations to emails go a long way to create a cohesive one-team environment across offices, geographical locations, and time zones. It really doesn’t matter where you are in space and time, as long as you are available on email and aligned on time zones to attend virtual team meetings. These cohesive “one-team” cultures help organizations leverage location advantages while adding niche skills in their toolbox to achieve bigger goals on its vision board.
On that note, it’s important to revisit the extraordinary powers of the ordinary phone. While no one can deny the sense of connection of a pleasant old-school desk phone conversation, its appeal and utility lie much beyond that. The desk phone, replaced in modern office by tools such as Skype, Jabber, Webex, and Zoom, helps eradicate distance and time zone differences. The responsive communication enabled by the old desk phone and its new era avatars goes a long way to create productive, open, transparent, and connected teams. Additional functionalities such as file sharing enable the teams to create more with their time and resources.
Even the commonplace intranet can be a powerhouse of workplace culture-building tools. It can be so much more than a repository of commonly used tools and links. It can be the thriving space for engaging team conversations — for independent opinions and self-expression. Intranets can also be a great way to propagate new philosophies, for example, to drive massive online open training modules for unconscious bias across the organization for instance. Tools such as Watercooler, Yammer, and Basecamp provide enriched intranet features.
New kids on the block
Recent times have seen the evolution of many purpose-built tools for workplace communication. There is a specific tool for a specific type of communication making it a very efficient process — an absolute must in today’s agile work environment. These tools have also built-in tracking and alerting mechanisms enabling transparency and accountability in teams. Several chat messaging tools integrated with purpose-built tools, project management tools and incident management tools will fall under this category. Tools such as Slack take team conversations to the next level by either keeping conversations private or public and by making the conversations searchable for easy reference in the future. Tools such as Basecamp add more purpose to team conversations by including message boards for schedules and timelines, and the functionality of check-in to increase organizational transparency and individual accountability on one’s work and deliverables.
The most talked about the new kid in the communication block is the suit of new-age incident management and alert-notifications tools. The likes of JIRA, Bugzilla, Airbrake, and OpsGenie help you plan, track, and work faster in the ever-changing agile environment. By offering increased visibility into the tasks and owners of the tasks, it results in efficient collaboration and more productive teams. Most importantly, they take the pain away from reporting defects, assigning, and following up. Now owners can just focus on the core of their work — fixing the situation, and then move on to the next team milestone instead of investing energy and time in navigating communication hurdles.
Project management tools such as Trello and Asana “democratize” project planning and execution by enabling team engagement at each phase of the project. Customer communication integration tools such as Nexmo, Twilio, and Voximplant ensure you do not miss out on that important customer interaction irrespective of the platform — thus enabling you to be trusted by the customer for always being available. These new-age communication tools integrate well with existing communication tools creating a seamless environment for the teams as well as the stakeholder network, the most important being the customer. The customer starts viewing you as a reliable partner in their journey — a very important outcome for the task of workplace culture building.
The strongest fiber that holds together today’s diverse teams is the spirit of inclusivity. While it’s important to keep inclusivity as the intentional purpose of communication, only an employee in maternity break or in similar situations can articulate how valued she feels like a contributing team member when she is able to participate in the vision planning and decision making of her organization through a Skype call from home. Such are the impacts of using the right tools for communication. They can go a long way to create a location-agnostic, gender-neutral, and unbiased culture at work — just the culture that can spawn the next generation of ideas to transform the way we live and work.
Featured image: Pixabay
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