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5 Ways to Improve Communication in Your Company

5 Ways to Improve Communication in Your Company

From project workflow to employer expectations, check out these five tips on how to streamline your company’s internal communication.

As more and more workers are vaccinated and companies start preparing a return-to-office plan, hopeful to start implementing by summer, virtual communication among teams is going to be pivotal for a smooth transition.

This pandemic has been anything but predictable, so who’s to say our return to the office is going to be any different? According to an article by the New York Times, many companies plan to implement a hybrid return-to-office plan. Meaning, workers will come to the office, for example, three times a week and then work virtually the other two. With workers no longer being in one place, either online or in the office, this could lend itself to some communication problems. 

Pre-pandemic, we were still heavily reliant on technology and virtual communication. Since then, however, we’ve definitely upped our game. It’s going to be important that teams continue to keep up with virtual communication as return-to-office plans start going into effect.

 

Pitfalls of Poor Communication

I think it’s safe to say that good company communication leads to a more successful business. So, when your communication is lacking, the effects can be felt company-wide. In an article by the Harvard Business Review, it is said that poor communication can prevent innovation and engagement among workers – two highly prized commodities as an employer. 

As a result, it’s hard to receive constructive collective feedback or brainstorm that next big campaign idea. This ineffective collaboration can also slow employees down––helping facilitate a negative company culture. The pandemic isn’t all to blame though. According to a pre-COVID survey by Gallup in 2018,  53% of employees said they were “not engaged” in their work. Thirteen percent even said they were “actively disengaged”; up from previous years of the survey, but still leaving a lot of room for improvement. 

 

Here are five ways to steer clear of communication pitfalls:

1. Demonstrate Empathy

As an employer within your company, it’s important to realize that outside stressors can affect a person’s engagement at work. We’ve all been through it, especially in this last year. Letting your employees know that you care and are there to listen tends to make them feel more valued in their roles, increasing productivity. 

A good way to reach out to your employees is to take a minute or two before a meeting and build in some casual conversation. Ask them about their day, family, kids, hobbies, etc. Opening up that door to conversation can help you connect with them as people, not just as workers. This can be especially valuable in strengthening relationships between you and your employees virtually when you don’t have the same organic opportunities. 

However, as offices start to open back up again, you may get to utilize the elevator run-in or quick cubicle chat from the past depending on your company’s plans. 

2. Utilize Communication Platforms 

If you’re not already using platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and/or Adobe Connect, you should consider it. These tools offer organization through chat channels and video chat platforms, which allow presentation and document sharing capabilities. Basically, it makes communicational organization easy.

These platforms can also give your team a place to catch up with co-workers by utilizing chat channels or direct messaging in a remote working environment. Set up channels that are strictly for casual chatting or jokes to help employees bond. It’s an easier, less formal alternative to email yet more professional than a text message. Platforms like Slack can also promote collaboration amongst teams, once again increasing productivity and creating an overall more positive and productive company culture as a result. This is especially true as people start to transition to a more hybrid working environment.

3. Consider Employee Feedback

Give employees multiple outlets where they can share their feedback. Oftentimes you can’t see or hear everything, so it’s important to create an environment where your employees feel encouraged to give their thoughts and feedback. 

In an article by Bloomfire, they suggest conducting stay interviews to understand why people stay, what is working for them, and what they’d like to improve. Perhaps the information they give you could lead to better employee retention for your company.

Another thing to consider is creating an anonymous feedback form. Let’s be honest, not everyone is going to say what they really think when their boss is right in front of them. It’s important to realize that some feedback is going to be negative, but that’s okay. Recognizing and fixing the problem earlier is always better than later. This will be especially important when companies start their transitions back to the office. Hearing employee feedback on the process and organization will be key in knowing if what you’re doing is effective and keeping them safe. 

4. Keep Workflows Transparent

Whether a big project is coming up or you’re working on day-to-day tasks, workflow transparency is super important to mitigate any miscommunications. Does the team know the project deadline? Who is responsible for what parts? When do they need to send it off to the next team member? At one point or another we’ve all been a part of a group or project where nothing seems to be nailed down and no one really knows what they’re supposed to be doing. It’s frustrating, to say the least. 

Clearly and concisely communicating expectations and workflows early on will give your employees a more positive working experience. Not to mention they’re more likely to produce better work as a result. To further streamline communication, utilize programs like Trello or Asana to keep track of projects and collaboration. These services send alert updates and make it easier to track progress as projects move forward. With people soon to be both in the office and remote, clear communication regarding projects has the potential to get messy in the coming months. 

5. Stay Consistent 

Employees need consistency to work productively. If they’re constantly trying to figure out a new workflow or operation, then they aren’t focused on innovation and collaboration. While it’s good to change things up every now and again for the sake of company growth, the way that it’s communicated needs to be consistent every time. Don’t leave them to figure most of it out on their own. Properly train and educate them on the new change.

Also, be consistent in your expectations. Do your employees know what you expect to see from them in their work? Have you been communicating check-ins and deadlines? For an employee, one of the most frustrating things is finding out your employer or supervisor wanted something completely different for a project. Not only is that defeating, but now the project isn’t going to meet its deadline because of inconsistent communication. 

As things become a little more transitional in this next half of 2021, keep these tips in mind when thinking about your internal communication. Even if you’re implementing most of these things already, it’s always good to check-in and reevaluate your company culture. Successful communication is at the core of every successful company.

Pandemic Post-Grad Job Update: A Year Later

Pandemic Post-Grad Job Update: A Year Later

Entry-level jobs are down, but that doesn’t mean you’re out

Here we are. Another round of college graduates are about to head off into the professional world in the wake of the pandemic. As more vaccines become available in these next rollouts, it opens the door for new groups of people and gives hope of a more normal life to come. But the economic affects of this last year haven’t left the door quite as wide open for entry-level positions essential to college graduates.

The major matters

The reality of it is, even in a normal year, major matters. A study that was recently completed by Jeffrey Selingo and Matt Sigelman using data from Burning Glass Technologies, a labor-market analytics firm, showed that those in the visual and performing arts and communications/journalism industries dropped 43 and 42 percent. It’s important to note, however, that all job markets have seen drops to their labor-market. Something I, a soon-to-be journalism grad, can feel in my current job search. 

All is not lost in the post-grad job search though. The study suggests looking into “target occupations”, professions across a range of majors with solid salaries and where employers continue to hire at the entry level. They also suggest “lifeboat occupations”. These jobs typically require less than a bachelor’s degree but allow employees to gain important skills they can use to transition later.

Find a job with sellable skills

“When it comes to future prospects, there’s a big difference between taking a job on an IT help desk versus winding up as a barista.” Jeffrey Selingo and Matt Sigelman said in an article by the Wall Street Journal.

While there’s nothing wrong with working as a barista for a dream job, in fact service industry jobs provide great customer service experience, it’s important to make sure that it’s helping to build your resume in the right ways. If your major lends itself to a 9-to-5 office job, you’ll want to find work that puts you into that environment. Knowing how the culture and structure of an office works while getting used to the hours is going to benefit you when you finally land that dream job.

Using the communications and journalism majors as an example, the study suggests targeting industry occupations such as reporter, web developer and writer/author for their slightly higher availability. But let’s face it, there isn’t enough for everyone. “Lifeboat jobs”, albeit not everyone’s #1 choice, can offer you skills that employers are looking for. The study shows “lifeboat jobs” like a computer user support specialists and loan officers can make a salary up to $55,000 with some benefits. It’s worth it to take a deep dive into job search sites like Indeed or LinkedIn to find entry level jobs that match key resume builders. The nice thing about LinkedIn is that you can see if any of your connections also work at the companies you’re applying to. Don’t be afraid to reach out, you never know where a connection may take you.

We’re not saying to completely abandon the career path you set out to achieve, but there is the hard truth that you may not get it directly out of college like you expected.  A look into the future of an automated economy also shows an increase in jobs for positions like UI or UX (User Interface/Experience) designers, writers, and developers averaging a salary of almost $100,000. Having knowledge about design, react javascript, and robotics can help you potentially transition into those jobs later on. Even landing a job at a tech company as a receptionist or customer service representative could gain you that tech knowledge needed for those higher level jobs. 

Reach out to EVERYONE

There’s nothing more true than the age old saying of “who you know matters”. Having that one mutual connection can be the difference between getting the job or not. That may seem a little dramatic but it’s true. Reach out to old bosses, past coworkers, your parent’s friends, older graduates, alumni, the mail man (okay maybe not that one), but you get the idea. Ask if they know of any opportunities that would be good for you and set up an informational interview. If you can, get in touch with someone in the company you’re applying to and ask them out for a zoom coffee. you could even send them a virtual gift card to their favorite coffee place as a way to “buy” them a coffee on you. The Starbucks app offers a lot of themed gift cards and Venmo is always an option as well.

Then, when you finally get that informational interview, come prepared with questions and make a good impression. You are the one who asked them, don’t make them carry on the conversation. Also, don’t log on looking like you just rolled out of bed either (we’ve all done it). Get up, eat a good breakfast, and put on a professional outfit that you feel confident in. If you can, casually mention that you’re applying to a position in their company, but don’t push it. It’s up to them whether or not they mention you to recruiters.

Lastly, get their address. No, this does not mean go to their house. Once the informational interview is done, you want to send a follow up thank you email and then send them a handwritten thank you letter. SEND. THE. LETTER. People love to receive handwritten letters and it shows that you’re proactive. Stamps and stationary are cheap and writing is free. It’ll be worth the investment.

Keep learning

For those college students that still have a year or more left in their studies, look into classes that may not be in your major but could be sellable skills that will make you stand out. Take an app design class or take a class that teaches you software systems such as Adobe Suites, Excel, and some CMS systems to name a few. You can also check out Surviving the Pandemic – What Technology Our Team Has Been Utilizing for more ideas. 

However, even if you are graduating at the end of May 2021, don’t think that your learning needs to stop there. Look into online courses and programs that can teach you these sellable skills if you didn’t get to them in college. Many industry professionals continue to attend webinars, speakers, classes, and other informational sessions to keep up with trends and changes in the marketplace/industry all the time. Zoom has also made it so much easier to attend such events by removing travel time and increasing accessibility. 

The hard reality is, they are just not that many jobs right now. As someone who is about to graduate, I am all too aware of that fact. But there are things we can do to obtain that workplace experience so that we can end up in the jobs we went to college for. Try out your top jobs first, you may actually get them––but if you find yourself struggling in the entry-level job market, use some of the tips above to help you find something that will still benefit you in the long run.  

Surviving the Pandemic- Social Media Analytics and Your Small Business

Surviving the Pandemic- Social Media Analytics and Your Small Business

Understanding your social media analytics as a small business

I think it’s safe to say, especially during a global pandemic, that social media has become one of the biggest and most important marketing platforms for businesses in recent years. It’s also one of the many services we provide at Enterprise Iowa. The platform has given businesses (big and small) a place to create and sell their brands while facilitating greater connections with their customers. 

The best thing about these social media platforms in marketing terms, is that they generate their own analytics. These days everybody and their dog (quite literally) has a social media account. So analytics become important when trying to work the algorithms and get your brand in front of your target audience. 

Corporations have entire departments dedicated toward analyzing and tracking social media analytics and algorithms, but this article will be focusing on more manageable and cost effective ways for small businesses to take that next step in their social media marketing.

Make a plan

Create goals for your social media marketing activity. They can be measured in traffic, community engagement, conversions, follower growth and anything else you feel is important to your business. Aim to make “SMART” goals:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Revelant

Timely

Having all of this figured out once you set up your analytics will make it easier to create content that will help you reach those goals.

 

Switch to a business account

In order to receive the full range of analytic data from social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, you need to make or switch to a business account. Once you have done this, you will be able to see all the account insights from impressions (how many times your posts were seen) to engagement (likes, comments, shares).

Understanding the metrics

As you start to use and familiarize yourself with your analytics data, there will be key performance indicators (KPI’s) or metrics that you’ll find are vital to your business. According to Hootsuite, here are some of the major metrics found on most analytics trackers based on the four social funnels:

Awareness: These metrics show your current and potential audience. There are different metrics you can track in awareness but here is the most relevant one to your small business.

  • Audience Growth Rate: pick a reporting period that works best for you and then follow this equation.

                    Net New Followers ÷ Total Audience  X  100 = Growth Rate Percentage

Engagement: Shows how audiences are engaging with your content (e.g likes, comments, shares)

Conversion: It demonstrates the effectiveness of your social engagement by tracking the number of visitors that take action on your account. A high conversion rate means your content is valuable and relevant. 

Consumer: this metric reflects how customers think and feel about your brand

  • Great Customer Testimonials (reviews, comments, endorsement, etc) will garner trust and credibility among your consumers, boosting brand awareness.

 

Use hashtags

This may seem obvious, but it’s important to stress this one. Hashtags are used as keyword indicators so your content is more likely to show up when someone searches it. Utilizing these in every post is going to give you an SEO advantage later. 

Hashtags can also be used as campaign material when trying to promote something for your business, helping to increase your conversion rate. It can also indicate how big of an audience is being reached and who it is reaching.

Look for trends in post performance

It’s important to keep track of how your posts perform because they are an indicator of what your audience is reacting and relating to the most. If you notice that videos tend to garner more attention, then maybe think about implementing more video content into your posts. 

Say, for example, a post received a significantly higher response via likes and comments than is normal for your platform. Examine the post to determine why that is. Is the content more personable? What time of day did you post it? Did it have relevance to current events? Was it relatable? It’s always good to ask these types of questions when looking to understand your insights.

 

Social Media Publishers

If you have more than one social platform for your small business and find yourself feeling overwhelmed having to keep track of all the different posts, a social media publisher may be helpful. 

These services let you schedule automatic posts for a later date on multiple platforms. That way you can have your content pre-scheduled and ready to be published before the intended date. They can also show you an organized calendar of all your scheduled posts to give you a view of what you have coming up or if you have too many posts in one day. Some even generate their own set of analytics too.

The most common services people use are:

It may seem overwhelming, but you can do it!

The world of social media analytics is vast and can be a bit overwhelming at times. But it’s important to note that not all these “best practices” out there are relevant for smaller businesses with little to no communications department. This article was aimed at giving relevant tips and information that would help boost smaller platforms and increase their marketing capabilities while relieving some of that confusion. 

As your business grows and your social media platforms require more analytical knowledge, reevaluate your social media plan from time to time. Your KPI’s might have changed or maybe you’re in the right place to hire a social media manager. Either way, social media has become a place where anyone can market what they do, no matter the resources available to them.

 

Virtual Etiquette: Communicating with your client

Virtual Etiquette: Communicating with your client

5 best practices for communicating with your clients virtually.

As we approach the anniversary of this pandemic, the reality of doing business virtually is far from over. In fact, some of these innovations are likely to never fully go away. Businesses have found useful and efficient virtual platforms that add to the success of their companies–promoting more interaction and easier communication with their clients and internal operations.

Similar to when email came on scene (anyone still use AOL?), a virtual etiquette has been established among professionals as companies are forced to go virtual. This article will include some tips and tricks we’ve learned as a company over the past year as well as some industry standards.

Here are five ways to increase your virtual etiquette when communicating with your clients:

 

Test drive EVERYTHING first

If there is one thing we can all agree upon, it’s that technology never does what we want when we need it to. In order to give your clients a smooth and glitch free virtual experience, make sure you try out the system you’ll be using beforehand. That way, if there are any glitches or technological mishaps, you’ll be ready. For example:

 

  • Try Zoom practice runs with your team before an event.
  • Make sure to schedule a test run with any speakers you plan on having  in a virtual conference or meeting so they know what they need to do. This way you can troubleshoot any problems that may occur before the event.
  • Lastly, testing out an application before introducing it to a client allows you to see how user friendly its interface is. If it’s something you find confusing or unorganized, odds are they will too.

Provide clients with clear instructions

This goes hand-in-hand with the first tip, but still deserves its own spot. When setting up a meeting, event or network with your clients, make sure they know what they need to do. Provide them with details on any set up tools they might need (headphones, computer speakers), what platform you will be using, and how they will get on. Is there a dial-in number they could use if they get caught up or their computer stops working? How long will the meeting last? Is there a place where they can watch the event if they missed it? These are some questions to consider. 

If you want to know how you can be better prepared as a remote worker, check out our other article on Top 5 Tips for Working from Home.

Record virtual events

Bringing it back to technology not always working, your client may have problems on their side of the screen too. Mic issues, video quality, and wifi are all reasons why they might miss important information being discussed. Recording relevant events like training, conferences or specific meetings will give your clients a place to go back to later. It also provides a unique opportunity for those who couldn’t attend to watch it at a later time. An added benefit to virtual events.

Create your own virtual etiquette

It’s easier when everyone is on the same page. Before starting your event, establish any etiquettes you want to be utilized. Encourage your clients to use functions like the chat box to communicate with the host or show their agreement/disagreement with what is being said. This eliminates any interference with the speaker but still allows them to express their thoughts. 

Also, if an event has multiple speakers to get through, encourage the use of emojis like the clapping hands to keep audio interference down while still generating a reaction. All in all, it comes down to experimenting beforehand to see what you like and what works best for your company. Coming up with clear rules of engagement will make for a smoother virtual experience for the both of you.

Setting up chat channels

Chat channels like Slack or Microsoft Teams offer your clients a place to communicate with you easily and effectively without having to hop on zoom or pick up the phone. It can help them and you get quick answers to any questions that may come up as well as streamline any project communication between the two.

Check out our other article Surviving the Pandemic – What Technology Our Team Has Been Utitlizing for more helpful applications!

Virtual etiquette is still evolving as we continue to navigate this pandemic, but these tips should help point you in the right direction for better client communication. With the coronavirus continuing to be a daily influencer for businesses, even as vaccines roll out, it doesnt have to inhibit your companies ability to effectively communicate with your clients.