The following article was originally published in HR Technologist, and can also be viewed here
Guest AuthorMay 25, 2018 | 6 Mins Read | Level - Intermediate
Today’s organizations can choose from a vast array of electronic communication tools within this spectrum. Mike Hicks, VP of Marketing and Strategy, explains why even this wealth of choice doesn’t guarantee that messages successfully reach their audience. In fact, choosing the wrong tool, or relying too heavily on one, can stifle efficient internal communication.
Group chat tools have sped to popularity in the workplace over the course of the last few years. The instantaneous mode of communication has morphed into full suites with various plugins seeking to replace email through platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams.
The popular platforms have become staples in workplaces increasingly driven by digitally-savvy workers across all generations. And given the many users on Slack and Teams, these platforms clearly offer some immediate benefits. But for all its evangelists, does group chat really do any favors for overall workflow? Maybe not. In looking deeper, an overreliance on chat tools actually slows down teams’ productivity.
Chat has its strengths, but it can’t sustain a modern, efficient workplace on its own. Here are three reasons why:
1. It’s a productivity drain – The average user spends 10 hours per week in instant messaging. Given all the social, non-work features these programs offer, that likely includes a significant amount of lost productivity. Chat in general tends to sideline workers from their tasks at hand. For example, one study found that it took workers an average of eight minutes to get back on track with their work after replying to one chat message. When we consider all the chat messages that come our way during the average workday, that yields an alarming rate of lost productivity.
2. It worsens the data silo epidemic – According to the American Management Association, 83 percent of leaders encounter information silos at their organizations. Chat doesn’t do the information silo crisis any favors. When latecomers to the conversation arrive, they’re forced to scroll through a mountain of messages to find the information they need. By not considering other more centralized modes of communication, like digital workplace platforms, professionals lose the ability to organize important data and make it accessible to the organization at large .
3. Not all employees embrace it – A positive work environment allows every employee to adhere to his or her own workstyle. Not everyone is comfortable with leaning on office chat for all communications, especially those who may have come of age professionally in offices where email ruled all. Chat should play a role in office communication, since so many workers feel comfortable turning to it, but it should not be the sole option in communicating with teams.
A hybrid communications model is the answer
As professionals, we’re hit with all sorts of scenarios in the workplace. And for some of them, instantaneous, stream-of-consciousness communication is just what we need. For example, when packaging up materials for a fast-approaching deadline while working with a remote team, chat allows you to communicate at the paced required to secure simple decisions and get quick clarification on questions.
However, in other situations, leaning on chat may only makes things more confusing and chaotic. When providing feedback for an in-depth project plan and timeline, it makes more sense to review and craft a thoughtful reply, rather than firing off several one-line responses along with everyone else in the chat group . Then you can store that thoughtful reply in an area that others can access for future projects,
An approach built on centralizing all information in the digital workplace is what leading organizations around the world are turning to . A comprehensive model allows for notifications of activity to be sent via email and integrates with the chat apps your employees want to use. What’s more, it fixes the problematic data silos across communication tools, and it allows for better knowledge management, industry regulation compliance and new employee onboarding.
Data and training interests aside, this hybrid approach to communication tools allows organizations to cater to every employee’s work preferences. Every company should strive to design a communication culture that allows employees to communicate in a mode with which they are comfortable. However, no matter what features your organization offers, they all must integrate together under one roof.
Finding the right leader
A move toward a more purposeful office communication model requires a leader. Many successful organizations turn to a digital workplace manager to ensure company communication and processes are carried out in the most efficient way possible. A full-time position for consulting and training on office technology will help implement correct communication workflows and build them into onboarding so that the guidelines are native to the culture.
Some organizations have more to lose than just productivity when they enable the use of improper communication techniques. Highly regulated industries like law, finance and healthcare offer up penalties when sensitive data is handled improperly or shared with the wrong people – even if they are within the same organization. In these cases, a digital workplace manager with a background in knowledge management and workflows is even more critical. In overseeing the use of different communication tools in unique scenarios, this individual can help ensure employees communicate as productively as possible and remain compliant with industry regulations .
While group chat has seen a period of growth, the shine around the promise of it is dulling. It doesn’t hold the key to a magically productive future of work the way many had hoped. We move faster than ever at work, and the flow of information continues to increase. But that shouldn’t mean we should sacrifice order, knowledge management and culture. Chat tools play a role, but they’re best served as part of an integrated digital workplace strategy that is backed by a secure and scalable digital workplace platform.