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At first, it was just you, your plant and your accountant. Communicating with your employees was a breeze, even though the plant sometimes didn’t respond.

Then you started hiring. Your staff grew to 10 people, then 100. You opened six new branches. The new office plants weren’t any more loquacious than your own, but your employees had a lot to say. That’s where things got complicated.

The crew at branch two didn’t take time off for Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day because nobody got the memo about vacation dates you thought you’d sent to everyone.

The weekend guy didn’t come in one day because he forgot the door code and couldn’t get in touch with anyone.

And who could forget the 18 versions of the document that team 9 was working on and the final copy that got lost in the labyrinth of email chains?

Then, in the fall, you came back from a hunting trip and spent 12 hours going through your 1,674 messages, two-thirds of which were RE: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: So funny. You thought you would lose your mind.

That was when you decided to take charge of your life—or, at least the part of your life you spend managing your company’s communications. (As for that downstairs closet your better half has been after you to clean out for months—well, that can wait.) Good communication is important for a healthy relationship, but in business, it’s critical. (And sometimes less complicated.)

Technology to the rescue!

You’ve probably already heard it from a million blog posts (and your sister-in-law): a solid internal communication strategy is essential to running a company efficiently. Unfortunately, expanding businesses tend to shift their focus to external communications. But without a structured internal communication strategy, you can quickly run into trouble, like the time your sales manager learned about the new company mission statement on the radio on the way to work. Chaos ensued. What a week!

But how do you choose the right tools? There are a few questions you can ask yourself to help guide your decisions. How can you make sure that information is circulating in your company in the most intelligent way? How can you start meaningful discussions? How can you mobilize your teams? How can you get a teenager to write in complete sentences? (Whoops—that’s a whole other can of worms.)

Instant messengers, corporate social networks, file sharing programs, project management software… “Digital tools facilitate the flow of information within an organization,” says Florian Pradon, Candidate Experience Manager at GSoft, a Montréal-based company that designs management software. “They bring transparency to conversations: people are armed with information and talk about it. These tools build trust in organizations and increase their efficiency.” On the other hand, “information spreads very quickly, and some managers can be intimidated by that.” (Because it’s REALLY scary when the other employees find out that the engineers are working on a new concept. Be afraid. Be very afraid.)

So why go digital? To save time, to avoid losing information and to boost productivity, but also to empower your employees and humanize communication. But to pull it off, managers need to be ready to get involved. “Communication is becoming more and more bidirectional. This opens up conversations and breaks down silos, and people can go straight to the source,” Pradon continues. “But the boss has to be ready to open communication channels, to make themselves available. They have to be open and reachable.”

(Disclaimer: That doesn’t mean that you should start texting about your green smoothie at 6:45 on Sunday morning, and being open DOES NOT mean talking about contraception methods with everyone in the company.)

Digital tools can help:

  • Humanize communication
  • Engage employees
  • Make research easier
  • Create interest groups
  • Boost productivity
  • Foster a company culture

Chats and cat gifs

“The danger is that this can create a tremendous amount of conversational noise,” cautions Pradon. “I would go so far as to say it’s a major contributor to information overload. Oftentimes, there’s just too much information coming at you and you feel like you’re always missing out on something, like you can never get on top of things. People absolutely have to learn to prioritize information.”

(But cat gifs are always relevant. Really?! Are you sure?)

Perhaps now more than ever, it’s easy to get sucked into the black hole of useless and irrelevant information. Luckily, there are tons of tools out there to help keep you on track.

Once you’ve determined your needs, check out this list of some popular tools to get you started:

  • Instant messengers: create relationships and archive conversations, send information and centralize it in one place, etc.

    Examples : Slack, Workplace, Google Hangouts Chat.
  • Corporate social networks: set up an internal blog, start group discussions, create work groups, etc.

    Examples: Yammer, Ning, Elgg, Jamespot.
  • Project management software: assign tasks and monitor their progress. There are a ton of these programs on the market, so choose one that suits your needs in terms of team size, type of project, billing practices, etc. Some are free, others are paid.

    Examples: Asana, Trello, Basecamp, Airtable.
  • File sharing and collaborative document-editing programs: increase efficiency, centralize files, etc.

    Examples: Google Drive, Evernote, Office 365, Dropbox Paper.
  • Cloud storage: Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox.

(Have you determined your needs?)

"Oftentimes, there’s just too much information coming at you and you feel like you’re always missing out on something. People absolutely have to learn to prioritize information."

– Florian Pradon, Candidate Experience Manager at GSoft

Carbon copy

Even if you have every available tool at your disposal, they’re worth nothing unless your leaders can communicate their goals and show your employees how to use them. In other words, the best screwdriver in the world makes for a terrible hammer. Be visionary and exemplary. Just like with anything else, leading by example is still your best bet for success. If you want to get your team motivated about a project, your leaders need to be fully committed. (In short, don’t be like your plant—be proactive.)

Even in the digital age, active listening is THE key to success when it comes to implementing an effective communications strategy: listening and showing that you understand is the absolute top priority.

And sometimes, you just can’t beat an efficient meeting or a quick phone call. A frank discussion can eliminate the annoyances and misunderstandings that can be caused by written messages, especially if you haven’t figured out that CAPSLOCK MAKES YOU LOOK LIKE YOU’RE SHOUTING.

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Some supplemental reading on the topic:

Hardvard Business News - Why No One Uses the Corporate Social Network

Talk Social to Me - 6 Enterprise Social Network Features That Make Our Lives Easier

ProServeIT - Four entreprise social network to take advantage of

Information Age - How digital technology is transforming internal communication

Business Illustrator - Why invest in an enterprise social network (Infographic)

And if you want to practice your French:

COM'IN - Les 7 tendances de la communication interne numérique

Comment Ça Marche - Utiliser les réseaux sociaux internes dans les entreprises

WikiCréa - Comment gérer une croissance rapide?

Wydden.com - #Outils : comment améliorer la communication interne?

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