So, the CIO of a company is supposed to build and maintain the infrastructure for employee communications while the corporate communications director, or maybe the CMO, uses that infrastructure to inform, influence and persuade employees.
Right? That’s the way, as a rule, corporations function. No?
Not necessarily. Not in today’s digital business environment, as customary rules (and roles) are evolving (or crumbling) at an accelerating rate. CIOs, whose responsibilities once were restricted to the bits and bytes of business operations, are being asked more and more to use their technological prowess for business transformation.
The “I” in CIO these days more often than not means “Innovation” as much as it does “Information.” Corporate technology leaders are being asked not only to install communications systems, they’re being asked their opinions about how those systems enable communication between employees.
That’s why CIO Magazine, a publication that has been catering to the interests of technology executives for more than 25 years, now defines it’s mission as providing readers with:
The magazine’s digital version, CIO.com, recently posted the article, “9 Ways to Improve Employee and Customer Communication” by contributor Jennifer Lonoff Schiff. Schiff asked senior executives from a variety of businesses to offer advice to CIOs about improving employee communications with technology in today’s digitized world.
Here are three high points from what she heard:
1. Create a single “social collaboration platform”
According to executives in Schiff’s column, a social collaboration platform brings together the “people, data and processes needed to improve engagement and enable problem solving and more informed decision making whether they’re in the office or communicating from the field.”
The key idea is an organization’s communications and productivity applications shouldn’t be separate and in silos. Social apps such as Twitter have a dimension of speed and simplicity in messaging beyond traditional email formats, while other social solutions such as LinkedIn have a dimension of depth and sophistication in integration and file sharing beyond typical email platforms.
As one executive told Schiff, today corporate leaders should apply technology to “communicate effectively outside of the email inbox.”
2. Create an “online forum”
Again, the idea is stretching beyond the usual functions of email (i.e. sending messages and attachments) to dissolve silos and promote cross-department interaction. An online forum incorporates elements of social applications, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, by providing information beyond basic contact data.
In the article, Yammer is pointed out as an example of an online forum that empowers workers to collaborate and engage each other in a dynamic way. The video below shows how Nationwide uses the tool to do just that.
An enterprise-level forum can carry information about employee knowledge and strengths that aren’t obvious from job titles or departmental assignments. Users can post areas of expertise to their profiles, enabling others to connect for advice and support more easily.
Another company cited in the article, Doubledot Media, created a virtual water cooler where employees can video conference and instant message any and all other employees. The firm’s CEO believes the resource is “great for building a sense of teamwork and camaraderie.”
3. Implement video conferencing
Research by the National Center for Biotechnology Information confirms what many business leaders understand intuitively: The escalating flow of digital information is shortening attentions spans. In the last few years, the average attention span of someone online has dropped below that of a goldfish.
So, in a world teeming with handheld devices delivering billions of messages every day, how do leaders increase engagement? Put people back into the mix. Video conferencing overcomes the greatest obstacle to this goal by mitigating the impact of distance. As one executive who spoke to Schiff explained: “With video conferencing… employees can meet without ever having to leave their desks.”
After all, what is more social about technology than people talking to people – and looking each other in the eye?
Would your company benefit from by implementing technology to improve communication? Have you used tools such as video conferencing to engage with customers and employees? Share your stories below.