Good communication is vital to the success of any business. As a leader, it's your responsibility to ensure your team members are communicating efficiently. They need to be aware of how to communicate, what channels to use, and different scenarios in which you may have to adapt your processes.
To ensure your team is aligned, it helps to develop a communications playbook for your team. This creates a clear set of expectations for everyone as well as cutting down on confusion. Clarity is key to effective communication, so it makes sense to have a plan for how you'd like your team to communicate.
This post will give you a clear outline of how developing a communications playbook can help optimize your team's ability to collaborate and in turn improve productivity.
As a leader or manager, you may oversee this process - if you have a team member in charge of communications, consider this a guideline for them to carry out while you supervise the high-level aspects of the implementation.
Step 1: Gather Data
This is the most important step in the process, as the data you collect here will inform the plan.
Interview as many people as possible about how your company shares information. Ask what information they need to be effective in their roles. How does your organization currently communicate internally and with customers? Are all employees familiar with the company's organizational and workflow structure? How could your company improve the methods in which it communicates?
You should also review any existing documentation that may include communications plans or procedures. There could be different processes depending on extenuating circumstances (i.e. what if an emergency happens after normal working hours?)
Below are some of the areas in which you should be collecting information - yours may vary depending on the type of work your team does.
This includes phone numbers and e-mail addresses for all team members. You may have this registered on software like MS Outlook, but it helps to have everyone's contact information in one central document.
Organizational flow chart
This is crucial to help everyone understand the overarching structure of how your business operates. For example, a direct report may understand the needs of their boss. But do they understand the responsibilities of their boss's boss? Having an organizational chart helps define responsibilities throughout the organization. It's also helpful when someone has a question regarding a topic they don't usually cover. An organizational chart points them to the subject matter expert within the company they'll need to connect with.
This section should include all internal communication processes, including:
- Reporting issues to human resources
- How leadership should communicate with direct reports (and vice versa)
- Requesting personal time off or sick leave
Document all company IT systems used for communication, how to access them, and what to do if a team member has issues accessing them. This is where you'd list either your team's IT representative or an external contractor who deals with IT issues.
Your team needs to know how to communicate when working on a product or with a client. This is where you can include practices and procedures for internal collaboration on projects, deliverables, and client relations.
To ensure your meetings flow as smoothly as possible, include guidelines for internal meeting structure to optimize efficiency. Include all information needed to schedule a meeting, including how to reserve a conference room, internal scheduling procedures, and any teleconference lines that are available for use.
Include profiles on key customers, stakeholders, and clients. If appropriate, include contact information as well as the lead point-of-contact within your company for each person.
This is where you'll post templates for meeting minutes, memos, and any other practical communication tools.
Emergency response procedures
When a crisis occurs, you may need to adjust your practices. Make sure you document what triggers need to occur to force you into a change of standard operating procedure.
Step 2: Develop the Draft
For the next part of the process, you'll need to develop the draft. Whether it's you or another team member, only one team member should have the pen on the first iteration. Having multiple team members involved in this part of the process will only lead to confusion, possibly causing issues with version control.
Use the topics listed above as sections for the document. Also, include an introduction at the outset that describes the document's purpose. Include the document's draft date and edition.
Step 3: Final Review with the Team
Once the draft is complete, you're now ready to receive comments. Post the document to an internal file-sharing site for review (typically something like an MS SharePoint site or GoogleDocs).
Give your team at least a week to review, with more time allowed if they're busy with time-intensive projects. Encourage comments in a written or verbal form. Stress that even if you may have the final say on whether a particular edit is included in the final version, it's important to have everyone weigh in. Their feedback is important.
This part of the process gives the document credibility. If the team vets the processes laid out and plays an active role in developing the communications plan, they're more likely to buy-in when it's finalized.
Step 4: Implement
After you've incorporated the comments, e-mail this version to everyone or post it in the appropriate shared folder. Include the date and mark it as "final," but stress that it's a living document so you can adapt it as needed. Make sure no one edits it without approval, as this could lead to confusion. All changes must be vetted through either the team or leadership.
There are multiple benefits for a company that implements an employee-informed strategic communications playbook. Having a transparent drafting process gives your team a sense of ownership in how the company operates and communicates. Identifying roles and responsibilities as well as the chain of command makes the organizational structure clear. Improving all these elements will ultimately lead to better products, happier customers, and more return business.
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