Improving your internal communications through corporate culture with the right communication tools

David García-Navas

20 October 2016

We read about some companies that start buying licenses or subscribing for internal communication tools and waiting for the magic to happen. With a little bit of luck, they might work, but as good professionals, we don’t understand chance. Instead, we comprehend reason, persistence, and effort: is the organization’s culture ready? Have they chosen the right tool?

First things first: Corporate Culture

What is your work environment like? Are the internal processes within your organization transparent? How do decisions get made? Are suggestions from anyone in the organization considered based on their validity instead of their seniority? These questions answer a critical point: are we managing people or facilitating knowledge and experiences?

Internal communication doesn’t get put into motion if there’s no reasoning behind it. One of its benefits is that it will develop talent within a company: the best talent is the one that lets itself grow, not the one captured. Happiness attracts and retains more talent than only putting an employer branding strategy into practice.

Like we mentioned in “Herramientas sociales internas: lazos mas allá de la hora del café” it involves a question of commitment and one’s love for his or her job:

In the moment of connectivity, we find ourselves in; this commitment can grow or diminish depending on how much we use these technological advances.

Achieving fluid communications is the fruit of transparency; knocking down barriers that stymie the flow of information between groups, areas, or departments is imperative. In fact, we can name many examples:

These are only some of the parts of a comprehensive strategy where we do the following:

  1. We’ll analyze the real status of our corporate culture and employee engagement.
  2. We’ll invigorate actions and proposals for renewing internal processes.
  3. We’ll establish indicators to measure the project’s progress.
  4. We’ll manage tactics aimed at spreading brand values across the organization and that the individual employee is the one who prescribes its benefits.

Steps that will go onto coexist with chosen apps or software. What criteria will we value and what is our example in our organization?


Tools for making change materialize

Not only do they coincide with the already-occurring digital transformation in many corporations, but tools also help us articulate this corporate culture and let us act to complement the values that we need to permeate throughout the company. From our lidertarian base, we have never imposed an internal communication tool, but instead, we have tried out several options to gain impressions from those who felt inclined to use them. Our testing has helped us evaluate the pros and cons of each and create reasonable rating criteria to choose the right one. 

Here we’re going to highlight one of these criteria. In 2013 we were used to corporate social networking software like Yammer or SocialCast, whose timeline mimicked today’s Facebook at Work (adding more elements onto its set of features of course). Despite that, why do we recommend and use Discourse, which is more of a discussion platform or internet forum instead of a traditional corporate social network? 

After examining all the functions and taking a walk in the other’s shoes, we discovered that the information that’s relevant to a company doesn’t have anything to do with posting on walls to get likes, nor following people nor groups, but instead creating themes or threads for debate. These topics give your coworkers the freedom the share their interests by staying in the loop or choosing another topic. It’s more of a “this week we’re going to talk about these exciting current events or strategy” instead of publishing updates on a timeline with minimal organization.

When it’s about sharing useful information or being able to make connections, it’s better to manage content based on categories that people can choose on their own, regardless of their role than follow stale groups where the name matters more than the content. Why force anybody to be in a place by his or herself? Better let everyone choose what piques their interests! A consultant could be interested in the best campaigns this month and a copywriter more inclined to read about tools for web analytics. 

After using Discourse for nearly three years for our #TcPlus now called Brain, we invited company alumni to join in to liven up the conversation. Seeing them participate and talk about similar topics gives us lots of satisfaction, and we recommend that businesses follow suit as they scale up their internal social networks. We’re not alone; besides organizations like Bloomberg, Buffer also uses it to organize its internal communications.

Direct communication

Thus, Brain is our tool to asynchronously hold and order our conversations, information that’s worth taking a second look at and organizing it all using categories and tags. But, what about day-to-day communications, when you only want to say hi, share the latest picture, or talk to the team about your project?

We used Skype for a while, but we got the sense that something was missing, so we did our benchmarking exercise to see if there was something better than the Microsoft tool for our daily activities. We looked at ten tools, and out of nine areas that we graded on a scale from 1 to 5, we found two winners: Slack and Mattermost.

What are we going to say about Slack that people have not yet stated, the trendiest tool in business due to its astronomic growth, usability, and its loads of integrations for other tools available. What sealed the deal for us was Slack’s ability to let us create several teams and give us the capacity to change between multiple groups on the app in a simple and agile fashion.

When it comes to its free alternative, Mattermost, we have not seen it mature enough to outperform slack, since they still need to optimize their mobile apps, improve notifications, and make it possible for us to change between teams quickly and easily. If these three features were optimized, we would be the first to switch over to Mattermost because we love their free software.

Because of this trend, one can confuse the use of Slack with using a comprehensive internal communication tool, and on general news sites we will see articles with titles like “the competition of Facebook at work,” but this couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Slack, like other direct or chat communication tools, it’s a perfect complement for the organization, but in function with how this grows, it needs a network to ensure useful communication for all members, where they want to be and when they need it: what we call asynchronous communication.

Doing all of this requires categories, tags, themes or threads, although the last two don’t show up on Slack. With that in mind, we’re betting on a combination of a forum-style application, where Discourse overwhelmingly distinguishes itself in being a space for debating and talking about what’s most permanent; and Slack, where we hold our more quotidian, brief, and temporary conversations. Discourse recently published their integration with Slack, something that bodes well for the use we make of this tool at Good Rebels.

This winning combination lets us give voice, articulate discussions, and share knowledge within the company. What’s just been presented are only some of the advantages that reinforce our corporate culture, which at the same time serves as the base that makes this possible; quite the virtuous cycle we’d say. Where would you locate your organization?