No matter how big or small an organization is; no matter their state – startup, scale-up or multinational – internal communications are always a challenge. This is especially true in the midst of changing landscapes, busy schedules and dynamic markets.
It's no different at Yieldr. While we try our best to maintain open two-way channels, admittedly we sometimes miss the mark. This was made apparent as part of the feedback we received from our most recent eNPS.
(You can learn about implementing an eNPS here.)
Several of our colleagues remarked that communication within our company was something that had fallen off course and needed to be improved. We always take this feedback to heart, so communication has been a focal point for us this quarter.
The first order of business was to bring back some consistency to our all-hands structure. For a while we had regularly scheduled all-hands meetings, covering topics such as objectives and key results, cash flow and financial health, cultural happenings, sales pipelines, team projects and more.
Unfortunately, our busy schedule and jam-packed to-do lists made us lose focus on these important all-hands. Before we knew it, we went from semi-regular to sporadic meetings, to hardly any at all. And because we lost our structure, it became a scheduling nightmare to get everyone together for when we actually did want to discuss something as an entire team.
It was time to take action.
We’ve gotten back to the basics by scheduling all-hands meetings every Wednesday at 9am sharp. Having this structure back in our flow has helped us stay aligned and disciplined. We’re also finding that by starting the day with our all-hands, we don’t disrupt our workflow and we have everyone’s attention. Now, if only a few of our colleagues can get themselves out of bed a few minutes earlier ;)
Having a dedicated time to discuss important matters is great, but sometimes matters can’t wait and instant actions are required. That’s why we’re happy to use Slack as our biggest internal communications tool.
Personally, I almost never use email for internal comms. Seriously, don’t email me. My inbox is a dumpster fire of sales pitches and unwanted promotional material. That’s why Slack has proven to be a very useful and efficient tool, especially when some of us are bouncing in and out of the office.
To keep everyone aligned we’ve also gotten into a better habit of sharing information of events as they happen to supplement our all-hands. For instance, our sales team could be on tour to demo the Yieldr product and get together with stakeholders, so they’ll share the recap of what went down while they’re on the road.
While Slack is great, though, we still prefer talking to one another face-to-face – or if necessary video-to-video.
On that note, that’s why we love one-on-ones. Slack is great for group discussions or quick responses, but we also need some of that real talk. Our one-on-ones provide a great opportunity for employees to have a personal discussion in a safe place with their supporter.
These chats can stem from anything going on in the office, such as something hindering their work or areas they’d like more feedback on, to anything outside company walls that might be on the teammate’s mind.
While we push the teammate to drive the discussion, we understand that sometimes you need to steer the conversation to make it useful. We suggest taking a look at these eight questions to ask during a one-on-one.
I can say, these one-on-ones are something I really look forward to as a way to (re)connect with my team and understand their perspective. We like to keep it casual, get out of the office and do it over a cup of coffee.
Even our founder Mendel has scheduled a one-on-one with everyone in the company in order to catch up, garner feedback and better align everyone on our company vision.
Scrumming it Up: Agile, Sprints & Reviews
At Yieldr, something we pride ourselves on is being a 100% agile team. Each department practices scrum and runs bi-weekly sprints. While this is great for productivity and keeping intra-team projects aligned, we realized we weren’t getting the best of this process from a transparency and feedback standpoint.
Another point that came out from our eNPS was that not everyone was aware of when other sprint reviews were or that teams were even conducting them. Therefore we immediately collected this information from every team and invited everyone to every sprint review so it was in their calendars -- no excuses!
Giving everyone the opportunity to join sprint reviews from finance, marketing, development, product and every other department has helped more information percolate throughout the company. This has also been a valuable resource for the team conducting the review to collect feedback and get some outside perspectives on their projects.
How We Communicate
How does the old adage go? It’s not what you say — it’s how you say it!
We’ve started to take this to heart by not only communicating more, but also looking at how we are communicating things.
For instance, we focused more on how we give feedback to each other, taking the time to realize the way we deliver it and making sure it is constructive to the person receiving it.
We’ve also realized we need to get better and improve on communicating bad news, not just the good news. It may be that a colleague will leave the company or we lost a client or a sales pitch. Articulating this news in the appropriate way is just as important – if not more so – than celebrating big wins or reaching milestones. Of course keeping everyone motivated and positive is crucial, but honesty is everything!
For some great suggestions on how to conquer delivering news and feedback and overall communicating to your colleagues, I highly recommend reading Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility by Netflix’s former HR lead Patty McCord. It’s an exceptional read for anyone building a business.
Finally, I’d like to challenge my colleagues to continue to be inquisitive, ask questions and seek out answers when there’s something they don’t understand or would like to know about.
Communications are and will always be a challenging task that is never complete. But by everyone holding themselves accountable, we can keep open a vital two-way channel of communication to ensure everyone is educated on what is happening.