American entrepreneur Bob Parsons once said: “Never stop investing. Never stop improving. Never stop doing something new.” This statement is relevant on a personal scale, but it’s also a practice businesses should apply. Be it finance, legal, or marketing, organizations are always looking to improve company value in order to stand out among the masses. And while it’s important to make these investments, it’s also important for companies to allocate resources to something we need to make these functions work: communication.
From text messages to phone calls to social media postings, we’re always communicating. When we enter the workplace, communication becomes even more fundamental. This is especially true from the perspective of training where tactics need to be transmitted clearly and concisely. We need to think out of the box, however, to create social learning environments that foster communication. Yet, this doesn’t always ring true. In fact, SIS International found 70 percent of small and medium business owners spend almost 18 hours a week dealing with communication pain points. Waiting for information and a lack of collaboration not only present headaches, but also put companies in danger of losing money. Even though communication will always have a cost, the question is how can you make it more fluid?
Communities of Practice
Try a community of practice. Academics talk about this a lot, but organizations don’t. It refers to a group of people who share a distinct passion and learn how to do it better each and every time they interact. Are you interested in analytics or coding practices and know of any co-workers who are willing to exchange knowledge? Now is the time to join forces and learn from one another.
So, you have your community—now what? Collaboration platforms are a great way to move them forward. Online forums or e-mail groups open up channels for people to communicate and learn in unconventional ways. Within these communities, learners also can direct specific questions or comments to other participants, which also fosters relationship building.
Communities of practice provide organizations with a fresh way of communicating effectively. They also lend themselves nicely to things such as Web-based documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Static documents can be messy, especially when there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen. Materials in the cloud eliminate the guesswork, as reviewing feedback visually is in and of itself learning. Having a give-and-take environment benefits learners because it allows for learning to be spread to the right individuals, which, in turn, helps them grow.
This year alone, employees are expected to send and receive on average 125 e-mails each day. With more than 600 weekly e-mails coming into our view, it can be easy to develop e-mail overload and turn this asynchronous tool synchronous. Now, there are many reasons to communicate in e-mail; however, when working with teams, there are other channels and methods that are even more effective. Organizations need to invest in technology to find ways to enhance communication and ultimately improve productivity.
Video is a great way to counteract e-mail overload and keep pain points in check. It enables learners to understand concepts and the density of the messages we receive from bosses, co-workers, and clients. It’s hard to recognize this type of pull-through in a surplus of e-mails, even though skimming has its time and place. Also, with video, it’s easier to recognize emotion—something not as obvious in e-mail.
Communities of practice can act as a hub for video to be created and shared. Try recording a message and distributing it within your e-mail group or online portal. This can motivate and intrigue others within your group or organization to give video a try as they’ll clearly see how efficient messages can be sent back and forth, and more importantly, retained.
Investing in video for corporate training practices also can provide benefits that will last in the long run. With 40 percent of people responding more to visuals than text, video will keep employees engaged and break up the monotonous transcript we are used to constantly absorbing. Additionally, visual content will drive engagement, which is a key component of successful communication.
It’s Not the Platform; It’s How You Use It
It’s vital that businesses constantly take measures to create a better overall brand—that’s why it’s important to invest. The investment in specific technology can facilitate the necessary communication, but it’s not about which platforms you choose; it’s how you use them. Improve your business environment by boosting learning practices that encourage employees to clearly and effectively connect with each other. In the end, if an organization takes care of its employees, they will take care of the business.
Matt Pierce is customer engagement manager at TechSmith Corp., a software company that provides practical business and academic solutions that change how people communicate and collaborate across devices. A graduate of Indiana University’s School of Education’s Department of Instructional Systems Technology, Pierce has 10 years of experience working in learning and development with a focus on visual instruction. He has directly managed the training and user assistance teams for TechSmith, and also has run its visual communication Web show, The Forge, interviewing guests from around the world discussing the use of visuals, video, and technology in education, training, marketing, and more. Teach him something @piercemr.