We have never been so connected. With modern technology, countries all over the world are quite literally at our fingertips. Why, then, does it seem so hard to spread the word about something as simple as, say, the office picnic on Saturday, the new HR policy changes or that big new client the sales team has been courting for months?
Good office communication flow boils down to what I call the “four Ps”: portions, packaging, placement and point in time. In other words, you’ve got to pass the message at the right time, in the right place, and in nicely packaged, digestible bites.
A year ago, my mobile app and web development studio, STRV, had fewer than 50 employees all working out of the same office, and our weekly organization-wide meeting was the most effective way to distribute news. Today, we are a team of nearly 150, working out of five offices in two countries and in three different time zones.
Just as the media industry has had to move to a 24-hour news cycle to keep up with the public’s growing demand for knowledge, I’ve found myself faced with a similar situation: My employees don’t want to wait for a big meeting to get the latest updates on the projects we’ve landed or the new startups we’re working with. They want the information immediately—in nicely packaged, digestible bites. I don’t blame them.
Here’s what each of the four P’s can look like in your own business.
You can’t dump a ton of information on people at once. Period. Odds are they’re not going to read it all, let alone digest what they’ve read. So first things first: Figure out what your employees want to know. Then dole out that information in bite-sized chunks. It goes without saying that people will be more inclined to at least skim a memo, email or flyer if the subject matter interests them.
One area that most interests my employees, for example, is the projects we’re working on. We have a database with all this information, which is accessible to everyone at the organization, but really, who’s going to take the time to look through that? Instead we pick two projects each week to feature around the office with relevant, bullet-pointed information on each. The technique has proven very effective at keeping employees informed but not overwhelmed.
Information needs to be easily digested. Your employees are busy people, so eliminate long paragraphs. Instead, make your message structured, short and to the point. Big pictures are attention-grabbers, as are colorful, eye-catching fonts and big headlines. In fact, visual elements can often drive home a message better than a bunch of text.
Put some serious thought into where you will place organizational information. Bulletin boards may seem like a good choice, but they’re often in overlooked locations. Emails can easily be ignored. As I mentioned earlier, organization-wide meetings are good platforms for big announcements, but may have a tendency to run long and be overwrought with needless information that employees generally tune out.
If you want your team to actually absorb the information you’re giving them, then feature news in places where it might actually get read. We post announcements around the kitchen, giving employees a chance to multitask while waiting for their morning cup of coffee. Another prominent reading location: the bathroom stalls (no joke—I took a survey). We will soon also be equipping our offices with multiple closed-circuit TV monitors that will continuously broadcast text-based alerts about upcoming events.
Point in time
Timing, as they say, is everything. And the best time of day to deliver important messages to your team is in the morning, when they’re feeling fresh and ready to start the work day. From my experience, time and place are very interconnected when it comes to effective information distribution. Big announcements made at the end of a work day are likely to go in one ear and out the other. But if every person is individually greeted as they walk into the office each morning with the most important information of the day, many business executives agree that retention automatically goes up. At STRV, we’re working on a system that will immediately ping employees as they arrive at their desks with announcements about meetings, events and other useful information.
I strongly believe that it’s a CEO’s responsibility to adapt to the ways their team works—not the other way around. Find out how your employees best process information and make sure they get whatever they need to do their jobs effectively.
David Semerad is a driven entrepreneur with experience in software development. He grew his mobile/digital app development company STRV .
A version of this post first appeared on BusinessCollective, a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners in partnership with Citi.