How To Maintain Open Communication (When The Office Is Closed)
With a surge of companies going remote permanently and market conditions fluctuating daily, now more than ever companies are realizing the importance of establishing a culture of open communication. But what exactly does that look like for mid-market and enterprise sales orgs? We're breaking it down for you here.
What is open communication?
Open communication in business is commonly defined as the ability for all parties to openly express ideas and share resources with one another regardless of title or position within a company.
The importance of open communication is threefold: it provides company alignment, motivates your employees, and it gives leadership the information they need in order to make the best decisions possible.
According to a study conducted by Salesforce, 86% of executives blame workplace failures on a lack of collaboration and poor communication. Creating and maintaining a culture of open communication is critical to allowing your business to thrive. This type of culture fosters effective communication which then leads to better, more productive work. Open communication in the workplace is the avenue to critical information that will help leaders take their teams and company to the next level.
This concept has become widely valued by companies, but very few successfully achieve it. Not to mention, it’s gotten significantly harder to create a culture of open communication when transitioning to remote work but yet it’s become all the more necessary.
Connecting with your leader or your employees is no longer as easy as walking down the hall, chiming in on a conversation you overheard or peeking over a glass divider. How can you replicate that same sentiment of an “open-door policy” while remote?
Tools for consistent, open communication
Establishing team and company alignment will not only add clarity across the board of what the key objectives are at any given time, but it will also give your employees a sense of accountability and drive to help in the mission of achieving those goals.
Strong company or team alignment doesn’t happen overnight, but thoughtful, consistent work towards fostering a culture of open communication is what will solidify it and make it second nature. Here are some easy methods to begin integrating quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily that can help solidify open communication at the team and company-wide level:
Annual / Quarterly / Monthly Communication Methods
Virtual all-hands meetings
The frequency and content of these meeting will vary depending on the size and needs of your organization, but these talking points are a great starting point:
How is the company doing overall *right now*?
What initiatives are currently happening + what is coming up?
If company-wide goals were set at the beginning of the year, what is the standing on those goals currently? What are the implications of these standings on the rest of the team?
Let each team leader share a “State-Of-The-Union” report for their team.
Open the floor for questions
We have monthly all-hands meetings at Ambition supplemented by longer, more in-depth quarterly all-hands meetings. These meetings help us increase transparency, understand upcoming goals and initiatives, and celebrate successes as a team.
Employee reviews/career convos
Employee reviews are a unique opportunity to give and receive constructive feedback. However, with how infrequently reviews happen (often annually), it’s easy for managers to drop the ball on giving authentic, consistent feedback that can improve performance leading up to a review.
No one likes surprises on the day of their performance review when it’s too late to rectify any of their manager’s concerns. Moving to a bi-annual or even quarterly review period gives managers an intentional window of time to offer constructive feedback, think about career path opportunities, and give recognition while it is relevant and meaningful to the employee. Our Director of People Operations at Ambition, Katie Rhode, said it best, "It is in gray areas that people fill in their own, often incorrect narratives (both good and bad) so my goal is that not one person at Ambition is unclear on where they stand and where they can grow."
Weekly Communication Methods
Team prioritization meetings
A quick 30-40 minute team sync at the end of each week to look ahead to the following week or at the beginning of each week is extremely helpful when it comes to understanding bandwidth across your team. It’s also the perfect time for leadership to discuss big projects, initiatives, or announcements and for individual contributors to ask questions.
Weekly inter-team syncs
Inter-team communication and alignment are huge when it comes to streamlining processes and establishing consistency. With everyone remote, it can be easy for teams to work in a silo. Team leaders align with company goals and set their own team’s coarse into action without always knowing how it aligns with the work of other teams. Inter-team syncs help allow for a common space where teams can remove themselves from individual silos and see how collaboration can impact the common company goals.
At Ambition, we do weekly inter-team syncs between the Marketing team and the Sales team. These meetings provide a space for each team to discuss trends they are noticing, needs that they may have, and messaging that is effective or ineffective. We then use this information to inform future priorities and make sure we’re aligned towards common goals.
Weekly 1:1 check-ins/coaching sessions
We recently surveyed a group of sales managers and were surprised to discover that 55% of managers aren’t coaching or checking in on a weekly basis. This is a huge missed opportunity for managers to really understand how their employees are doing and give feedback to address any problems.
1:1 check-ins are a space for your employees to feel heard. These check-ins should be primarily lead by the employee, but it is important to provide a consistent structure so that meetings are productive and don’t take a turn for the worse. The 3 core elements of successful 1:1 coaching sessions are that they are consistent, documented, and tied to data.
Daily Communication Methods
Virtual team “stand-ups”
With the unpredictable times we’re living in, it’s more important than ever to keep up with team priorities. Creating a shared space where each team member can give a general update and set their commitments for the day is an incredibly powerful tool. The daily questions we use at Ambition are:
How are you feeling? (this can be as simple as a scale of 1-10 or make it fun by having a unique mood board for the team to reference)
Did you meet all of your commitments from yesterday?
What are you committing to today?
Anything blocking your progress?
These updates help increase visibility into how everyone is feeling, what everyone is working on, and anything that needs to get done to help un-block someone else’s progress. They facilitate opening up a path of communication on what priorities are and how to move forward as a team, and they also help with self-management by giving you a list to refer back to if you feel lost at any point during the day. Plus, virtual, written stand-ups are huge time-savers and much easier to reference vs. having a daily zoom call.
Psst: Pro-tip - You can automate these updates in slack with an app called “Geekbot”
The importance of office communication is seen at the project and objective level, too. Here are some easy methods to implement to help increase communication at an objective level on an as-needed basis:
Establish OKRs at the company, team, and individual levels.
OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. OKRs help outline the goals a company has and the objectives that they want to achieve in order to reach those goals. They are typically refreshed at the beginning of every year.
Once those main objectives are set at the company level, teams can then prioritize what their main OKRs are for the year and then what the OKRs for each role on the team should be. This serves as a great “north star” for teams on how to prioritize projects and keep the focus on the bigger company initiatives. Plus, it gives employees a way to understand whether or not the work they are doing is impacting overall company goals.
Establish "Post-Mortem Debriefs" after a major project or initiative.
Post-mortem debriefs are meetings held after the completion of a major project with all of the employees who assisted in the completion of the project. Post-mortem meetings help foster open communication between the project contributors and give them a dedicated space where they can share what they thought went well with the project and what went wrong or what could improve. These sessions are then documented and referenced the next time the same project or a similar one is executed so mistakes aren’t repeated.
Establish anonymous surveys
Anonymous surveys are a great way for employees to give open and honest feedback without fear of any repercussions. These surveys can be used to get feedback on the company culture overall or a specific meeting or program.
One way to track results over time, specifically for larger companies, is to establish an annual NPS score for your company’s work culture. NPS stands for Net Promoter Score and it is a tool commonly used by management to help determine the loyalty of customers to a company.
NPS scores can be transferred and used at the internal company level by anonymously asking employees to rate on a scale of 1-10 how likely they are to recommend that a friend or coworker work at their company. People between 9-10 are promoters, 7-8 are neutral, and 0-6 are detractors. Employees can then leave open feedback on why they rated the way they did.
NPS score at the internal company level can be a helpful indicator for the leadership team to understand how loyal employees are to the company overall and within each team. This helps pinpoint and evaluate problems and track progress over time.
There are over 3,000 sales managers on the Ambition platform that are using our coaching tool. We've compiled the best of the best of their coaching tips in one big coaching hub which you can access for free right here — or get a demo to see it in action!