It seems that internal communications are always a challenge, regardless of the size of your company. From a small two-person operation that must divide roles and responsibilities to avoid stepping on each other’s toes to the large enterprise with thousands of employees and an entire team dedicated to ensuring that the right message is communicated in a timely manner (internally at first, and then externally to stakeholders), effective communications is the basis for a thriving organizational culture.
You’ve probably been in a situation where you received information in a less-than-ideal timeframe. We’ve had miscommunications in our own company Voices.com, a website that connects businesses with professional voice talent. These miscommunications have included changes that weren’t relayed to our customer service and support team and promotional offers that went out before the sales group had sufficient notice. Internal policies and procedures have been rolled out before everyone had the time to absorb the change. No doubt you’ve had similar experiences. After all, communicating well is a common challenge.
Internal communications was identified as an area for improvement during our annual Employee Engagement Survey called CORE, an assessment designed to measure organizational factors that influence culture and employee engagement. When reviewing the survey results, I struggled with the fact that although everyone agreed that our company had good internal communication systems, people still felt that they didn’t receive information in a timely manner.
Increasing the speed of communications and receiving information in a timely manner was the name of the game, and I needed a platform to enable the flow of information. With a team of Millennials, you need to find practical ways to communicate and engage. Our team is made up of this group of young go-getters. They are eager, talented and focused on receiving a constant flow of information in a streamlined manner; long, drawn-out meetings don’t work. My innovative solution was to introduce a recurring daily meeting called “The Huddle.”
The Daily Huddle is a company-wide, standing meeting held at 11:50 a.m. that takes place in a dedicated, public space in the middle of our open-concept office. The Huddle lasts for no more than 10 minutes, which is ideal for not only a high-performance tech startup, but also for a team made up of twenty-somethings who are used to communicating in 140 characters.
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So, what needs to be discussed daily? The Huddle Master serves as the moderator and helps us stick to our agenda:
We open with good news to celebrate the best of what’s been going on over the past 24 hours. Perhaps we were nominated for an award, received a mention in a well-known media outlet, or landed a new strategic account. This is all good news, and without sharing it publicly we may miss the moment to recognize those who build up the company, another facet that works well for my young and enthusiastic team.
Team leaders verbally report and write out numbers on a giant, clear board. This provides accountability and ensures we’re tracking towards weekly and monthly targets. For example, the marketing team reports the number of newly registered users on our website, whereas the customer service team reports on our customer satisfaction score.
At Voices.com, we have a decree that states, “systems break and people don’t,” meaning that breakdowns occur because the process itself wasn’t effective. We don’t want to point fingers and blame team members for mishaps. Rather, we identify the problem and then work toward a solution together. Various employees across departments often volunteer solutions or a set a time to go over options “offline,” after our Huddle.
One of my favorite examples of a broken system was the constant stack of dishes in our office kitchen. The solution was establishing a cleaning schedule and pairing people up as the Cleaning Duo. This ensures that our kitchen is always clean. Each pair is assigned kitchen duty for a week. With a team now of 80 people and three kitchens to clean, getting through the entire rotation takes a while. Keeping to a schedule like this involves everyone in maintaining a healthy work environment.
While surprises are suitable for birthdays and other special engagements, they aren’t exactly welcome in the office. No one likes hearing about price increases or policy changes from the customers. To get ahead of potential communication issues, we openly share “projects,” a catch-all phrase for anything upcoming that will have an impact on our business. Specifically, these include upcoming marketing campaigns, new features on the website, a new version of our iPhone app or an internal policy change. This is the time for public announcements. We keep it at a high level and follow up with more detailed information if required.
The word wraps up our meeting, typically with a word of wisdom or a word of thanks. Some people have shared inspiring emails from customers thanking the team for an outstanding customer experience, while others have thanked a teammate, specifically offering public recognition followed by applause. Recently, we’ve been on a kick of telling a cheesy, one-liner joke, after which everyone immediately breaks for lunch.
The staff updates each segment of the agenda as they keep track of all their individual and group projects and save the information for the Huddle so as not to repeat news throughout the busy day. This means that although the format is always the same, the levels the agenda addresses change every day, depending on our priorities and focus for that 24-hour span. A designated note-taker jots down the one-liner updates and posts them to Chatter, a workplace collaboration application within Salesforce, so that employees who are offsite that day can stay in the loop.
Short daily meetings keep companies focused on the same strategic goals, ensure timely answers to pressing questions and enforce accountability.
Author: David Ciccarelli is the co-founder and CEO of Voices.com, the online marketplace that connects business people with professional voice over talent. The unique blending of his audio engineering background with business savvy and product development afforded David the creative freedom to pursue his passion for innovation.
Published: June 11, 2015