Written by Chris Thornton
Communication is crucial to small business – fortunately, in the modern workplace, employees can stay in touch no matter where they are in the world…
Small businesses thrive on communication: the relationships we build with colleagues and clients are key to delivering services and growing our organisations. In an increasingly connected professional landscape, no-one likes to be kept out of the loop, especially if it means a drop in productivity or profits…
The good news is, staying in touch with everyone, in every corner of your organisation, is easier than ever. A connected workplace is a happy workplace and, whether you need to talk to one colleague, or several, across the office, across town, on the road, or even on the other side of the world, there’s a vast range of tools available to serve your every communication need… but which will work best for your business?
Less ‘conversational’ than other forms of office communication, email represents a more formal, structured way of delivering messages and is particularly useful for large groups of contacts. The ‘fixed’, recordable status of email (as opposed to more ‘transient’ instant messages) is particularly advantageous for official communication with clients or third-party contractors.
There are plenty of affordable email platforms available to small businesses, including Microsoft’s Exchange Online, Office 365 hosted offerings or Microsoft’s on-premise Exchange Server solutions – all of which employ cloud computing to deliver robust, versatile services available anywhere in the world. As an added bonus, cloud email platforms are very easily integrated into other communication tools, like video messaging and even VOIP phone services.
Speaking from experience, social networks work well in an office environment, complementing employee interactions in interesting, innovative ways by offering a space for individuals or groups to connect, network and share ideas interactively.
While businesses can maintain a presence on conventional social media, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, there are a plenty of popular business-oriented social networks which serve a range of specific needs. At Shackleton we’re big fans of Yammer ( a sort of ‘business-Facebook’), but there are plenty of excellent alternatives, including SocialCast, Jive, and Chatter, all of which are optimised for desktops and devices, and tailored specifically to business communication.
Cloud computing is boosting small business in countless exciting ways, including how we communicate during work. Cloud collaboration platforms range in functionality from basic instant messaging, which is included within Microsoft’s Skype for Business, to large-scale suites, like Office 365 and numerous File Sync & Share solutions which are coming onto the market offering improved functionality & security over Dropbox.
Cloud communication is so advantageous to businesses because it encourages and facilitates real-time collaboration: users are able to share, work on and comment on project documents in real time, together – no matter where they are in the office or the world. No more huddling around a tiny desk for an impromptu team chat, no need to book out the meeting room… no need to even get out of your seat!
Phones aren’t going away any time soon – and it is possible to integrate your phone network with your IT infrastructure to boost its communicative potential. We’ve already mentioned the usefulness of VOIP phone systems as a way to save money and streamline phone calls within your business, but there’s no need to actually pick up a phone handset. You’ll find plenty of ‘phone’-like apps – such as Skype and Google Hangouts – which integrate seamlessly with other platforms, including email and social media, and present you with a range of communication options – whether you’re sitting at your desk or using your personal device on the road.
Choosing the right platform is only half the battle. When you’ve found the means by which to talk to each other, it’s up to you as a business leader to encourage culture of communication amongst your employees. Remember, there’s more than one way to ‘talk’: explore your communication platforms, discover what they’re capable of and, most importantly, whether they let your employees interact in a way which fits your office culture, serves your clients needs… and helps you meet your business goals.
Are you happy with your offices’ communication platforms? Before you talk to each other, talk to us, to find out which communication platform will suit your business…