I spent part of my holiday break cleaning out old files in my office. Before the advent of virtual files, I kept a lot of articles and clippings in a large file cabinet. I made an interesting observation while rooting through the piles that went back to the mid 90s:

internal communication is still grappling with the same problems it did 20 years ago

Several of these problems clearly stood out from the others, namely how to:

  • Engage employees in the business
  • Reach employees not in front of a desk
  • Get managers to take responsibility for communication

What fascinates me is that so much great new technology has been invented to help with these problems. And yet, clearly, new technology hasn’t helped as much as we hoped. The challenge is that most organizations do not know how to use technology effectively. Here’s an example of what I mean.

When the cellular telecommunication industry rolled out cell phones – I was at Sprint at the time, in the thick of it – all the carriers included voicemail and caller ID in their technology packages. Did anyone ever teach you how to use those two features? Of course not. Do you really know how to best leverage them?

Are you personally acquainted with individuals who answer the phone while in a public restroom? Maybe you’re one of them. I hear it happen in the ladies’ room all the time. Why don’t we use those two small, but powerful tools to our advantage? Caller ID allows me to identify the importance of the call. Voicemail enables the caller to follow up an unanswered call with a message; if used appropriately, you might actually be able to respond with answers already formulated.

This is just one small example. Similar examples could be shared about blogging, vlogging, status updates, news feeds, wikis, etc. Pick any newish technology and I’d wager a guess that the majority of employed individuals don’t have a foggy clue how to use it productively in their work day.

More importantly, those pushing implementation – IT, Communicators, HR people, executives – often don’t even understand why they are implementing. If you can’t explain how it benefits the business, you shouldn’t be doing it. If you can’t provide the right support and training, you shouldn’t be doing it. If you can’t fund it’s evolution, you shouldn’t be doing it.

So, here we are, still talking about engagement, manager communication and non-desk employee communication. Technology has not solved any of these challenges thus far. Where do we go next?


The Montréal cityscape

I believe we start with that why. That’s why I am very excited to announce that I’ll be teaching a session at IABC’s World Conference in Montreal in June on this very topic. My interactive session will help attendees make strong connections between business strategy and their digital workplace technology. Developed and used correctly, the resulting tool can enable sound decisions that support the business.

Are you at a similar crossroads between technology and communication? Register today!