Most of us work for companies where management has learned the importance of communicating with its staff. By which I mean to its staff; in other words, top-down. They know that they have to do this for the whole organisation to pull in the same direction, so the executive makes sure that its messages about business objectives and corporate successes are fed to all the staff, right down to the ones who do the productive work.
The larger companies set up their own intranets to facilitate this, in the knowledge that the investment will be repaid by the enthusiastic efforts of informed and motivated staff at all levels and team spirit will blossom throughout the organisation. Communicating like this can be very quick and saves on the prohibitive costs of staff magazines and minimises the need for time-consuming staff presentations and departmental meetings.
Many companies have not learned to engage in meaningful dialogue with their staff, who could tell them things they currently pay consultants to find out. I might be exaggerating a little, but you get the idea. Businesses need to engage in vertical communication, both up and down the organisation.
Another problem is the corporate silo. This metaphor has arisen because so many of us work in an isolated department with no apparent relationship with its neighbours. This causes inefficiency by the duplication of effort and the prevention of co-ordination and collaboration. It encourages competition between departments, making the silo self-perpetuating and, the bigger the company, the bigger the problem.
If you work for a global corporation there is a fair chance that geographically diverse business units are independently facing common problems; they should be sharing their experiences, teaching each other how to overcome obstacles rather than each of them struggling in isolation.
Many corporations recognise this need for horizontal communication but can be clumsy in how they address it. It poses a dilemma for them because they are reluctant to let go of their central control of internal communications. If they allow all their employees to talk to one another, what will they say? They might be critical of senior executives, corporate objectives or policies. Yes, they might, but surely the company would rather engage in these conversations than have them conducted in secret?
This argument is the same one that initially discouraged some businesses from engaging with their customers via social media. Ultimately, businesses must conclude that it is better to engage in these internal conversations, just as they now do with their customers. More than that, they should facilitate them, which finally brings me to the point: there is now a tool to do just this: Yammer.
Yammer offers businesses a secure, internal social network. There is a free version, which is (they say) easy to install and intuitive to use. I know this will be a boost to internal corporate communications. If you don’t believe me (and I’m not on commission!) take a look at the businesses that have installed it already and read their testimonials.