Note: This article focuses on internal communication strategies for your dental office. For information on running effective meetings, check out this article!
Want to know one of the most effective tools you have at your disposal to help your office run smoothly? The answer may surprise you--today, we’re talking about internal communication.
Based on the name, it is easy to dismiss internal communication as the act of sending company updates, either by email or some sort of portal. But that is only a small piece to the puzzle.
Consider this: a leading reason employees leave their jobs is due to a lack of communication. So, when done effectively, a strong internal communication strategy in your practice can be your biggest source of fostering culture, increasing employee engagement and decreasing turnover.
So, how do you leverage this key component of your toolkit? Well, the biggest consideration you need to make before implementing any plan is your team’s time. The average person spends 13.4 seconds reading an email and anywhere from 31-60 minutes in meetings--and that is on top of everything else happening in your practice. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your message strikes home and is easily digestible.
To accomplish this, the components of your internal communication strategy need to be concise, accessible and memorable. Let’s break these down.
Between emails, phone calls and, of course, patients, your team doesn’t have much time digest a lengthy communication before moving on to the next thing.
- Keep it simple. Large blocks of text are more likely to get breezed over, so format your message with easy-to-read bullet points or visuals that enhance your message. If you utilize an intranet or shared space to house information, consider covering only the most crucial points in your communication and linking out to a page or document for the complete story.
- If meetings are your preferred way to share information, designate someone on the team to send out short and sweet follow-up notes within 24 hours of the meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page. (Note: We have an entire article on how to run effective meetings here.)
- Get your ducks in a row. Take the extra time to ensure your message is accurate. If you end up needing to send a follow-up communication to correct an error or include forgotten information, it is likely to cause confusion and muddle your message’s purpose.
In order to effectively communicate with your team, you need to meet them where they are and make sure the information they need is dispersed in a way that is easy to access.
- Space out your messages. Ideally, you only want to send one communication per day, preferably between 9-10 a.m., that consolidates your messages into one easy-to-digest format. If you must send multiple communications in a day, try to space them out by at least several hours to give employees time to process information.
- Rethink your shared space. Intranet portals or shared drives are a common solution for housing information, but it is important to make sure the information is easy to find. Employees can spend as many as 2.5 hours a day finding the answers they need to do their jobs, so ask your team for their input on what flow of information is the most intuitive for them.
Elevate your communications beyond “top-down” information sharing and shake up a drab template to encourage a positive cycle of communication.
- Engage your team. Communication isn’t a one-way street, so make sure your team is able to interact! Always offer opportunities for them to ask questions and offer suggestions with the information shared. You can also mix in surveys, contests and opportunities for teammates to share stories and photos with one another.
- Spice up your template. If you’re using a basic communication template, consider giving it a facelift. A simple header and consistent subject line format will help your team recognize your communications against everything else in their inbox. (Office managers will tell you—there is a LOT of other stuff in those inboxes.)
The bottom line: An internal communication plan is a key component in an effective business, but don’t just send messages without a strategy. Keep your communications concise and don’t bog them down with heavy text. Meet your teammates where they are and give them information in a way that is accessible. In addition to information, make sure your communications offer opportunities for your teammates to engage and make them feel like part of a larger whole.