How to improve internal communication

  • Scope:
  • Culture and People

When your company is growing like crazy

One of the challenges that growing companies face is internal communication. In other words, how to make sure that the most important messages reach all employees, instead of falling into digital black hole? And by the most important, I mean things that everyone MUST know (i.e. time-off rules) and things everyone SHOULD know (i.e. company retreat). Back in the days when Tooploox employees could fit in one room, news spread easily during chats in the kitchen and on Slack, where there were relatively few channels (and few messages written each day).

The problem

Then the insane growth began, and before we knew it there were over 100 people on board in 3 offices, and many people working remotely from various locations. We started to hear more and more of “I didn’t know about that!” or “Where was it communicated?”. This may not be a huge problem when you miss out on a night out (at least, for some people). However, miscommunication began to cause trouble in more serious areas such as invoices, documents, business trips and all sort of organizational work, which is crucial for day-to-day operations at Tooploox. It became clear that we had to make some improvements.

The challenge – How to make sure we reach everyone with important information?

To solve this problem we decided to form a dedicated team to approach internal communication from many different angles, including many different perspectives. Our goal was to investigate the topic and create a proper action plan. The first step was having a workshop where we listed all communication-related issues and mapped relations between them. This helped us to find out why important messages often don’t go through to people. We wanted to dismiss the assumption that employees don’t care, so we can avoid getting too emotional and be more objective.

The main problems we wanted to focus on were:

  • Lack of plan for company-wide communication,
  • Quality of communication,
  • Chaos in the usage of Slack mentions & channels,
  • Mess in important documents.

The next step was placing issues on the complexity/value chart in order to decide which ones we should solve first.

The solution

Having the list of issues, we started to work on actions in smaller groups. Here are some best practices we came up with:

1. Templates For Important Slack Announcements

We decided to use Slack and Townhall as the main channels to communicate within Tooploox. That solved one problem (where to look for important stuff). The quality of communication was a whole other thing. We did some research and it turned out that sometimes it’s hard to find the expected action in a wall of text (or it’s written in such a way that it’s not easy to comprehend the main idea). Also, in many cases, nobody really knew why the message is important and what are the consequences if they fail to act.

Our solution was templates for company-wide Slack announcements that would guarantee proper formatting and including all the necessary info:

Dear <team> / <tooploox> / <event participants>

In order to <reason>

Asking for <activity>

Thanks to which <effect>

:date: <date> / <until>

:alarm_clock: <time>

:derelict_house_building: <location>

:white_check_mark: < read> / <did>

2. Slack Best Practices

First of all, we addressed a lack of planning. In order to avoid spam, we made a rule that we can have maximum of 1 company-wide announcement per day and it has to be scheduled ahead in google calendar. We decided to limit mentions like @channel or @here for crucial information only, this way @channel mention doesn’t use its power.

3. Townhall – Company-Wide Meeting

Although this topic deserves a separate blog post, here are some main improvements we made. In the beginning, the founders gave some brief updates on what’s new. Gradually, we added some structure, slides and a video recording so no one misses out on the news. Currently, the most important features of Townhall are:

Structure – there are separate sections like:

  • Newcomers and Farewells
  • Recruitment
  • Events
  • Business
  • Marketing
  • AI
  • Project updates
  • Products
  • Other
  • Q&A

Engagement – each section is owned by a different team, which means that a great part of Tooploox is engaged in preparation AND presentation during the meeting.

Template – in order to keep people’s attention, we introduced a new (beautiful!) presentation template with 2 types of slides for each category. First one focuses on future plans and the other on achievements. This way we managed to make a good balance between the future and the past, and now we talk more about team’s success (and we all know that people pay more attention when the news is about them 🙂 )

4. Tooploox Wiki

A lot of miscommunication happened because the employees simply didn’t have enough info about the company’s off-day policy, organizing business trips or throwing parties in the office. We used to pin these kinds of documents on Slack but clearly, it didn’t work anymore. Our solution was Tooploox Wiki, which started as a storage for the most important documents and grew into one source of truth. It turned out to be convenient and relatively easy to maintain.

  • Tooploox Offices – addresses of all locations
  • General Guidelines – all the basics (leaves, hardware/software, travels, office rules)
  • Marketing Materials – Logos, PR materials
  • Creating Products – business workflow and golden standards
  • Tooplooxers – info about employees and allocations
  • Tooploox Tweaks – company-wide improvements
  • Metrics – Tooploox health check
  • Learning @ Tooploox – rules about learning
  • Benefits @ Tooploox – rules about benefits
  • Onboarding – info that buddies need to onboard a newcomer
  • Culture – mission, vision, values and photos.

5. Onboarding Rules

Good habits should be developed from the beginning so some work was handed into buddies hands (Read more about our Buddy program). We make sure that communication rules are going to be covered and explained during onboarding. Also, we make sure that all newcomers know that Townhall is mandatory and they should watch it even if they couldn’t join it live.

What has changed?

At the initial stage of implementing those rules we had to form a Slack Police to maintain the order 🙂 After a couple of weeks, the number of interventions dropped. The intention was not to regulate all areas of communication but to motivate everyone to plan better and pay more attention to quality and timing. As always, there is still room for improvement. However, we did significantly reduce chaos on our Slack and way more employees take the required action on time. However, the mission to keep people up-to-date (whether they like or not 🙂 ) is not over yet…

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