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How discussion forums can help internal communications

 
Mark Morrell's picture

This is the last post in a series answering the question “Can collaboration tools improve internal communications?” Covering the right culture needed within an organisation, the redefining of internal communicators’ role and how collaboration tools and features can help improve internal communications.

I now want to discuss how I believe discussion forums can add to the richness of existing internal communication channels and not be a threat that needs to be closed down.  I’m going to illustrate this with three examples.

1. Reacting to discussion forums

The initial reason why most discussion forums first start is because employees want to, or organisations encourage employees to, share problems and solutions on work issues with other employees who can help or need the information.  However other topics can be discussed for example what people’s views are on the latest corporate initiative?  How does it change how they do things now, etc?  This is an opportunity for internal communications to explain how it will affect employees.  It helps avoid a vacuum which could be filled by rumours and conflicting information.  It also shows the organisation is interested in what employees say and responds with a supportive answer.

2. Leading in discussion forums

Internal communications can take a more pro-active role with discussion forums.  When an important corporate message has been announced a question can be asked on the discussion forum to gauge what the reaction has been to it.  The important point is not to react badly to critical views.  It’s no good responding “you haven’t understood the messages or “you just got it wrong” because that will stop future responses.  You need to explain carefully and consistently to their views.  Remember many employees will only read the conversations and not contribute.  Think about that wider audience.

You may set up a separate thread which is dedicated to internal communications where only views and opinions that cover this area are raised, discussed and responded to.  Be clear firstly whether it needs to be separate and how your approach will be before starting it.

3. Senior manager online chats

Consider having regular chats online with senior managers and employees.  One way would be to have a different Board Member answer questions sent online for one hour each month.  The topic could be on anything  but it is probably best to concentrate on their area of responsibility where they will bemore comfortable.  All the questions and answers given should be published on the intranet for employees to read through especially if they were not able to take part when the online chat happened.

Another way could be to focus on those senior managers who are the best communicators.  Certainly if your CEO is keen and sees it as a good way to give a personal message that is different to what has been sent out through the formal channels it normally causes great interest with employees.

I hope this post along with the previous areas I have covered helps to show you how collaboration tools can help, rather than hinder, internal communications and communicators.  How you plan to do this and manage this is critical.  I can help you with my internal communications‘ experience and knowledge with:

  • a few hours help and guidance
  • a day’s training/workshop
  • a few days advice and detailed guidance
  • a few weeks strategic guidance, project planning and if needed, implementation
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