This article is an updated version of Front’s guide to productive & effective internal communication
How do I know which communication method to use?
Our three main communication methods at Front are email, messages, and meetings. A good framework to decide which communication channel to use is to think about the following:
The speed of the response you need (Do you need an answer immediately, or can it wait to be answered on the recipient’s schedule?)
The type of information you’re sharing (Is this informative, e.g. a quick status update, or reactive: an idea that requires a response?)
The type of response you expect to receive (Will the response be a succinct answer, or do you expect back and forth sharing of ideas?)
Email is good for asynchronous, lengthy, and/or reactive communication
Messages are good for instant, short, and informative updates
Meetings are for synchronous, reactive, and for lengthy discussions
How we use our modes of communication
Meetings are our primary method of synchronous communication and collaboration. We’re thrilled that a majority of employees are back at the office and able to collaborate in person, but we also try to minimize unnecessary meetings out of respect for each other’s calendars. After all, no one likes attending a meeting that could have been an email!
When scheduling a meeting make sure the topic at hand requires thoughtful, real-time discussion. (e.g. brainstorming sessions, sharing feedback.) If not, consider whether email or chat is a better mode of communication.
When scheduling meetings…
Be mindful of working hours. Since we have a global team we aim to optimize for maximal overlap across time zones and geographies. We try to schedule global team meetings on remote days, and also hold them earlier in the mornings in the U.S. to best accommodate our teams in Europe
Tip: use Front scheduling links to easily coordinate meeting times for groups of people, and update your calendar to reflect your working hours
Include a description that states the purpose of the meeting, an agenda, links to any pre-reads, and the expected outcome for the meeting. This will make sure the meeting runs efficiently since everyone is prepared and ready to start on the same page
Don’t forget to include dial-in information for any remote participants!
Include who you need, and no more than that. If you’re unsure if someone should attend, invite them as an optional attendee and let them decide
Set someone at the start of the meeting to document the conversation, decisions made, open questions to solve, action items, and their owners
It’s probably no surprise that email is a big part of our lives at Front. Since email is a form of asynchronous communication, recipients are able to respond to messages on their own time, which means they can stay focused on what they’re working on and it’s less disruptive to their work day.
We use email for lengthy responses, and when something is important and needs to be prioritized. (Rather than chat, where it’s easier for something to get lost.) The ability to organize emails by topic also makes it easier to quickly search for the information you need rather than filtering through an inbox of unrelated conversations.
Of course, Front has (more than 😉) a few special features that differentiate it from traditional email:
@mentions and comments: Comments enable us to easily host an internal discussion on an email thread. @mentions allow us to invite a teammate directly to an email that needs to be discussed, rather than describing it or referencing it in another email
Contextual comments: We love contextual comments at Front! We are able to highlight text within the body of a message and write internal comments about the highlighted text
Assignments: Assigning emails to a specific teammate means there’s transparency when it comes to who’s responsible for responding
Shared drafts: Shared drafts in Front allow us to collaborate behind the scenes without needing to open a new app to discuss it
Snooze: Snoozing an internal discussion means you have the ability to remind yourself to come back to it later
Sometimes you don’t need a full email; you just need to send a quick message. Front has internal discussions, which let you type up brief messages to communicate quickly in your inbox, without switching back and forth to a separate chat app like Slack.”
Since you can tag your discussions in Front—just like email—it makes it extra easy to keep all relevant information organized and searchable down the road.
Snooze: Snoozing an internal discussion means you have the ability to remind yourself to come back to it later.
It’s also easy to add anyone who needs to be a part of the discussion, and they’ll have access to the entire history of the conversation.
Respecting colleagues, near and far
One final note, as we reacclimate ourselves with an in-person work environment, it’s important that we never fail to include and respect our remote colleagues as well!
Here are a few final tips we follow to make sure we’re treating our teammates with care.
Over-communicate and cascade information: Remote team members may feel removed from the organic information flows they used to have when most people were working remotely, so it’s important to make time to communicate more by passing on information learned from other teams, meetings, etc.
Actively solicit feedback: Make more space for feedback and don’t assume that team members will feel comfortable sharing. Ask what more you could be doing to support? What roadblocks are team members facing? What could make their job easier? Are they clear on outcomes and know how to achieve them?
Actively give feedback: Provide feedback in constant, quick sound bites to help your team members course correct quickly. As much as possible, feedback should be delivered live—in-person, over Zoom, or on the phone—and not over chat messages
Don’t be a stranger!: Check-in with fellow team members throughout the day
Read one of our most recent articles about How clarity, communication, and collaboration can help teams work together.
Written by Jane Chong