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The manager’s guide to 21st century communication

by Julia Pickar
How can managers effectively communicate with their employees in this time of change? It starts with choosing the right tool for the job.

Jon Cifuentes, a senior researcher at the Altimeter Group, put it best: "Work is really only three things… people, communication, and attachments. It does not have to be more complicated than that.”

But complicated it has become.

Communication in the workplace is fundamentally shifting. Today’s managers want to know: What is the best way to communicate with my employees? How do they want to communicate with each other? Our workplace interactions are no longer limited to building, desk, telephone, conference room or the water cooler. Social media is transforming how people are communicating, both outside and in the walls of companies. But to streamline communication, workflows and remote access, employers big and small must sort through the multitude of social collaboration platforms and conferencing applications.

​"Social collaboration is more than just social media brought inside the workplace. It is a way to break down the ‘silos’ of cubicle walls, departments or branch offices."

What’s the big deal about social collaboration?

Social collaboration is more than just social media brought inside the workplace. It is a way to break down the ‘silos’ of cubicle walls, departments or branch offices. And when everyone’s on board, it can greatly improve transparency and workflow within the enterprise. But getting everyone on board is difficult. To drive employees to use a single platform or set of tools, they must be help people discover, connect form teams, and collaborate with one another throughout the enterprise.

Although not every tool offers the exact same features, social collaboration software generally offers:

  • Instant communication with one or more people, internally or remotely.
  • Document/image/video sharing, collaboration and editing.
  • Task management.
  • Status updates and access to customized live feeds of activity.
  • Blogs, microblogs and comments.
  • Discussions for ideas, advice & feedback.
  • User (employee) directory.
  • Document creation and editing with other users in real-time.
  • Document version control/track changes.
  • Poll creation to gather opinions.
  • Knowledge repository (guides, how-to's).

So what’s best for me?

There are a variety of companies with office collaboration tools. Here are some of the most popular:

SharePoint & Yammer (Microsoft):

Sharepoint comes with every licensed copy of Office 365®. It’s all over the place. It’s filled with collaboration tools such as discussion boards, wikis, portals and document management. And it’s tightly integrated into Active Directory and Exchange. But despite its market penetration, there is concern that it’s not being used as effectively as it could be — some say it’s less a collaborative network and more of a document dumping ground. Microsoft’s recent purchase and integration of Facebook-look-alike Yammer is bringing it deeper into the social collaboration realm.


Jive is waging a war on emails. Instead of having to maintain many email lists, departments, sub-groups, and individual employees have a Jive page — similar to a Facebook page — where they can share information with others who are ‘following’ them or going to their wall. Like many similar tools, Jive allows employees to have complete control of the amount, type and frequency of information they receive. This results in far fewer emails.

Chatter (

Chatter gives your sales people the ability to collaborate about projects, accounts and market knowledge. The advantage is that all files, data and expertise are available in a central location. Like other social tools, they are also bent on relieving the overwhelming number of emails salespeople receive.


Although still comparatively small, Slack gets a mention because it has been called the fastest growing business app ever. Why? Like Jive and Chatter, it strives to massively cut down on email. It has a powerhouse group chat function, running on your desktop, the web and your phone. It even stays updated as you switch from one to another. Slack sets up channels that are comprised of groups, teams or specific functions.

Ultimately, each of these tools has proven effective in its own way for a variety of organizations. Because they do different things, it’s worth trying all of them out to see if they fit your particular needs. Often, you may find that what works for someone else doesn’t for your team, for any number of reasons. After all, the very best collaboration tool is the one that you actually use.

Success in the new world of work depends on how well you collaborate

Get a jump start on your unified communications plan today.

People, communication, attachments

The Altimeter Group boils down work to three things: people, communication and attachments. Collaborative tools can bring these elements into greater harmony, but only if they simplify rather than complicate our lives.
Julia Pickar
Julia Pickar is a Portland-based broadcast and print journalist. She has produced stories for NPR, Marketplace, BBC, regional public radio stations as well as serving as a producer on multiple public radio shows including nationally syndicated “To the Point” out of LA. Julia also blogs for numerous start-ups, specializing in social media marketing.