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Sep 03, 2021

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Asynchronous Communication: What It Is and How To Make It Work

With the increase of remote work, hybrid workplace, and distributed workforce, asynchronous communication has become the new normal for many...

With the increase of remote work, hybrid workplace, and distributed workforce, asynchronous communication has become the new normal for many organizations. Remote work is here to stay and many companies now understand that this is the preferred way of working for many employees. 

Remote and hybrid work brings benefits such as the ability to hire people from anywhere in the world, but it also brings some downsides. The two most common challenges remote employees face today are team communication and collaboration

In this blog, you will learn more about what asynchronous communication is, why is it important, and how to embrace asynchronous communication in your organization.  

📚Before we dive in, take a look at our ebook “How to Boost Employee engagement with Communications Tools”

Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Communication

There are some complex definitions of synchronous and asynchronous communication. In reality, the difference is very clear. While synchronous communication happens in real-time, asynchronous communication doesn’t. 

Common ways teams practice asynchronous communication are through employee communications platforms, email threads, messaging and video recording tools, project management systems, intranets, shared documents, digital whiteboards, and similar. 

On the other hand, synchronous communication happens when we speak with someone in person or when we connect with a colleague via Google Hangouts or Zoom video calls. 

The Importance of Improving Asynchronous Communication in the Workplace

Today, we live in a more collaborative era. According to data by HBR, the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has been ballooning. However, 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees.

Historically, synchronous communication was considered a must in highly collaborative environments. 

asynchronous-communications-team-collaboration

Today, employers understand that this way of working just doesn’t work anymore. However, researchers also found it was not uncommon for workers to spend a full 80% of their workdays communicating with colleagues in the form of email (on which workers’ spend an average of 3.1 hours a day); meetings (which fill up 15% of a company’s time, on average); and more recently instant messaging apps (the average Slack user sends an average of 200 messages a day).

This can be detrimental to our performance - people spend more time hopping from one meeting to another or replying to messages than focusing solely and mindfully on their tasks.

To avoid such loss in productivity, companies need to better understand how to make asynchronous communications work. 

When done right, asynchronous communication in the workplace brings many benefits:

  • Better employee productivity
  • Less information overload
  • Reduced employee stress and improved wellbeing
  • Better team and cross-functional collaboration
  • More knowledge sharing

Let’s now take a look into the ways to master asynchronous communication in your organization. 

💡 Before we move forward, learn about the top 5 communications skills and how to improve them

10 Ways to Embrace Asynchronous Communication in Your Organization

Synchronous communication may be getting in the way of your organization’s success. Calendars full of meetings, employee burnout, and long working hours across different time zones, are just some of the reasons why your employees’ productivity may be dropping

The most successful remote and hybrid organizations can find a balance between asynchronous and synchronous communication, resulting in better efficiency, more inclusivity, and improved employee wellbeing. 

asynchronous-communication

But how to make asynchronous communication work?

1. Build trust

According to Harvard Business Review:

“managers who cannot “see” their direct reports sometimes struggle to trust that their employees are indeed working... ultimately disrupting their work-home balance and causing more job stress.”

This research showed that 34% of employees agreed that their supervisors “expressed a lack of confidence in their work skills.”, and even more employees reported feeling that they needed to be constantly available, such as being expected to respond to messages immediately, be available at all times, and be responsive after work hours.

Hence, trust is the most important prerequisite for asynchronous communication to work. If managers and peers don’t trust each other and if employees are taking flexibility for granted, asynchronous communication becomes a mission impossible. 

💡 Take a look at these shocking statistics about employee engagement in the workplace

2. Define rules and processes

If your organization is using an internal communications platform, you probably have some channels and workspaces defined in it. Having a clear strategy around what should be communicated in each of the channels, which employees should be included, and which channels should be private versus public is crucial for making asynchronous communication work

If you have an “important” channel, then this channel should be devoted only to the most important things going on in your organization. 

Next, when should employees use @all vs. @name? 

These rules may not seem as important to some people, but they can have a significant impact on employee productivity and stress at work. 

💡 Extra tip: Consider creating a “How We Communicate” document. Here, you can define explain things such as:

  • What time zones is everyone working in? 
  • What are their expected working hours? 
  • What should the overlapping working hours for employees in different time zones be?
  • If employees need to be offline to run an errand or take care of a personal matter, how will that be communicated?

3. Understand your workforce

Before defining all the rules, you have to take into consideration your workforce and its characteristics. While asynchronous communications may be the preferred way of communication for remote or frontline workers, your customer support teams may depend on real-time communication with colleagues in their teams. 

Only when you have a clear understanding of your employees’ nature of work, you can get a better understanding of whether synchronous or asynchronous communications would make them more successful at what they do. 

💡 Learn about 20 ways to engage your remote workplace!

4. Make content more relevant and avoid information overload

Content irrelevancy is the most common reason for information overload and also for information loss. 

Many of your employees’ inboxes may look like this...

asynchronous-communications-email

And their Slack notifications like this...

asynchronous-communications-slack

A big portion of these messages doesn’t even resonate with your employees. Unfortunately, many employers (especially large enterprises) still don’t have an adequate way to segment employees by various criteria such as job functions, departments, geolocation, languages, interest, and others. 

As a consequence, they send irrelevant content that employees ignore

For asynchronous communication to work, content relevancy is crucial. If you can’t ensure that every employee gets the right message at the right time, all the benefits of asynchronous communication become irrelevant. 

5. Make content easier and more fun to consume

Because of the large number of information employees receive every single day, it may be hard to gain their attention. 

So how can you make sure that employees consume important information?

To encourage employees to engage in asynchronous company-wide communications, consider making content more fun and easier to consume. To gain employees’ attention about important company-wide announcements, consider hosting live webinars or podcasts

To make this content available to employees across the globe, make sure to record them and offer them on-demand. 

6. Understand when real-time communication is necessary

Even though asynchronous communication is on the rise, real-time communication is not going away. Employees still need to have time when they connect with their colleagues on Zoom or Hangouts calls. 

Managers also need to hold 1-on-1s in real-time to build stronger relationships with their employees.

There will always be situations when faster communication is necessary to resolve a burning issue. Here, it is all about prioritization. Employees and managers should have a clear understanding of when synchronous communication is a better way to get work done. 

7. Forget about one-way communications

Based on research:

  • The #1 expectation from employees is that their employers communicate effectively, but
  • Only 42% of employees say their company does a good job of communicating overall.

One of the biggest reasons behind such a low number is the fact that many employers still communicate one way.

workplace-communications

Even when it’s not in real-time, communication should always go two ways. Unfortunately, many employers still use intranets, company-wide newsletters, and similar solutions that don’t offer two-way workplace communications

When employees don’t have a say, they tend not to engage with the content being delivered to them. No matter who in your organization sends the message, employees should always be able to provide feedback, raise their concerns, and ask questions. 

8. Provide an easy way for employees to give feedback

When asynchronous communication is the primary way of communication in an organization, it is crucial that employers continuously collect feedback from their people

The lack of social interactions makes it much harder to understand people’s feelings and emotions. This is one of the main reasons why we are seeing a significant increase in employee turnover rates

People leave and we are unsure about the reasons behind their dissatisfactions and frustrations. 

Using short, regular, and intuitive employee surveys is the best way to quickly collect employee feedback, analyze results, and find actionable recommendations for improvement. 

However, don’t ask if you are not ready to act on their feedback!

employee-survey

9. Introduce the right tools (and integrate them)

Proper asynchronous communications in the workplace require the right set of tools. Some of the tools necessary for efficient asynchronous communications include:

While these tools can boost employee productivity, navigating through all these different technologies can be a big source of frustration for employees. This is why integrating various workplace technologies under a single platform is one of the main priorities for organizations today. 

10. Measure, measure, measure

Understanding how employees consume your company’s content is crucial for improving your organization’s overall communications strategy

If you can analyze what type of content best resonates with your audience, if you can track readership and understand the impact of your communications campaigns on your company’s performance, it is easy to make smart decisions for improvement

Workforce_Insights_1-1148x948 (1)Sophisticated employee communications platforms offer real-time, AI-powered analytics that can empower organizations to get valuable data around employees’ engagement with internal communications campaigns. 

Such data offers powerful insights into how to make asynchronous communications more efficient and impactful.

Making Asynchronous Communication Work With the Right Technology

As mentioned earlier, proper asynchronous communication requires the right workplace technology. Modern employee communications solutions offer features and functionalities necessary to enable employees to collaborate and communicate more efficiently

Some of the must-have features to look for include:

  • Robust audience segmentation that enables targeted communications based on employees' job functions, locations, languages, and their interests
  • Private and public channels
  • Meeting recordings
  • Ability to hold podcasts and live events
  • Chat and document sharing functionalities to boost collaboration
  • Mobile-first interface to ensure the best digital employee experience
  • Active directory integration for seamless user access and management
  • Easy-to-use surveys and polls for continuous employee feedback
  • Push notifications to alert employees about emergencies and data that provides insights about message readership
  • Seamless integrations with other internal systems such as intranets, instant messaging apps, file sharing tools, and other 
  • ISO and GDPR certifications to protect your organization’s data
  • Advanced AI-powered analytics and actionable recommendations about how to improve workplace communications efforts

If you are looking for the right technology to optimize asynchronous communication in your workplace, schedule a Smarp demo!

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Written by

Kristina Martic

Kristina Martic

Digital Marketing and Employer Branding

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