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Two weeks ago I gave a talk on content curation at the World of Learning conference in Birmingham and as a part of the talk I asked how many people in the audience were on Twitter. The answer: two. It was a small audience of around 15 people but it was interesting to see how few people are using a relatively mature technology that is a very effective communication tool.

I’ve been fortunate to be working with clients on developing digital communications in the workplace and in my previous corporate life it was something I did as a part of my professional practice – for example, I set up an internal blog to share my work.

Reflecting on this experience, it seems as if there are three foundations, or at least very important factors, in developing better and more useful communications within a business using digital tools. These three factors are: trust, voice and purpose.

This is a cultural issue, it is a management issue, and it is a fundamental element of effective communication. If colleagues are trusted to think for themselves, develop themselves, do a good job, look to better ways of doing their job, essentially if they are treated as if they have something to offer, then it is likely they will feel more able to more openly share their work, their knowledge and their expertise.

Trust is the basis for great things – on a personal, professional and organisational level. If I’m trusted (and encouraged/rewarded) to do a good job, it is likely that I will. But that doesn’t equate to openly sharing what I do. What if I’m not used to doing that? What if I genuinely do not know what to share? And what if I have very real concerns about looking silly or sharing the wrong stuff? What if I just don’t feel very confident in publishing updates on social networks? These are very real concerns for very many colleagues. The beauty of the human race is that we are all different. And that should be the basis for understanding how individuals might find their voice using digital tools.

Just as every individual is unique, so is every organisation. With a purpose, individuals might find it easier to find their voice. This has certainly been my experience of coaching others in using social tools. It is for the organisation to understand the purpose of better digital communication (and show examples), to understand which tools are most useful and why and to help individuals (support and encourage) in using these tools. Let’s not forget either that colleagues will potentially be using the very same communication tools outside of work for a very different purpose. Wouldn’t it be interesting and potentially very useful to harness that experience, knowledge and capability in the workplace?

Interestingly, exploring which tools to use and why could be the catalyst for individuals, teams and organisations to look at trust, voice, and purpose.