Employee Comms

How to communicate effectively with a remote workforce


 — October 14th, 2015

How to communicate effectively with a remote workforce

Last month I hosted a really fantastic webinar called “Reaching beyond HQ: Communicating effectively to a remote workforce”, with guest Internal Communications expert, Andrew (Andy) Blacknell.

It’s a topic that I KNOW is a big big challenge for corporate communications.

It’s not your imagination

First of all, it’s not your imagination.

During the webinar we ran a pop poll asking attendees about engagement levels outside of HQ at their own organizations.

And research shows that employees not sitting right there in the head office do tend to be less engaged. Andy quoted Nick Tachell, Director of Organization Surveys at Towers Watson - “typically we find engagement in HQs higher than outside, as they tend to have more positive opinions on some of the typical engagement drivers such as leadership/connection with leaders and communication/clarity of direction.”

What’s encouraging is many of the actions that drive disengagement Towers Watson mentioned, are issues that internal communications can tackle and impact: leadership communications, reaching all employees, and measuring the impact and understanding of messaging.


Start with an audit

You can’t say you ‘don’t know’ what the problems are and expect to successfully tackle the issues. You need data and research.

If you can’t use data to show where the gaps are in your reach and engagement, it's difficult to make the case to your company for more resource and action.

Newsweaver customer Sue Brockett, Communications Manager for Granite Services, a wholly owned affiliate of GE, started the IC function from the ground up. With 5,000 employees in over 100 countries, it was obviously a very diverse workforce.

Sue began by running an audit to understand current engagement, and where the gaps were in engagement. It was this use of measurement that proved there was a gap between what leaders thought they were communicating and what employees were actually understanding.

“It was important for us to help our managers succeed as communicators, so we worked to give them the tools and resources to succeed.”, Sue said,“Now, if we’re rolling out a new initiative, the first thing we do is create a manager toolkit that has suggested action items and timelines, Talking Points, Resources and helpful tips.”

Create face-to-face comms using rich media

Face-to-face is one of the most powerful engagers for employees. The first step is to ensure your leaders are communicating effectively to their teams.

If you want to engage a remote workforce or people outside of HQ, look to your tools, what will facilitate the feeling of a direct communication from leaders that provide an ‘in person’ message?

Rich media can deliver a personal spoken message - which explains in part the resurgence of videos, webcasts and online global town halls. Communicators are finding this makes communication feel personal, and can help a diverse workforce better understand the messages.

Those are just snippets – if this is a topic of interest to you, I invite you to watch the on demand version of the webinar. Andy has examples and case studies to illustrate his points. (Don’t skip the Q&A at the end – there are great audience questions that Andy addresses in there.)

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