“Internal communication is quite saturated. It’s noise. I get so many emails a day. People are bombarding me”.
We hear sentiments like these on a regular basis, and more often than not, these views are coming from office workers. It seems that if you sit at a desk you take communications for granted. You’re surrounded by information: posters up on the walls; you’re constantly getting emails; everyone seems to talk within the office.
But for remote workers that isn’t the case at all. A lot of the time they’re quite isolated and they need those points of contact stay as part of the culture.
Someone making comms decisions high up in the business might say, “we get loads of emails, let’s cut it down”. But actually there are people in the business for whom emails mean a lot. So being able to segment the internal audience and directly get the message to those individuals is really important.
For example, if you go to an airport and look around, it’s like a mini city. There are so many different communities of workers, very separate, very disparate – sometimes even physical barriers between one set of employees and the next. On top of that there are shift patterns; night staff might not meet day staff, and they might have unusual rotas of days on/days off. You’ve got this hugely complex structure.
Therein lies the danger: if certain staff miss out on communications, whatever they may be about, they start to feel isolated and begin to drift away from the company’s values and the way they work. What we try to encourage is that sense of community through good communications… but with that come further challenges.
It’s not just at airports. Field workers such as engineers on the road go out on jobs all day and have little or no contact with other employees. They might be able to receive emails and information on their smartphones or tablets, but they can feel detached from the business and out of touch.
Remote workers really value their managers; they have to completely trust them. The real pressure lies with that manager to keep communication channels active, to understand what may be happening in the bigger business and have the means to then cascade it on. That might be through emails, events or experiences (training days and the like). Or it might be through regular touch-points like morning meetings. What are you going to give the managers to deliver content and make it interesting?
The good news is that technology is catching up. Lots of employees now have smartphones or tablets – whether supplied by the company or not. You can deliver rich media to them. It’s more engaging to deliver videos, simple stories, voicemail or text message follow-ups. You can channel those to targeted individuals instead of organisation-wide broadcasts.
Also, people who work remotely really value some printed materials. This can be as simple as a letter to their home that really makes a difference. It’s a sign from the business that they are being taken seriously and someone has invested in something tangible to get the message to them personally.
In certain businesses, managers don’t see staff regularly and face-to-face meetings are often quite short. This puts a lot of pressure on the manager to get a lot of information across quite succinctly. That pressure can be good, but don’t assume knowledge. If you’ve got focused time to get the message across that’s a real opportunity to ensure it is understood and get meaningful feedback.
Employers are increasingly letting employees work from home, or be more disparate, and what’s interesting is that we’re actually seeing managers and leaders in the business make more effort for employees they don’t see day to day. They are so worried about loosing touch with those employees but the irony is that often these workers are more receptive than traditional office workers.
Managing the conflict between office workers receiving too much information, and remote workers feeling like they’re not getting enough requires two-way communication. But by targeting the right information to the right audience in a way that suits them, you can reduce the risk of employee dissatisfaction.
And as the old saying goes, a happy workforce is a productive workforce.