Working globally can be both exciting and immensely rewarding. However, organizations that aspire to cultivate a global team who feel committed and connected to the organization must pay close attention to enhancing their global voice. Improving your organization’s effectiveness in communication with a global and virtual workforce does not have to be complicated, time-consuming or expensive. In fact, you can make a noticeable improvement in your global employee communications simply through improving your cultural awareness and adding a little planning in your approach to fostering positive communication.
We have identified some tried and true, common sense tips that anyone can use to improve communication with their global and virtual teams. Taking the time to use these simple techniques will be well worth it, as you will find that your efforts to improve communication will go a long way in building employee engagement and trust throughout your global team.
Here are ten of our favorite communication tips.
Tip Number 1: Have a Plan
Develop a communication plan that identifies key events and/or messages from several perspectives:
(1) Messages for the entire company. These are the messages from the CEO: an overview of the state of the organization, significant company-wide initiatives and strategies or people programs/policies that you want to message with the CEO’s seal.
(2) Messages for specific business units or functional areas. These are the messages from key leaders that highlight information relevant to a subset of the organization, but not everyone, everywhere. For these messages, determine who should be the highest level “author” and identify the audience. Ask yourself, “Who is directly impacted or interested in the information” and “Who else may need to know about the message?” The latter will ensure that others outside of the specific “communication loop” get the message. Don’t forget to preview the messages with key leaders outside of the business unit or function.
(3) Messages from Human Resources or specifically related to the people dimensions of the organization. We address HR separately because so many organizations have a blend of global and local HR programs. In that situation, the communication approach may need some additional forethought. The simplest advice for HR leaders is to incorporate communication planning into all of your project plans (see our post, “Power Communication for HR Professionals”).
Two additional points to consider in your planning:
- Please do not inundate the employees with too many “global” messages. Keep the global communication focused on topics that are of global interest and significance for all the recipients.
- Be very careful about including contract workers in specific communication cascades. As with all areas of employment law, you want to maintain a clear delineation between employees and contractors.
Tip Number 2: Keep It Simple
Write messages that are simple, on point and use correct, straightforward grammar. Ask yourself, “What are the important points that this message should convey?” and stick with them. Remember messages that are too long, complex or filled with unconventional grammar are more difficult to accurately translate and more likely to have their meaning confused. Don’t add too much detail or background information into the communication piece. You can always provide links to reference and/or related material.
Tip Number 3: Keep It Brief
Keep the messages short. While this precept is similar to keeping the message simple, it is important enough to be restated. At one of my former organizations I was very involved in writing global communication pieces for HR and some of the top executives. Over the years, I received a great deal of feedback on what worked and what didn’t and one of the biggest complaints from employees was that some of the global emails were just too long.
Tip Number 4: Start with a Virtual Handshake
Start your message with an opening sentence that is courteous and conveys a congenial greeting. Launching directly into the business at hand may be viewed in some cultures as too blunt or impolite.
Tip Number 5: Know Your Slang and Avoid IT
Avoid native slang, metaphors, analogues, technical jargon, acronyms and other short cuts. Select more formal, simple words. Even if you are writing for an audience that speaks English as their native language, recognize that different cultures have different sets of slang or words with different meaning. Whenever possible, ask someone from other locales to preview your final message to ensure it reads with the intent it was written and avoid those embarrassing mistakes.
Tip Number 6: Collaborate
Be inclusive and gather input from around the organization and the globe. If you are summarizing a company’s year-end accomplishments, be sure to include areas of the business outside of the main office or the U. S. If you are using people or offices as examples, include people who work virtually, telecommute or in remote locations. In other words, demonstrate an awareness of your global team wherever and however they work.
Tip Number 7: Know Your Technology
Work with your IT and/or HRIS professional to ensure that you have the technology set up to distribute your message to the target audience before the day you plan to distribute it. Avoid the last-minute scramble of realizing that certain groups don’t have access to the medium you are planning to use. You’ll also avoid frustrating employees by sending them messages that are confusing or irrelevant to them.
Tip Number 8: Translate
Have the important messages translated for employee in countries, in which English is not the national language. Then have a local read and edit your message. This may be a local employee, consultant or in some instances, counsel.
Tip Number 9: Think Two-Way Communication
Think multimedia, video chat and other methods that make use of two-way communication tools, if possible. Don’t lock your self exclusively into email.
Tip Number 10: Always Get a Second Opinion
Even if you have superb writing skills, hone your message through collaboration. Edit, revise, edit, review, edit, and get feedback.