How do you achieve great communication in a multi-site organisation?

Jenni Field

Last year Lee Sheldon, founder of Mastering Multi-Units (MMU) invited me onto his podcast to talk about my experience in supporting organisations communicate with a remote workforce. I worked with Lee during my time at SSP as the Head of Internal Communications for the UK where our challenge was to communicate effectively with 10,000 employees. They were spread out across 700 locations and 8,000 employees had no access to email.

You can listen to the full interview here but I thought I would share some of the key points below:

  • Social media has made internal communication more challenging when the workforce are hard to reach. The pace that’s needed internally often doesn’t match the external world
  • Internal and external communication is blurred – HR, Marketing and Communications need to be much more joined up than they used to be
  • Internal communications and employee engagement are not the same thing. Running an engagement survey is not internal communication.
  • Internal communicators should be heavily involved in the employee experience as they are often seen to be responsible for culture inside organisations (alongside other key stakeholders)
  • Make sure that from the interview process, through to arrival the experience matches the culture and the brand of the organisation – this is easy to miss when the responsibility of hiring isn’t centralised
  • Always start with insight, and with remote workers, get out and understand their day, how they work, what their core tasks are etc. Spend the time to get to know them
  • Don’t think one digital platform will solve all your challenges. Use the insight to help you understand the challenge you’re trying to overcome and find the right solution for you – you don’t have to follow the crowd
  • The communication needs of a manager running a store will be different from the head office functions and the organisation as a whole – you don’t need one platform for everything – we don’t have one app for communicating with friends in our personal lives so why would we have that at work?
  • Don’t disregard print – it can still have a place with these workers
  • My vision was always to have one personalised window into the online world so employees can log in and they can seamlessly jump from platform to platform behind the scenes – I don’t think we are quite there yet for the masses
  • As an internal communicator you can act as a funnel – I always ‘turn off the taps’ while I work out what’s going on and then I work out exactly what needs to go where and when
  • If you switch to using subject lines in emails that start with ‘For Action’ or ‘For Info’ then make sure people know why and what this means – governance always plays a role
  • We need to better support line managers to be better communicators with their team – it’s our duty as professional communicators

As a store manager – things to consider:

  • As a manager, look at how you could best communicate with your team. Would they read a newsletter on a noticeboard/in a pigeon hole? A monthly team huddle might be appropriate? As an organisation we will look at the channels to help the business communicate but as manager you need to think about this locally
  • You need to understand why you want to improve communication in your area/store – what is wrong and how did we get here?
  • Improving communication is a broad statement – what do you actually want to do? What do you need to see in the teams to see that there is a difference?
  • The volume of information can be a challenge and to make sure this isn’t overwhelming, as a manager you need to be clear about what you’re asking people to do – is it just for information or do they need to do something differently?
  • Think about consolidating news into a weekly roundup – it’s easy to fire off emails or mention things in passing but you need to look at the importance of that piece of information and if it needs to be shared immediately with the team

This year, I will be publishing some research into communicating with a remote workforce to help internal communicators and organisations better understand this audience and what they want. If you’d like to attend the launch event or grab a copy of the report please email info@redefiningcomms.com and we will add you to the list to be notified.

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