Optimising Communication for Innovation in a Multinational Workforce during the COVID-19 Pandemic
With the continued globalisation of many marketplaces and industries, communication with employees becomes more and more of a challenge. Cultural understanding and task compartmentalisation are realities of the multinational corporation, but communication is still necessary to drive business and spur innovation. The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic certainly does not make things better. According to an article published on Comprehend, three main challenges have been raised during the pandemic1:
- Effective internal communication has become more important than ever, especially considering many employees are working remotely and have difficulties with staying informed about their projects.
- Crisis communication needs to be managed properly. Many multinational companies continue to be confronted by a fluid regulatory environment and governmental pandemic rules.
- Business-as-usual communication must be maintained, even though this means that many things, such as timing, tone of voice, and messaging, have to be drastically changed.
Don’t forget, the communication stakes are high. In “The Cost of Poor Communications”, David Grossman indicated that after surveying 400 companies with 100,000 employees, it was discovered that on average a company lost $62.4 million per year because of ineffective communication.2
As your organisation plans to move into new markets, you will be faced with new and unexpected challenges and opportunities when it comes to communication on different levels. Consider these tips for optimising communication for innovation while knocking down potential stumbling blocks.
Tear Down Silos
Your workplace likely depends on a clear and understandable hierarchy. Knowing who is responsible for which areas and to whom an employee can address ideas and concerns are just a few of the reasons that hierarchy exists. But if you mandate that communication pass strictly through that structure, you may lose out on opportunities for innovation.
Instead of siloed communication, HR leaders can enable and empower teams to reach across the lines of both local and international organisation charts. They can create a business culture that embraces cross-departmental interactions. That may entail appointing personnel in various locations whose job is to form internal partnerships. An organisationally supported open-door approach to management can ensure that important messages and connections aren't lost. According to a McKinsey report, “improved communication and collaboration through social technologies could raise the productivity of interaction workers by 20 to 25 percent.”3
Global organisations may feel hampered by the lack of real-time communication opportunities. After all, it simply isn't reasonable — or practical — to expect employees in Japan to video conference with employees in New York given the time difference. But this requirement might become increasingly frequent. As a result, HR leaders can foster a practice of just-in-time communication.
According to Harvard Business Review, the practice of just-in-time communication can be implemented first by creating practical expectations and guidelines. For instance, while an instant response to a question may not be possible, a response within 12 or 24 hours may work. And while organisations with locations across the globe may not be able to organise daily all-hands discussions, periodic check-ins at prearranged times can be an alternative that achieves similar results. After all, in spite of the surprises, 80% of the communication can be expected.4
Online Instead of on the Plane
In years past, executives and innovators may have been expected to spend enormous amounts of time traveling between office locations. Today's tech-connected world makes it far simpler for global teams to connect. Online avenues and social media outlets used internally can create best-practice global communication paradigms, according to the Institute for Public Relations. According to the ADP Research Institute® report, The Evolution of Work: The Changing Nature of the Global Workplace, 88 percent say social media will become the collaboration platform for work. This statistics are likely to be much higher in 2022, as teleconferencing has become a necessity, instead of a preference, due to the pandemic. According to Video Conferencing Global Market Report 2022, “the global video conferencing market is expected to grow from $6.03 billion in 2021 to $6.61 billion in 2022 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.5%.”5
Making those tools available only gets you so far, though. Your workforce has to embrace them. That's where CHROs and HR leaders have the opportunity to create expectations and related training while fostering a sense of support through all levels of employees. Top-down acceptance and buy-in of those tools sets both the tone and the challenge for employees to reach across boundaries and work together. From shared intranet hangouts to documents that can be compiled by employees separated by both miles and culture, the time has come to really walk the walk of online connections.
As noted by a study published on Journal of Management Studies, “during the pandemic, disinformation (i.e., intentional sharing of false or misleading content), misinformation (i.e., unintentional sharing of false or misleading content), and malinformation (i.e., intentional reframing of information in misleading ways) are ubiquitous.”6 During this uncertain time, it is of paramount importance to keep your communication smooth and effective. Innovating is enough of a challenge without communication blocking its path toward success. For HR leaders, optimising communication for innovation means removing silos, encouraging just-in-time connections and supporting cross-boundary online interactions. Once you've implemented or emphasized those efforts, your organisation will be better poised to continue to perform at the leading edge of its industry.
This story was originally published on SPARK, a blog designed for you and your people by ADP®.