Working as part of a virtual internal communication team is a unique experience for me. I wanted to share my perspectives on what individuals in teams collaborating across geographies can do to improve relationships and increase performance.
A research point out that ‘support’ is fundamental for teams to performance to their maximum. The limitations of distance, less frequent face-to-face meetings or lack of team building opportunities lead to a dip in productivity and performance over time.
More so, if the role entails closer involvement in strategic planning and execution across multiple locations like internal communicators are expected to deliver.
- Tone of voice: With e-mail as the main source of communication, it is important to know that the chances of misinterpretations are higher. Keep the tone of voice neutral and try to highlight any emotional cues in calls.
- The Big Picture: Since you have better insight into local happenings, it helps for your team to know how things work on the ground. Share regular snippets on best practices, learning and photographs of some of the programs or even news clips. These insights can help them plan better.
- Personalized communication: Virtual teams can increase impersonal behavior despite tools like IM and videoconference helping connect faster. Putting a face to the name helps which communicating among each other. Leverage internal tools which allow ‘Facebook’ type information sharing.
- Helping people balance work and life: It may be possible that your work and life blurs while working as a ‘globally distributed unit’. What it can do it burn the team and you while you chase deliverables. Flexibility and helping prioritize while allowing breaks for the team will do a world of good.
- Create a set of unwritten rules: Since time is the essence and working virtually is people centric, it makes sense to include an unwritten set of guidelines; timely meetings, ownership, back-ups among others.
The recent financial slowdown has spawned many interpretations of how and why to communicate with employees.
I feel India and its economy presents exciting opportunities for organizations and leadership to connect with employees.
Research indicates employees are expecting more communication on the turn of events and how it impacts their jobs and lives. While it might not be possible to have all the answers, it makes sense for leaders to share personal perspectives and relate to experiences they have been through.
I have been quizzing my peers in the industry in India and the word I am hearing is that organizations are so caught up in mitigating their risks that they are losing sight of their employees’ concerns and expectations. The recent Jet Airways episode where one of India’s leading airline removed and reinstated employees within a few days increased more fears of layoffs among corporate sector employees.
Here are my recommendations to help organizations plan and enable employees to cope with the crisis and implications.
a) Stick to the basics – keep the face-to-face meetings, engagements occurring regularly. Job security and impact on family/image are always top of mind for this part of the world.
b) Involve employees in decisions – invite open recommendations from employees on how to mitigate the current crisis
c) Provide counseling services – If your organization hasn’t already engaged with an agency, it is probably time. How your employees handles the crisis has not just an impact on the organization’s health but their own.
d) Pre-empt rumors – Keep a tab on your informal feedback vehicles and monitor water cooler discussions where distorted messages may be passed around
e) Leaders in the forefront – Are your leaders taking a stand? Are they willing to be the first to take a hit if push comes to shove with salaries and reduction of expenses? There is an interesting article in the Times of India (October 21) of Wipro’s Premji requesting its employees to look at the downturn as a positive step.