Five things to remember when communicating with remote workers…
I’ve been lucky enough to spend most of my comms career working in organisations that have remote workers. I say lucky because I genuinely believe that some of my best times were when I was getting out and about with these teams and seeing what life was like for them on the ‘front-line’.
Over the years I’ve learnt some valuable lessons which might be useful to those of you who are struggling to make traction:
Get out and about. Spend some time work shadowing them, if you can – it’s genuinely the best way you can understand exactly what their day consists of. It’s easy sitting in HQ coming up with wonderful creative ideas but a complete waste of time if they are useless when they finally get out in the operation.
Curate over create. Some of the best stories and solutions have come from the guys who see the real action. Your staff magazine should be colleague led where possible – and as Internal Communicators we should be curating information rather than having to create our own. Get the guys involved on an editorial board, let them have voice and allow them to get their view across.
Find your advocates. If you work in a large organisation or a multi-site then it can be hard to understand how things have landed or what the general consensus is on a new strategy or even a new leader. This is where you need your advocates or comms ambassadors. On my walkabouts I always tried to spot the influencer, or someone who took a genuine interest. These guys are your extended team. I often gave them a quick call if I wasn’t certain about something, needed some intel or even just to bounce some ideas around – and they also loved that they had someone who listened. A project I was part of once created little pin badges to hand out to these ambassadors so people knew who to approach – people really embraced it.
Don’t assume it can make an ‘ass-out-of-u-and-me’ – Just because something has worked really well somewhere else, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work where you are. Even if the two organisations are exactly the same in terms of what they do, you need to remember culture and behaviours are always different. Do your research before you bring anything new on board. Host focus groups, speak to leaders, managers, the operational staff etc
Find a healthy balance. This is the most important one and sometimes it can be over-looked by our enthusiasm but it’s imperative that you find a healthy balance with the amount of their time you take up. You need to remember that they are out in the operation, not generally sat behind a PC and they actually have a job to do. So, sending several emails a-day or ringing every few hours to get an opinion will just annoy people. Find out from the teams and individuals when it’s the best time, try not to take up their break times and be considerate to their needs. I hosted regular monthly meetings, so they were scheduled in and I generally went for a walkabout when it was a quiet period, so I knew I’d have a chance to chat. If I wasn’t sure I used to drop them a text or a quick email to see if it would be okay for me to call them. All of these little things make a huge difference in building your relationships.
There are lots of tools and tips on how to communicate with remote workers but ultimately you need to find a way that works for you and your organisation. If there are any more tips then let me know, you can catch me over on twitter @advita_p.