It's 10 a.m. Do you know where your employees are?

If your organization is like most, chances are that fewer and fewer of your team members are actually at headquarters. Even if employees are technically situated there, some are working from home. Others are out visiting clients or your other locations. 

And the majority of your employees probably don't work at headquarters at all. They're located in manufacturing facilities, retail stores, call centers, distribution hubs, service garages--you get the picture. 

So tell me why so many internal communication programs are still so headquarters-centric. Take the employee town hall. There are too many instances where town halls are hosted at headquarters and employees at other locations participate only by "dialing in" or, worse, "watching the video." That's like having a party and telling some guests that, although they can't come, they can view via Skype. Talk about being on the B list!

Want another example of how organizations make headquarters the center of the communication universe? When my firm conducts focus groups with employees who work outside headquarters, those employees often gripe that they receive emails inviting them to events at HQ or notifying them of a closure because of inclement weather. 

"It's sunny here," complained one employee. "So why do I have to hear about the snowstorm at headquarters?"

By now, you've guessed the one thing you can do to make internal communication more inclusive: Create an equal experience for every employee, no matter where they work.

Here are 5 ways to do so:

  1. Evaluate your employee communication program to see if it's headquarters-biased. To do so, visit other locations and talk to employees about their communication experiences. Then redesign your efforts to be location-neutral and inclusive of everyone who works for your organization.
  2. Create town halls that are 100% virtual. That means all participants--including senior leaders--join from their computers. There are so many great meeting technology platforms that make this possible--and allow you to create a town hall that encourages participation from employees at all locations.
  3. Hit the road. Employees do want to see senior leaders in person--and many leaders prefer face-to-face interaction as well. So since every employee can't come to headquarters, send leaders to visit employees where they work. At one company, leaders make site visits that include an employee all-hands meeting (for people at the site), a manager briefing and one or two small-group coffee chats. As a result, employees feel informed and that they've been heard.
  4. Make sure your newsletter and intranet content is representative of employees everywhere. It's so easy to get content from HR down the hall or IT on the floor above. But you have to work harder to find stories from the warehouse in Duluth or the sales office in Dusseldorf. One best practice: put together an editorial board from employees in different functions or locations; their role is to share content about their areas.
  5. Jumpstart your social networking platform. Most companies have introduced platforms like Yammer and Chatter. But many struggle to convince employees to use those platforms. So you need to design a change management program to encourage employees to understand the benefits of social. Once momentum starts to build, employees will see that, even if they work in many different locations, they're connected.

You may work at headquarters. But it's important to make sure that all employees--no matter where they are in the world--feel like they're an important part of the organization.

Published on: Sep 26, 2018