Giving Corporate Communications the Makeover It Needs


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As companies aim to be more collaborative, more social, and more agile, keeping employees engaged in the company's goals and strategies is more important than ever. But how do you do keep distributed teams connected to the company culture when they are physically detached from the office? Internal communications expert and author, Jack LeMenager tells us how webinars and web conferencing can help in this white paper.

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Giving Corporate Communications the Makeover It Needs

  1. 1. Giving Corporate CommunicationsThe Makeover it NeedsWhy keeping your distributed workforce connected across time anddistance means reevaluating your communications tools andstrategiesBy Jack LeMenagerSponsored by
  2. 2. The modern day workplace is one of an expansion of their workforces around theimmense change, evolving at a pace world, complicating the way they ran their businesses.never before seen or anticipated. Thearrival and rapid adoption of Chief among these complications was themultiple new technologies and the imperative to sustain a company’s brandparallel expansion of an increasingly and reputation everywhere it operated. Thisglobal economy have put demands was uppermost in management’s priorityon corporate workforces that can be list. Assuring consistency and continuity of corporate quality standards, and allegiancedifficult for many to contemplate. In to the corporate culture and values systemsthis environment, engaged and across national boundaries is the surest pathconnected employees, and the to success wherever an organization maybuilding of a collaborative corporate operate.culture are more critical than ever Meanwhile another set of changes was alsobefore to a business’ long-term occurring in the developed world aroundsuccess and prosperity. Yet, the corporate workplace. Technologyachieving those ideals in the context advanced, particularly the Internet, to theof rapid change and an increasingly point where many people could accomplishdistributed workforce has become a their work from virtually anywhere.significant hurdle to competitive Gradually, the notion of all employees working under one roof from 9 to 5, fivebusinesses. days a week, became archaic.Fortunately, the rapid development Professional women, especially, whoof technologies that are helping wanted to raise families and tend to youngcreate new businesses while children at home while maintaining theirexpanding companies’ product incomes and career tracks helped buildofferings and abilities to create and greater tolerance for and acceptance of new definitions of employment. Companiesproduce them are, at the same time, began to experiment with home offices,creating new, more effective and telecommuting, flextime, and job-sharing.more accessible tools for keeping The path that these pioneering womenemployees connected and committed blazed has also opened to their company’s mission. Thesetools can also help build and sustain The results are with us now. Workers who formerly commuted back and forth to thea more collaborative team, regardless office every day now often work from homeof its members’ location and at least one day every week, if not morelanguage. often. And some people, including contract workers and freelancers as well as someThe global economy and changes at home full-time employees, maintain remote offices in their homes all the time, neverThe increasing wealth and sophistication of going to a central office per se, other thanformerly third world countries like the so- for periodic team meetings.called BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India,and China) in the latter half of the 20th These two trends – expansion of companies’century created an increasing global businesses and operations to a larger globaleconomy. Eager to exploit these emerging footprint combined with an increasinglyconsumer cultures, western businesses dispersed home workforce – have had aexpanded with new foreign operations to number of effects, some good and someachieve increased sales. But that also meant challenging. Perhaps the biggest challenge 2
  3. 3. that organizations face is that an companies now put as much emphasis onincreasingly distributed workforce communicating the “Why” and “How” asphysically disconnected from the company they do the “What.”and its managers can also becomeemotionally disconnected. In other words, communications efforts now often include allowing employees toEngaging the workforce understand the rationale for strategic decisions, and sometimes even participateHowever, these radical changes in the in and contribute to those decisions. As aworkplace do not diminish the need to keep result, they are more aware of andemployees engaged in the business. In fact, understand the external forces that may beit makes it more imperative. By “engaged imposing change on the organization.employees,” we mean people with a full Adept and perceptive leaders are alsoawareness, understanding and helping employees draw the links betweencomprehension of their companies’ vision, their strategies and their companies’ values,mission, and values, and their respective vision and mission – and do so regularly inrole in fulfilling them. In other words, fully all that they communicate.engaged employees can readily align whatthey do every day with where their Collaborative Culturecompany is going. At the same time, there is growingIn a conventional business environment, it appreciation of the value of building andwas always a fairly straightforward affair to sustaining a collaborative culture, wherekeep employees engaged, relying heavily engaged employees work together toward aon consistent messages through reliable common purpose. True collaborationcommunications channels that employees happens when people bring their uniqueused. Where things began to fall apart was skills and backgrounds together as a teamwhen a company took it for granted that its or unit and contribute collectively toward acore messages were getting through; that greater outcome, to fulfill the organization’sthe channels they chose were the ones larger vision. Conversely, where the notionemployees trusted. But keeping a of collaboration is foreign, employeesdistributed workforce engaged in and compete with one another, resulting inconnected to the business presents a much dysfunction and redundancies. In agreater challenge than an ineffective collaborative culture, the organizationcommunications strategy. realizes multiple benefits, including: → Greater clarity about what is neededPhysical distance combined with language for the organization to succeedand cultural differences can erect significant → Inclusive decision-makingbarriers to communications of important → Fresh thinking and innovativemessages and themes from the home solutionsoffices. In most organizations, the notion of → Efficient, concerted actions in thecommunicating with remote employees service of shared, measurable goalsconsists of providing them with limited → Effective time management“need to know” types of information, as → Greater trust, and broaderwell as news from human resources about engagement1benefits and policy updates. A collaborative culture starts withFortunately, there is growing recognition leadership modeling the right behaviors,among corporate leaders that it’s important building a collaborative and openand valuable to keep all employees fully relationship among the senior ranks. Ininformed and engaged in the business,regardless of their role, responsibilities, or 1physical location. Consequently, many Source: Gilburg Leadership Inc. ( 3
  4. 4. turn, these ideal behaviors are passed along stay in touch while keeping abreast of newsthrough the organization’s various and evolving circumstances andfunctions and operations. Group developments. They also alert people to theexpectations are set, while collaborative many sudden and radical external changesbehavior is defined, communicated and that can impact what they do every day andfully understood by all. And finally, how best to work together in a timelycollaborative behavior is sustained through fashion. These tools continue to expand andaccountability and feedback from their evolve. Right now, the most commonlysupervisor and peers. used include the following.Achieving a collaborative way of life within → Web and video conferencing enablesan organization where everyone is under real-time face-to-face web conferencesthe same roof is one thing. It’s an altogether for groups of up to 25 people. Webdifferent matter when people are scattered conferencing enables spontaneousaround the globe or across the country in online meetings and brings themultiple locations. The lack of physical additional advantage of seeing people’sproximity and time zone differences can faces while we talk with them, enablingcreate barriers to convenient, conventional everyone to catch the subtleties of facialcommunications like one-on-one telephone inflections, like smiles and frowns, thatconversations and teleconference calls add meaning to one’s words. It alsoinvolving people at several locations. enables the group simultaneously to examine documents under discussion.Of course, periodic team meetings such asannual get-togethers among, for instance, Companies these days are using webnational or international sales forces are an conferencing for a variety of purposes,old standby. But those can be logistically including the on-boarding process. Webcumbersome, as well as costly both in travel conferencing enables HR managers toexpenses and in lost productivity, taking talk to one or several new employeespeople off the job for days at a time. face-to-face from anywhere no matterNevertheless, in-person meetings are their respective locations. It saves oninvaluable for certain circumstances and travel costs but also provides a moreshould not always be subservient to personal touch not possible withtechnology, no matter how modern and conventional teleconference calls andadvanced the technology; which is why the FedEx packages. It’s also useful for teambest way to create an engaged distributed meetings and new hire introductionsworkforce, one that collaborates effectively, when the team is divided acrossis through a combination of means. locations. It enables people working remotely or traveling on client businessApplying technological solutions to tie in via computer and not miss important developments andThe initial establishment of broad-based discussions about clients, the company,relationships that will form the foundation and opportunities and challenges. Theof their work together in the future happens session leader can use PowerPoint typemost effectively in a face-to-face setting, slides or other documents on the screensuch as the annual team meeting at a central to guide the But once these relationships areestablished, organizations can begin to rely Members of corporate leadership teamson some of the modern tools to keep each have disparate responsibilities.employees engaged and their collaboration Many need to “show the flag” at far-active. flung operations across the country or around the world. They can’t always beThese can involve a selection of online on site at corporate headquarters for thecollaboration tools that enable people to very necessary regular meetings of the 4
  5. 5. senior team. Web conferencing enables means of presenting new technology, it them figuratively and literally to gather, has been found to be far more efficient, secure that their discussions remain especially for companies with a private. They are able to talk about and distributed workforce. For example, the decide on the pressing issues of the IT team can create an online moment. The CEO can share documents presentation for a one-time in real time online, and component team demonstration of software upgrades, members can bring their relevant and then archive the recording for knowledge and experience to bear, employees who may have missed it or regardless of where they are, as though want to review the session a second they were all sitting in a private time to enhance their understanding. conference room. Webinars can be used on a regular basis for follow-up Q&A sessions about the The process is as simple as coordinating material discussed in the presentation. participants’ calendars, and providing Using webinars for large group and them with the necessary web link and company-wide communications is an password for the appointed meeting interactive, affordable and effective way time, as though they were just walking to keep a workforce informed and down the hall to the boardroom. If the engaged. bulk of the team is, in fact, in that boardroom, remote members are visible Like web conferencing, the webinar on a projected screen. In turn, they see occurs at a discrete time, accessible to the respective team members on their people regardless of their location. computer screens and hear their voices Invitees are given a link and password, simultaneously. When the meeting logging on at the appointed hour. concludes, a simple log-off ends it, as Because of their large audience capacity, though everyone left the conference webinar interaction is limited compared room. to web conferencing. The webinar is mostly a one-way presentation, though→ Similar to web conferencing, webinars there are opportunities for participants facilitate online collaboration for larger to post questions and comments that the groups and company-wide meetings moderator may respond to. Just like such as leadership town halls and All web conferencing, webinars can be Hands meetings. Webinars can recorded and archived for later viewing. accommodate thousands of participants. Webinar leaders, be it the CEO, a Technologies to pair with web conferencing division head or an external expert, can for effective internal communications present new initiatives, new products, new ideas or approaches. Or the CEO Regular and online communication through can just keep the global organization web conferencing and webinars from informed of the company’s situation company managers and leaders to the and strategies. Some webinar solutions workforce at large is necessary and effective offer recording and archiving functions for keeping the workforce up to speed on that enable employees who want a company goals, strategies and happenings. second viewing or who may have But after the presentation or online meeting missed the initial meeting the is over, there a few technologies that keep opportunity to view the recording at the conversation going and provide a space their leisure. to check for updates or ask questions before the next meeting or conference. These days, companies are using webinars to instruct employees on new → Internal social networks enable procedures and to introduce new employees to share ideas, insights and technologies. Compared to previous news spontaneously and have secure 5
  6. 6. on-going discussions behind the firewall. Employees can also form Knocking down silos special interest groups around shared responsibilities or even common outside People don’t need to be scattered across the interests like music and hobbies. Social globe to challenge the cohesiveness of an networks provide a place for employees organization’s culture. There is a tendency to share knowledge and make inquiries; in any organization for people to become learning from peers is not only effective isolated within the confines of a given but also a great team building exercise physical space, be it a single floor in an and, thanks to online social networks, office tower, or a “cubicle farm.” These now a team member in California can remarkable Internet tools allow us to gain insights from a colleague in break down the artificial walls that people Chicago easily and regularly. in organizations erect and maintain through force of habit, where localized→ Company intranet websites provide an cultures can take root and soon bear little assortment of opportunities for resemblance to the corporate culture. These distributed workforces to stay tools can help prevent that from happening. connected with the company through general and specialized news databases As you think about the collaboration tools and archives, and repositories for you already use or the ones you need, evergreen company documents. remember that the most critical factor is to Virtually every large company today use them early and often so that they has an intranet, but each uses it become a habit for the entire organization. differently. Some intranets I’ve seen are That habit must start with the senior passive without a lot of new leadership team. Again, behaviors modeled information posted over the course by the senior-most people in an time. They seem to have been set up and organization tend to be noticed and populated some time ago, and then emulated. forgotten. Consequently, they’re not vital, aren’t used much, and soon go Web conferencing in small or company- fallow. wide groups enables the organization regularly to stay in touch with the Others are highly active sites with a individual employee, and vice-versa. Every wide array of information and news employee feels always connected to the available and updated around the clock. larger whole. Additionally, these tools help As with public websites, intranet sites overcome the social isolation that remote that are kept fresh are visited regularly workers may feel. These are important and and help engage their audiences in core components of employee engagement: critical issues of the day. Active intranet enabling people to stay linked to the sites are particularly valuable for global company regardless of where they are, or organizations upon which, to borrow a when and why they reach out. cliché, the sun never sets. Employees are able to tap into them whenever they Conclusion: What the future holds want from wherever they are, even at home, and stay abreast of relevant news It is said that nothing is more certain than inside and outside the company: the more change. The occurrence of distributed companies’ industries, competitors, and workforces will continue to increase as markets. companies and the jobs they offer evolve, and as technologies advance. Meanwhile,Companies are also adopting social the global economy will spread. Andworkspaces and wikis among other things among the most certain things to change isto keep their workforces informed and the software and hardware that help usengaged. communicate effectively in real time. 6
  7. 7. No doubt, technological advances will Strategy Group works with organizations tocontinue to improve our abilities to achieve competitive advantage through strongerestablish and maintain connections and employee engagement, improved organizationalengagement with our most far-flung clarity, dynamic content, a more adaptableemployees. Aiding that, especially, will be culture, and a socially oriented managementthe further distribution of high-speed model all driven by analytics. The companyInternet to ever-more remote corners of the operates a network of offices in San Francisco,earth, thereby enabling organizations to New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Austin,sustain the connections that will drive their Los Angeles, and London. WCG is a unit ofsuccess. W2O Group.Concurrently, there will be more expansion In 2011, Jack published Inside Theinto the global economy by smaller firms – Organization: Perspectives on Internali.e., those that may not now have the critical Communications, a collection of 54 thematicallymass to do so – made possible by the organized essays on communications andgreater reach of the Internet and the human relationships inside and outside thecontinuing improvement and decreasing business world (available from of online tools through economies of He also is the author of the Inside Thescale. Organization blog.  But regardless of the technology or thetechnology tools that a particular  organization chooses to use, these are onlytools. They are not substitutes for authentic About  GoToWebinar  communication, but mere facilitators.Managers and leaders would do well toheed the difference, while bearing in mindanother truth: that their company’s need for  and accrued benefits of engaged andconnected employees in a collaborative            Webinars  Made  Easy™    culture will only increase.   Citrix  GoToWebinar  is  the  easiest-­‐to-­‐use  do-­‐it-­‐Jack LeMenager, has more than 25 years yourself  event  tool  that  projects  your  message  experience in business communications, to  up  to  1,000  online  attendees.  With  including employee communications, post- GoToWebinar,  you  can  reduce  travel  costs,  merger integration, labor relations generate  more  qualified  leads  at  a  lower  cost  communications, and business-to-businessmarketing communications for some of the and  enhance  communication  with  customers,  world’s leading companies in the prospects  and  employees.  Host  unlimited  pharmaceuticals, healthcare, insurance, webinars  for  one  low  flat  fee  and  give  attendees  automotive, paper, energy, aviation, chemicals, the  option  to  join  from  a  Mac,  PC  or  mobile  and professional services industries. device.    GoToWebinar  Premier  Event  is  also  Jack is Director, Corporate & Strategy, at WCG, available  to  provide  custom-­‐built  solutions  for  a leading analytics-based, integrated thousands  of  attendees  and  available  with  communications counseling firm providing video  streaming.  Learn  more  at  business solutions in the areas of innovation,  change and growth for the world’s leadingcompanies and brands. The Corporate and   7