5 ways that multi-location businesses must communicate to stay whole

global leadership conceptThe majority of organizations do their work in multiple locations. Whether we’re talking about offices in multiple cities or multiple countries, restaurants or retail outlets, it has become rare for an organization’s workforce to be in one place most of the time.

What happens at these dispersed workplaces is that people diverge. They lose sight of one another physically and metaphorically. They also lose sight of leadership. They are walled off from the tone, content and tempo of communication and operations. There are fewer and fewer universal touchstones and common ideas in the organization.

While this can allow for innovation, it also makes it difficult for innovation to spread. We hear of this happening in wildly different industries. One restaurant chain spoke to us about how some of their locations ran wonderfully, while others just didn’t. One recruitment firm told us that practices were so different in one office versus the other that it was as if they weren’t related. A commercial construction firm told us that while each office innovated, the innovations failed to spread from location to location. Problems were attacked with only a fraction of the true resources and expertise of the broader organization.

Each of these companies found a way to work past objections and doubts to implement a strategic intranet that enables five core communication types. These companies that had suffered from geographic silos report significant reductions in email traffic of up to 50%. They cite pockets of excellence that spread almost virally as teams excitedly share their best work and honestly ask questions of one another. Employee turnover is down, and profit is up.

Learn how the restaurant chain Houlihan’s transformed their intranet.

While the cure to these problems is always multifold, the core strategic capability that enables progress is a cohesive and inclusive communication platform. A strategic intranet communication platform gives leaders a voice, allows and encourages people to be visible and find-able, and includes multiple modes of communication to meet various communication needs.

These include:

  1. Leadership. Whether it’s about strategy, news and events, progress reports or just shared wins, losses, celebrations and observations, leadership voices are crucial to the organization, and people’s sense of being part of something important. Social networks don’t adequately enable the global communication that leadership needs to be in touch.
  2. Peer-to-peer sharing, exploring and chatter. The team needs to be visible and engaged with one another, informally sharing interesting tidbits, asking questions and generally supporting one another both emotionally and professionally. The community of the organization is critical to employee engagement and great business outcomes.
  3. Team and project collaboration. people need simple, organized ways to convene teams, discuss work and generally get things done. Streams and updates aren’t suited to this sort of work.
  4. Informal one-on-one or small-group chats. “Hey Jules, let’s review this report before we send it on.” This kind of exchange needs to be simple, effortless—and it needs to be as inclusive (meaning everyone has access) and searchable as any other form of communication.
  5. Resource libraries. We all have policies, procedures and bodies of work and reference material to work with. There needs to be one place where this information belongs, a single source of truth for people who are looking for the most current versions.

These needs can be met with one-off solutions, but with multiple technologies, the silos of multiple locations get multiplied by technology silos. Not helpful. And not searchable (where did Jon put that link again?). Many companies have deployed difficult software that doesn’t feel comfortable or natural to use. That builds silos of capabilities. If you’re looking to unify silos, you want tech that empowers people by including everyone, has superb usability, uses all five types of communication above, and provides mobile access.

Leadership and the dedication of many people drive those results, but that leadership and dedication has no way to reach the organization without a strategic, universally accessible intranet that delivers all five communication needs.

This article is by Deb Lavoy, vice president of content marketing for Jostle Corp. Visit Jostle’s blog and see how they are helping leaders build vibrant workplaces.

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