We recently spoke with Jenni Field, Communications Consultant and Director at Redefining Communications about her ‘Remotely Interesting’ research. Teaming up with Benjamin Ellis from SocialOptic, the research investigates why remote workers feel disengaged and looks at how organisations can create a more connected workforce. Jenni explains some of the key findings from the research below.
Only 36% of remote workers believe that their manager is an accurate source when it comes to receiving information.
What can leaders do to improve the reliability of the information they are sharing and how does that help build trust with their employees?
There needs to be support from the centre. This needs to take a few forms. The first is to train line managers in communication skills. A lot of the challenges in the teams stem from a lack of these skills, a lack of knowing how to share information, what to share and how to have difficult conversations – this can all be trained. Accuracy is our measure of trust so the lack of people feeling that trust also stems from the ability to build relationships and have the time with the team. As a central communications function we need to make sure that we are talking to line managers and giving them the time to ask questions, be involved in the messages (where appropriate) and in doing so, they will have more information to be able to answer questions etc.
27% of remote workers had too little information about their organisation
How does this impact the employee and the organisation in terms of employee experience and employee engagement?
This wasn’t dramatically different to the just-right or the too much. What’s important here is relevance. The response around having too little information is actually about the too little relevant information. If I send someone 10 emails that are all relevant to them or if I send them 10 emails that aren’t relevant – the response around these will be that the noise is just right or too much – that’s because we don’t differentiate between the volume and content.
So the impact is found in the engagement. The employee experience is a much broader piece and while this will play a role, it’s a far bigger topic than just having the right information.
Email is still the dominant channel for receiving information.
When deskless workers account for 80% of the global workforce (many of which have no access to email or a computer in their daily roles) – Is email still an effective tool for communicating with a dispersed workforce?
Where email existed for the workforce it was the most dominate. What we did see in the research was that people need to be trained in how to use it as a communication channel. That’s important because there needs to be education around channel use like there would be for any other channel. When you look at the channels mapped to content in the research for the team communication face to face is the best and then as you get to organisational level this shifts to digital. What we need to look at is the content and the channel together and that’s important.
24% of workers view print magazines as the most interesting channel in terms of non face-to face channels.
Would you say there is a still a place for print when it comes to building an internal comms strategy for remote workers?
Definitely. There is a place for any channel as long as it is done well. If you’re going to do a print magazine, then invest in it and work with experts to make it brilliant. This is the same for any channel – choose one or two and do them brilliantly. The research doesn’t say one is better than other – it says that the ones invested in are the ones that do well.
What about intranets? – since most company intranets are only accessible to office-based workers – is the company intranet still a useful tool for organisations to effectively provide company information to remote workers?
Digital channels work best for organisational news – they should support the face to face but they aren’t the solution people think they are. We can often try and do too many things with channels – we need to be clear on the scope and what we are trying to do.
What about two-way communication – isn’t there a case for building continuous feedback from remote workers into any communication strategy so that you get valuable insights from this critical element of your workforce and stay relevant?
Absolutely. There should always be a place for the employees’ voice to be heard. Face to face and digital channels do this – face to face is a conversation in person and digital is online – we seem to forget that this is about connections and relationships. Continuous feedback is a culture, as much as an activity or a tool. It is essential that employees feel able to have their voice heard, and that feedback mechanisms are included in every channel, just as they are with face to face communication.