Managing a geographically diverse workforce
Nicholas Roi, June 26, 2013
Remote working is on the rise as companies are increasingly expanding internationally.
It follows, then, that businesses should be developing engagement programmes to help them manage their geographically dispersed workforces. Companies that don’t risk creating an unhappy and, therefore, unmotivated and unproductive workforce as a consequence.
The key to engaging a globally dispersed workforce is consistency. Opportunities to engage with a workforce like this fall into three categories: onboarding, learning and performance. Specific systems, universal to an organisation, must be in place for each of these if workforces are to remain cohesive and productive. They may appear to be three individual silos of engagement, but they are all inextricably linked and, when handled correctly, will empower staff throughout their employee lifecycle.
Engagement should always begin during the recruitment stage at the time that staff onboarding gets under way. Most new staff members who are unhappy in their position will decide to move on within six months, yet if they can be engaged this early on they should stay well beyond their first year.
The importance of consistency when onboarding must be impressed upon all staff managers; they should all be trained to conduct the same onboarding processes with all employees and should be made aware of the correlation between onboarding, engagement and productivity.
While international branches of large corporations may feel under extra pressure as a result of their language and cultural differences, they shouldn’t be. Diversity should be taken into account by the central office and respected, but the methodology of onboarding shouldn’t change. If an effective system is established across a company and managers are properly trained, then their differences should have no negative impact.
In order to nurture engagement, it is also important to understand the different people that make up your company. When working for a large organisation there is the risk that staff will feel that they are simply cogs in a machine so to feel properly engaged they need be shown that they are recognised as individuals. What’s more they need to know how their role has some benefit the business as a whole. This can be achieved during the appraisal process by showing an employee how their personal goals align with the company’s. An employee that knows the role they can play in helping a company achieve its goals will feel more driven to do so.
All staff should also be informed of the overarching vision and the mission of the business, and if important changes occur within the company, they should be made aware at the same time. In the past the spread of such communication was complicated, but with the increased use of technology such as video conferencing and internal social networking, there’s no longer any excuse for a lack of communication with employees.
These communication tools can be used communicate with all staff about the achievements of personnel and the business overall. The effect of telling 2,000 employees, in five different countries, about these wins and achievements should not be underestimated. However, face-to-face contact should not be abandoned. Personal contact remains essential for building engagement, especially following an appraisal and during the creation of learning and development plans, but whenever there is an opportunity to engage with an employee on a one-to-one basis, it should be taken.
Throughout a person’s employment life cycle, consistency is a word that should spring up again and again. It’s the topic of this piece because consistency of process is the most important factor in engaging the modern workforce – whether in one location or spread across the 200 countries of the world. Be consistent as far as possible, in the incentives and benefits package, in training processes and even when offboarding, and you will find engagement much improved.
Nicholas Roi is MD of SilkRoad