DILEMMA: My ultra-modern company has a 'virtual team' set-up with regional and home-based team members communicating via e-mail and videoconference.
Sounds great, but it is increasingly hard to keep up the 'virtual team spirit' and staff complaints about communications are rising. How should I deal with it?
ISSUES: Whether you are building a brand, trying to upscale your business or are in a market where most of your staff have customer or supplier contact, strong external communications are vital to success. To achieve this in a highly dispersed business you need superb internal communications, and there's a lot more to success in this area than a few gizmos and hip ways of working.
Good internal communications ensure that people know what they're doing and have the information they need to do their jobs. They also help you to differentiate yourself in the war for customers and talent and to beat the socks off the competition.
No matter how strong a communicator you are, you can't do it all on your own. So why not have a team of good communicators doing it themselves?
Look for communication skills when you recruit, wire them in through training, invest in the communications plumbing and lead by example through rewarding and applauding.
Fostering an atmosphere where communications matter is easier if communications are genuinely useful, entertaining where relevant and if there are appropriate channels to deliver messages. A range of channels is required for different purposes: electronic, voice, videoconference and face-to-face. At 3i we have found the most powerful to be our intranet, the 'message of the day' we put on all screens in the morning and regular gatherings of people from across the business, particularly as we extended to three continents and had time zones to deal with. We also find having a communications vigilante useful.
Communications matter, whether you want to build a big business for the future or to sell out. After all, who wants to buy a disparate bunch of nomads?
- Make communications a priority. Invest time and money.
- Get your internal communications plumbing sorted out.
- Build a team of superb communicators.
- Appoint a communications vigilante.
- Use the technology fully but remember the power of face-to-face.
- Do regular surveys to get views and ideas.