Effective communication is at the heart of all successful companies. We need to be able to communicate with our colleagues, stakeholders and clients in order to do our jobs to the best of our abilities. A global company encounters many challenges that prevent effective communication to occur amongst their employees. A communication strategy must incorporate action plans to tackle the everyday challenges encountered including cultures and languages barriers in order to be impactful. By creating clear communication guidelines, colleagues can understand how to lead effective meetings, avoid misunderstandings and misperceptions and create an actionable plan.
Effective communication is essential in a global corporation. Employees must communicate in a daily basis with the colleagues, management and clients in order to excel at their positions. There are numerous methods of communication such as email, phone, instant messaging tools, and others that technology has enabled. The new tools have made a huge impact in global communication, to a certain degree aiding to close the distance between colleagues. Nonetheless, communication can always continue to improve. One must be constantly collecting feedback on current strategies, improving when needed and researching new tools as well. This business proposal will cover our current communication strategies and some proposed improvements.
Our Current Project Management Communication Strategies
As an international company with over 43,000 employees, we have established multiple communications strategies with various tools. In general, we utilize both formal and informal channels to communicate with our colleagues globally. Our main goal is to establish methods that successful enable teams to collaborate and communicate in an effective way. Below a list of both formal and informal communication tools currently used at our company:
- Internal platforms and tools
- Phone and conferences
- Internal news platform
- Microsoft 365 tools (Yammer, Sharepoint)
- External platforms for meetings (Gotomeeting)
Overall, I believe we have very good tools in place however, we are still experiencing challenges in cross-culture communication.
Other Project Management Communication Strategies
Global companies experience difficulties with effective communications, as there are numerous factors involved. When developing a global communication plan, we should research and include barriers that are often encountered. As CommLab India highlights, some of the barriers encountered in global communication include:
- Physical barriers: This refers to the distance between the colleagues communicating (i.e. USA and Germany)
- Cultural barriers: This describes different attitudes associated to society.
- Emotional barriers: This refers to the disadvantages of limited personal interactions (i.e. uncertainty)
- Language barriers: This refers to miscommunication due to language.
- Perception barriers: This goes along with how the message is received and can be misinterpreted.
Improved Project Management Communication Strategies
As our challenges mostly lie on cross-cultural communication, I propose the following communication strategies to improve on this aspect:
- Create and implement guidelines for “successful meetings”
- Assign a feedback representative
- Courses on Emotional Intelligence and Cultural Awareness
Create and implement guidelines for successful meetings: We can all agree meetings are great as there is a space to communicate in real time, mostly done via phone/video conference or in-person. All these aspects create an environment for effective communication however, when some crucial items are missing, the meeting looses its effectiveness.
These might take some time to develop as we need to collect feedback from all countries, however, it will impact the effectiveness of meetings dramatically.
Feedback representative: By assigning a colleague to constantly collect feedback on what is working and what could be improved in terms of communication, will add valuable insights. If a platform is not working with our Asian colleagues, the representative will collect data and will escalate it to the appropriate management to take action. In addition, the representative will be up-to-date with new technology suggested by colleagues and can bringing it up to the correct individuals to implement change.
This might be a challenging role as different cultures might lean towards different communication methods and might have country restrictions however, once an optimal platform and feedback process is establish it will improve the way we view communication at our company.
Emotional intelligence and cultural awareness: Being culturally aware and increasing emotional intelligence will not only improve communication, but also personal awareness of each individual and their ability to truly understand their colleagues. These classes will be impactful to all teams and the company as a whole in the long-term. In addition to communication, these skills can be used when dealing with clients and in personal lives as well.
This might take some time to research for the best courses for emotional intelligence and cultural awareness. In addition, this can be considered a large investment, training might be time-consuming and our colleagues might be apprehensive towards change.
In the short-term and for immediate results, the best option is to create and implement guidelines for successful meetings. As mentioned above, meetings can be truly beneficial however, if not followed up correctly, they might be considered a waste of time. In my experience, some reasons that make meetings unsuccessful include:
- Colleagues not paying attention or disinterested
- Meeting does not follow agenda and seems disorganized
- There are too many meetings to discuss the same topic
- There is no record of meeting, items discussed or follow-up items
By creating and enforcing guidelines that tackle these challenges as well as some barriers we have been encountering as a global organization, meetings and communication will become much more productive.
Some proposed guidelines to enable successful meetings and aid communication include:
- Provide an agenda and documents beforehand. This will set the tone and expectations for the meeting and reduce perception challenges. Furthermore, this will aid colleagues in their understanding of the topic as well as increasing collaboration and feedback in the meeting.
- Complement the meeting with visuals such as a presentation or bullet points. This will avoid uncertainty, misperceptions or misunderstanding due to language barriers. In addition, it will aid participants to follow along and increase their engagement.
- Use interactive tools for the meeting. Try to organize in-person interviews as much as possible to increase trust and reduce physical and emotional barriers. However, if this is not possible, videoconference or interactive tools such as Skype for business are preferred.
- Research your audience. It is always a good idea to research your audience, are you speaking to peers or management? Are all native-English speakers? These questions might aid you in the selection of the content, words and interaction for the meeting.
- Following-up with items discussed and actionable items. In my opinion, this is one of the most important guidelines as it records that the meeting occurred, who attended and what was discussed. In addition, this will state items to be followed up and who is responsible for these items, adding accountability.
Conclusion and Recommendation
As discussed in this proposal, global companies experience numerous barriers that prevent effective communication from occurring between teams. The first approach should be to analyze all barriers and how they affect teams. Furthermore, once these are analyzed, they should be addresses and tackled in the communication strategy. The best solution selected was to create and implement guidelines for successful meetings. This solution is a short-term solution with a large impact as meetings occur everyday. By improving communication, collaboration and follow-up for meetings, we will be able to solve one barrier in effective communication. By no means, is this the only solution, however, this can be the first step towards a better communication culture at our global company.
- Zaineb, A. (2016, February 26). Barriers to Effective Communication in an Organization and Overcoming It | eLearning Blogs. Retrieved September 10, 2018, from https://blog.commlabindia.com/elearning-design/barriers-to-communication
- Iliff, R. (2016, August 12). Best Practices for Effective Internal Communications. Retrieved September 10, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2016/08/12/best-practices-for-effective-internal-communications/#1d3341ce7292