Optimizing Communication for Innovation in a Multinational Workforce

Optimizing Communication for Innovation in a Multinational Workforce

This article was updated on July 27, 2018.

With the continued globalization of many marketplaces and industries, communication between employees becomes more and more of a challenge. Cultural understanding and task compartmentalization are realities of the multinational corporation, but communication is still necessary to drive business and spur innovation. As your organization moves to the global stage, consider these tips for optimizing communication for innovation while knocking down potential stumbling blocks.

Tear Down Silos

Your workplace likely depends on a clear and understandable hierarchy. Knowing who is responsible for which areas and to whom an employee can address ideas and concerns are just a few of the reasons that hierarchy exists. But if you mandate that communication pass strictly through that structure, you may lose out on opportunities for innovation.

Instead of siloed communication, HR leaders can enable and empower teams to reach across the lines of both local and international org charts. They can create a business culture that embraces cross-departmental interactions. That may entail appointing personnel in various locations whose job it is to form internal partnerships. An organizationally supported open-door approach to management can ensure that important messages and connections aren't lost.

Just-In-Time Communication

Global organizations may feel hampered by the lack of real-time communication opportunities. After all, it simply isn't reasonable — or practical — to expect employees in Japan to video conference with employees in New York given the time difference. Instead, HR leaders can foster a practice of just-in-time communication.

According to Harvard Business Review, the practice of just-in-time communication can be implemented first by creating practical expectations and guidelines. For instance, while an instant response to a question may not be possible, a response within 12 or 24 hours may work. And while organizations with locations across the globe may not be able to organize daily all-hands discussions, periodic check-ins at prearranged times can be an alternative that achieves similar results.

Online Instead of on the Plane

In years past, executives and innovators may have been expected to spend enormous amounts of time traveling between office locations. Today's tech-connected world makes it far simpler for global teams to connect. Online avenues and social media outlets used internally can create best-practice global communication paradigms, according to the Institute for Public Relations. According to the ADP Research Institute® report, The Evolution of Work: The Changing Nature of the Global Workplace, 88 percent say social media will become the collaboration platform for work.

Making those tools available only gets you so far, though. Your workforce has to embrace them. That's where CHROs and HR leaders have the opportunity to create expectations and related training while fostering a sense of support through all levels of employees. Top-down acceptance and buy-in of those tools sets both the tone and the challenge for employees to reach across boundaries and work together. From shared intranet hangouts to documents that can be compiled by employees separated by both miles and culture, the time has come to really walk the walk of online connections.

Innovating is enough of a challenge without communication blocking its path toward success. For HR leaders, optimizing communication for innovation means removing silos, encouraging just-in-time connections and supporting cross-boundary online interactions. Once you've implemented or emphasized those efforts, your organization will be better poised to continue to perform at the leading edge of its industry.