Communicating effectively with your internal and external stakeholders is an important part of successful globalization initiatives. This is important because opinions, if they become negative, can turn into behaviours that threaten to derail an initiative. Positive opinions, on the other hand, can turn into behaviours that contribute substantially to an initiative’s success.
When communicating with internal stakeholders (including all of your organization’s employees, from the C-suite to the frontlines), focus on the goal, path and potential outcomes and follow these five best practices:
Begin your communication early: Start at the onset of your initiative-planning phase. Then, communicate often. Most successful globalizers have periodic briefings about the progress of the initiative as well as ad-hoc proactive communications.
Resist empty communication: When organizations try to communicate, but don’t really end up saying anything concrete, the outcome can be worse than not communicating at all. When you communicate with your employees, you raise their expectation that they will learn about how the globalization initiative will affect their future;don’t let them down. They’ll learn not just about why it’s important to the firm but also the ‘WIFM’ (‘What’s in It for Me’).
Forget persuasion as the primary objective: Your principal goal in communicating potential outcomes to your internal stakeholders is not to bring them over to your way of thinking; it’s to help them understand the importance of the initiative to the company and how they will personally be handled. Instead of trying to persuade your employees, let an “opinion leader” – a leader within the company who’s well respected and trusted – speak of the initiative and its potential outcomes. Trust and open communications is key.
Be honest: Of course, you want to position your globalization initiative in the best light. But resist the temptation to sugar-coat potentially negative outcomes for your employees. Instead, communicate the whole range of possible outcomes – both positive and negative and how you intend to handle it.
Cascade messages: Allow a variety of people to be part of communicating your message to the organization’s internal stakeholders.
The CEO, HR managers, line managers, and business unit heads are all good candidates for the job of communicating with your employees.
No less important than an organization’s internal stakeholders are its external stakeholders. There are two potential problem-points for your company’s external relations: the perception of the general public and the experiences of your customers.
Clearly, managing customers’ experiences is critical to a firm’s success. But managing the perception of the general public is critical as well, as public perception has a lot of power to fuel customers’ buying decisions as well as political pressure on domestic organizations.
In the public realm, globalization, outsourcing and offshoring have once again become four-letter words.
And in the customer sphere, there has recently been some backlash against companies that have globalized services, as some customers have experienced service issues associated with offshore centers (call centers, most notably). Some enterprises have even begun to scale back customer-facing offshore operations as a result of the negative customer feedback. But overall the industry continues to grow.
Yet reining in global services operations is not the only – nor likely the best – answer. If services globalization were better communicated to organizations’ external audiences, they would likely be met with a higher level of acceptance.
That’s E-Loan’s philosophy, and it has paid off well. In early 2004, the online lender launched an offshore outsourcing pilot program for its back-office processes. In keeping with the company’s “honesty is the best policy” stance, the company discloses the details of its offshore program to its customers before they complete their applications,and gives them the option of opting out and instead having their application processed domestically.
According to E-Loan’s Chief Privacy Officer, 87% of the organization’s customers choose the offshore option, for the faster processing it provides. “The results of our program support the idea that when you make the effort to explain the ‘what, where and why’ to consumers, they are comfortable with it.”
Effective communication requires strong commitment from key management and a deliberate, well thought out strategy to address the concerns of internal and external stakeholders. The reward for getting the communication part of the initiative right is that internal and external stakeholders will help propel the initiative forward, rather than conspire to hold it back.