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5 Communication Challenges of Multi-Site Businesses

Internal communication challenges in multi-site businesses
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Today, work doesn’t happen under one roof—and that’s especially true for multi-site businesses. These types of companies have locations and employees scattered across different regions, time zones, and sometimes even languages.

That’s a positive thing, as it means the business can have a more active presence across the country or the globe. But, it can also present some major hurdles.

One of the biggest challenges? Communication. 

When a business has a web of different locations, it’s tough to keep everybody on the same page. Here are five of the biggest communication sticking points that multi-site businesses run into, as well as some advice to deal with them effectively. 

1. Consistency is difficult to maintain 

Particularly in customer-facing industries, consistency is crucial. In fact, research from Forrester shows that customers have come to expect the exact same experience every time they interact with a company. 

It’s frustrating for them to get different answers and have vastly different interactions at various business locations and can even lead to a lack of trust in your business.  

But, while consistency might seem like a basic building block of effective communication, it’s a huge struggle for multi-site businesses. They need to not only ensure that important messages and updates get delivered to all of their locations and employees, but also that the message is understood and relayed to customers in a cohesive and accurate way. 

Quick tips to ensure consistency: 

  • Start a company-wide intranet or knowledge base. This simple newsfeed will deliver must-have messages to all of your employees in a centralized place that they can continue to refer back to—without a ton of duplicate work required from you.
  • Create policies or procedures (and store them somewhere accessible, like your knowledge base) so that everybody knows how to respond in different common scenarios. 

2. Approvals and decisions are slow

In an effort to boost consistency, you’ve probably instituted various workflows and approval processes that all of your business sites need to move through. For example, if one local office or branch wants to post something on their location-specific social media account, they need to run it up the flagpole and get approval on that content before sharing it.

These types of processes help leadership keep their finger on the pulse of what’s being promoted and communicated. But here’s the downside: It’s slow. Sometimes painfully slow. 

Those types of approvals can take forever. Not only does your business miss out on potential opportunities, but these bottlenecks frustrate all of your employees who feel powerless to actually get anything done. 

Quick tips to speed up decisions: 

  • Use a platform that allows for co-publishing and co-creation of assets. Business sites can work together with company leadership, which saves work and streamlines approvals.
  • Establish clear roles and responsibilities and share them in an organizational chart. Employees should know exactly who has final say and sign-off on decisions and suggestions. 

3. Employees feel anonymous and disconnected 

Studies show that loneliness at work is a problem for many employees, and it’s even harder for your workforce to feel connected to your company and their coworkers when they’re spread out at different locations. 

Those feelings of isolation not only negatively impact morale, productivity, and decision-making, but they also throw a major wrench in your communication processes.

Also read: Social Isolation, Burnout, and Other Risks of Hybrid Work

When employees feel disconnected, they don’t understand how their work fits into the larger picture or who they should bring their concerns, feedback, and ideas too. In fact, one study found that only 13% of surveyed employees actively speak up about important topics at work—despite the fact that 82% of employees have ideas about how to improve their companies. 

Quick tips to increase connection: 

  • Create a member directory so that everybody within your organization can understand who’s who and how they relate to one another.
  • Set up online groups or spaces for colleagues to connect over everything from work-related questions to shared personal interests.
  • Use surveys to frequently collect employee feedback and let them know that their insights and opinions have an impact on the way you do business.

4. Transparency is reduced 

When your company’s leadership team is overseeing dozens if not hundreds of different business sites and locations, it’s increasingly difficult for them to get an insider perspective into what’s really happening and how those businesses are operating. 

That’s another communication pitfall of multi-site businesses: leaders can lose visibility into the inner workings of the business. And, that can lead them to think everything’s running well—despite the fact that employees would disagree.

Research from Atlassian asked both leaders and employees to rate their agreement with different statements, such as “my team has easy access to the information we need” or “my team has the ability to influence how we work together.”

For every single statement, managers consistently rated a higher level of agreement than their employees—proving that leaders can be out-of-touch and overly-optimistic about what’s really happening.

But, this lack of visibility isn’t just bad news for managers. It’s tough for employees too. Without transparency, they don’t have insight into why decisions are being made or how their work contributes to the whole. That’s likely why a whopping 74% of employees say they think they’re missing out on important company information and news

Quick tips to increase transparency: 

  • Use a centralized platform where everybody can understand the work that’s being done and how their work connects to the whole.
  • Host regular all-hands meetings or post company-wide updates so employees understand what’s happening at a broader level. 

5. Information gets siloed or lost

When it comes to companies with numerous different locations, it’s common for those separate sites to act as their own micro-organizations. They come up with their own processes and procedures to work effectively—even if it’s not what’s happening across the larger organization.

Not only does that potentially sabotage consistency (which remember, is critically important for your business and your customers), but it also increases the chance that information stays siloed with that single site. Or worse, it gets completely lost.

Also read: [CIO] Breaking Down Organizational Silos: Summary of the Dynatrace Study

For example, imagine that a customer provided a piece of feedback to a specific location manager that they’ve used to improve their own branch or location. That information could help all of the company’s sites, but if it doesn’t get shared up the chain, others can’t benefit from it.

Communication silos exist in all different types of businesses, but they become especially prevalent in multi-site businesses where each location can run individually. 

Quick tips to knock down communication silos: 

  • Use a collaborative platform that allows everybody across the organization to see what’s happening at different sites.
  • Regularly touch base with various business sites to collect feedback and information about their experiences.
  • Create a shared document or space where various location managers and leaders can connect and offer best practices and advice. 

Also read: Internal Communication: The Breakthrough of Collaborative and Social Tools

Communicate effectively—regardless of business location(s)

It’s tough for a single business location to serve everybody, which is why a multi-site approach is so beneficial. But, having employees spread out across different locations isn’t without its challenges.

Without a doubt, communication is the biggest hurdle. The good news is that it isn’t insurmountable, especially if you have the right tools in your corner.

A collaboration platform like Talkspirit can address all of the communication challenges that multi-site businesses deal with by centralizing and streamlining conversations, enabling positive connections, and boosting collaboration. 

Also read: Improving Internal Communication Across Chain Stores: PUR etc.’s Testimonial

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Author: Kat Boogaard


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