help manager communicate with a remote workforce

What makes communicating with a fully (or partially) remote workforce different? You’ve got the opportunity to switch things up.

In the past, many of my clients accepted the status quo. They’d say:

  • “I inherited this project, so I didn’t think I could change it.”
  • “This is the way we’ve always done it.”
  • “Our leaders won’t agree to that.”
  • “That will take too much time and money.”

But the past year’s challenges have forced us to think differently. We’ve had the chance to try new ways to engage remote employees like:

  • Investing in digital and social tools
  • Hosting virtual gatherings with employees who never met before
  • Asking for feedback more often
  • Piloting new programs

And now you can apply all you’ve learned when communicating performance management changes. So take this opportunity to try new communication approaches and develop a plan that sets up all employees and managers for success. Here are five things to try:

1. Get employees involved early: Facilitate virtual focus groups to gather thoughts from across the organization, test understanding and develop ideas for introducing performance management changes to the full workforce. Your employees are your greatest asset to figuring out how to ensure the process works. They will have new, fresh ideas to switch things up and get everyone on board.

2. Host a soft launch: Introduce the change to a small pilot group before the official launch. The group will:

  • Provide feedback on preliminary resources like guides and training materials
  • Flag challenges and opportunities for improvement
  • Share questions that you can develop into a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document
  • Identify potential champions (more on that in number 4)

3. Gather managers from different areas for training: This is your chance to get people together that you may not have been able to before. Host virtual training sessions and invite managers from different departments and locations. Managers will learn about the change together and will have an opportunity to discuss obstacles and advice with colleagues they wouldn’t normally communicate with. It will create comradery, as well as shared knowledge.

4. Recruit virtual champions: Champions will help build knowledge, answer questions, and become super users. They can utilize your internal social media (e.g., Yammer, Workplace by Facebook, Jive) tools to build engagement with the new performance management change by getting conversations going. Topics can focus on what’s working well and what employees need help with. Champions can also post reminders and tips during important milestones.

5. Ask for feedback in stages: Start small—get a quick pulse check on how things are going with a poll. This could be on your internal social media or through a survey tool. If results show that employees are having trouble, run a larger survey or focus groups to identify where the pain points are. Doing this gives you a chance to measure how well your communication plan is working and helps you identify if adjustments are needed.

Whatever change you face next, I challenge you to try something new!

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