Working at a large agency with offices spanning the globe, I spend more time with voices on the phone and faceless emails than I do with the people around me. I recently had the opportunity to participate in an employee exchange program (EXP) where I was sent to work with my peers at another office location. The trip helped bridge the long distance gap and put faces to the long list of names of people I communicate with daily.
Part of my role is to understand how morale and communication effects efficiency. The EXP is truly an innovative idea that helps solve for some of these issues as our company grows larger. The program gives our people an opportunity to network with team members in a uniquely effective way. Having the opportunity to work in another office gave me the opportunity to learn more about their group’s dynamic, which in turn helped improve the way I will communicate with them in the future. In return, the team feels like they have an ally at home base who is looking out for their interests, as well.
In my short four-day trip, I learned more about my co-workers in New York than I had after two years of working with them remotely. In addition to juicy gossip, I gained an understanding of their communication and leadership styles. Trying to learn a personality when you’ve only ever communicated by email is challenging. Without voice inflection, emails are constantly misinterpreted and unfounded animosity can flourish. Now with a face next to those names, I find myself working harder to better meet their needs. Thanks to this opportunity I have a more keen understanding of the ways that my teammates prefer to communicate. I know when it’s more beneficial to pick up the phone, and when they prefer to have a paper trail to keep up with longer discussions.
As companies continue to grow larger and spread out across the globe, more innovation around culture and morale will be crucial. With increasing difficulties in working environments, such as the open office floor plan, many companies will need to find a system to help their employees cope with their new situations. For us, the EXP is just a small step and a way to help triage more severe communication needs. In addition, we’re looking at ways to more effectively share documents across our multiple offices, and ways to reduce email by implementing chat platforms. We do all of this with the focus of always putting people first, believing that great work will follow. In order to do this, we create an environment where we encourage suggestions for improvements. Often the best solutions come from those who deal with the issues on a daily basis.
In an increasingly digital world, we have to keep an eye on the human element. For large global companies, it’s easy to turn into a machine, quell questions, and enforce redundant policies. It helps to take a step back from time to time to understand how policies affect the group as a whole, as well as how they impact each individual. Without having a face to vent those needs to, innovation is staunched and growth cannot occur. Never be afraid to answer the hard questions; the times when you can’t give a solid answer can help adjust the focus.