The increasing decentralisation of workforces is creating new challenges for businesses large and small, with communications and culture issues top of the list.
Rapid business expansion is seeing some firms grapple with how to retain strong communication links between management and frontline staff, or liaise effectively with employees working across different sites.
Adding further to this is the push for workplace flexibility, including changed hours and remote working arrangements.
“[We have] 250 [employees] that operate in five operations across Australia; it is very difficult,” admits Marty Halphen of corporate delivery company The Fruit Box Group in an appearance on the My Business Podcast.
“The culture is very difficult, because first of all we’re spread so far away from Perth, from Brisbane, but also where it’s hard for us is that our operations – they work different hours to our administration staff. It’s very much the risk is being a disconnect[ed] workforce.”
Mr Halphen said this challenge means he spends considerable time exploring ways to ensure strong communication links across and throughout the business is maintained.
“What we try to do is we do newsletters. We really put a lot of effort into our operations teams nationally that are able to communicate a lot of the messages, whether it’s strategy or where the business is going, and keeping everybody engaged,” he said.
“[But] I have to say, it is challenging. It’s not very easy for myself or senior people to hop from one state to the other. One of the privileges we have is that we do have a national business, but the challenge is how do we keep it together and how do we keep everybody united as part of the one team?”
Other businesses though, such as digital development firm reinteractive, thrive on remote working arrangements, not just from the cost-savings of forgoing a central office but an increase in transparency that proactive communication strategies bring about.
“Because we can’t just lean across the table and talk to a staff member – we have to document what we are doing. [But] by being remote, it means we have to document more, which actually makes us more transparent to the customer … and they actually really like that,” the company’s founder Mikel Lindsaar has previously told My Business.
“One of the most common compliments we get from a software development point of view is, ‘You’re so transparent – for the first time we can actually understand what you’re doing!’”
A recent study suggested that majority of employers are proving inflexible on flexible working arrangements, by drafting policies but failing to allow employees to implement them.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.