Ten tips… for communicating globally
I worked abroad for seven years and have been responsible for communicating to audiences across 15 countries in “my time.” Here are my top ten tips for making sure your internal communication efforts don’t get lost in translation!
1. Plan ahead
If you have a clear internal communications plan and strategy you can ensure that you have reviewed and selected the right channels to communicate to different audiences. If you are communicating a message that has not been planned (say in a crisis) you do not have this luxury.
2. One message does not fit all
Remember, we are all different. Your message to the C-suite may be very different to your message to your on the ground workers. Don’t be lazy and issue the same message to all and expect understanding across the company.
3. Use more than one channel
We all like to receive news and communications in different ways. Take a look at your channels. What might be popular for senior management or a specific country may not be as effective for other employees or another country. Using as many communication tools as possible (and appropriate) will heighten the likelihood of understanding.
4. Translate information in numerous languages
It’s important that ensure that your business critical information is translated. Things like your vision, mission, values and so on. This content should be available in a number of languages.
How can employees positively contribute if they don’t understand the company? Employees also don’t feel valued if they can’t understand the overall company strategy and picture.
5. Quality control
Have your translation read, re-read and re-read again by a handful of people. With communication messages you need the meaning of the content to be translated. You do not want a word for word literal/ legal translator. This means you can lose the meaning entirely.
6. Consistency of message
Ensure your messages are consistent across the company – regardless of the country. This avoids conflict of understanding and speculation.
Similarly, as well as sharing group news with the entire organisation, make sure you communicate what’s happening locally to other regions too. This may just be a short bulletin but is a great way to create a “one culture” atmosphere and ensure that certain business units or parts of the company do not feel “in the dark.”
7. Avoid jargon, metaphors and slang
Keep spoken and written language very simple. What may be a well-known metaphor or term in England could be very misunderstood in another country. Simple language, short sentences and clear messages are absolutely key.
8. Define acronyms or specific business terminology
Define business terminology. I’ve introduced A-Zs in a lot of the companies I have worked for. These are available online and printed for those who don’t have access to a digital devise.
Be specific when you make statements so everyone understands the vision. For example: “Our mission is to become the best company in the region.”
- What does region mean?
- What does company mean – in that specific industry, sector etc?
9. Establish feedback and two way communication channels
The only way you can check for understanding is to provide channels and platforms for employees to feedback. Whether this is through face to face workshops and meetings, forums, specific email channels, surveys or lots of other ways – it’s important to ASK what your employees understand.
10. Finally… measurement is key
You need to measure your communication campaigns and programmes to really understand how the communication/ information affects your different audiences. Set targets and ways you will measure in your communication plan. Don’t worry if things aren’t working. That’s what measurement is there for.
Record your measures and findings.
Make sure you provide targets and measurements to your senior leadership team. It’s important to keep feeding back information to the top to ensure communication buy-in and understanding.