We have been hearing quite a few questions around organizing the communications function to support the company’s global business and/or expansion into new and emerging markets. What’s the best way to structure the team? How do we avoid duplication of work and reduce costs? How do we make sure that there is good collaboration and learning in place? At the core of the problem for a global function is the constant tension between consistency and local customization. Structure is only part of the solution: you also need to have the right people with the right skills, and good processes in place to ensure accountability and provide support to communicators in the markets. (Nothing surprising there right?!)
Let’s look at each in more detail…
People: How do we build skills consistently among communicators in various markets, when many of them don’t come from formal Comms training and only have this as part of their job?
First you need to have a common understanding of what’s expected of communicators – pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk has an effectiveness assessment process which I really like because they use it not as an audit (that sounds scary doesn’t it?!) but as a dialogue tool, to get the conversation going between the center and the affiliates on where skill gaps are and how to address them. Check out their Communications Effectiveness Toolkit in full.
Then you need to provide them with communication planning tools, so they learn by doing and feel empowered.
Process: How do we clarify accountability between what is owned centrally vs locally?
I hear this question all the time, and while having a structure in place does help, it is more about having clear processes in place for how to handle any type of issue or activity day to day. Check out the global-local partnership framework to help you guide conversations between the center and affiliates about ownership. Even better, make this part of your strategic planning conversations with the local communicator teams, and map against the framework your key priorities.
Structure: How do I know I have the right structure in place?
There is no perfect answer to this, because your structure will depend on how your business is organized but also on what challenge you are trying to solve for. However, below are 4 tactics that we have seen Communications put in place to improve effectiveness of their teams. Have you tried any of these structures already, and what has been your experience? I’d love to discuss these with you so feel free to get in touch or comment in the field below.
1. Shared Services: while shared services teams have been in place for awhile in other support functions like IT and Finance, these are less common in Communications but are starting to appear as a tactic for reducing duplication of effort and gaining economies of scale.
In a recent discussion on our Employee Communications forum, members discussed the benefits of using a shared service team. 38% of respondents said they have a shared service team but the benefits seemed mixed. One member company uses the shared services team for line of business communications, while other members have found it difficult to benefit from this model.
What has your experience been? Which Comms activities do you think are best suited to this model?
2. Centers of Excellence: these kinds of operational excellence teams are starting to appear more in communications as the business environment has meant that Comms needs to be nimble and innovative to support the organization. Centers of Excellence identify areas for continuous improvement and innovation, they facilitate knowledge sharing and skill building. One type of center of excellence is BBVA’s Innovation in Communication team – tasked with finding and enabling the sharing of innovative ideas.
Do you have such a center of operational excellence in Comms? What does it do? We’d love to hear from you!
3. Project-Based Teams: These are flexible teams that are pulled together on a project basis due to strong project management skills of these communicators. They can be created to execute on a global project or to develop a global process. They help reduce silos, get buy-in at the local level and gain economies of scale. For example, Deloitte created a Global Projects role on the global communications team to enable collaboration and aligned execution of global projects. Amgen put in place an taskforce team to create an issues management handbook, so that local communicators on the project could collaborate and get buy-in into a common process.
What has been your experience with project teams? How do you structure them?
4. Virtual Networks: these are more informal structures that enable collaboration and break down silos a cross the global team. They also help communicators connect with and learn from peers in similar roles across the global function. We have created some Do’s and Don’ts for making these networks more effective.
Would love to hear from you readers on other models you have tried that you have found to work well for your global team or your experiences with any of the four above!
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