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4 ways to boost global operations in 2015

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Irrespective of how influential or inventive the most successful enterprises are, they nevertheless remain enthusiastic about embracing change and making things better. The status quo may well be effective, but there’s always more to do: you have to keep innovating. With that in mind, we take a look at what we think are four key ways in which businesses can boost their global operations in 2015.

Enhance employee engagement

Start with the people that matter – your employees. A poll carried out in 2013 revealed that the billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson was most people’s idea of the perfect boss, a telling finding given that he is big on employee engagement. You have to reach out to those who work for you and put them first if you really want to succeed.

This is one of the main reasons why he has been able to transform Virgin into a global giant, whose brand is respected all over the world. Of this strategy he has famously said: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

The key is ‘to do more’ and ‘be more’. The usual still applies – such as pension plans, bonuses and concessions (gym membership discounts, for example) – but in addition, nurturing career development through continuous professional development and, critically, ensuring that employee mental and health being is considered is vital.

Employees, after all, expect more. According to Deloitte’s recent study Global Human Capital Trends, “the 21st-century workforce is global, highly connected, technology-savvy, and demanding”.

Executives looking to retain talent, as well as hire new blood, would be advised to boost employee engagement and make it an agenda item. Note, what is desirable in one country, may not even be a consideration of workers in another. There has to be some element of personalisation.

Unifying communications

While tailoring employee benefits is advocated, it is vital for organisations to have consistent approaches to work, irrespective of where satellite bases may be located, nationally or internationally. You want, for example, to be able to move freely from one hub to another with minimum disruption to your workflow. Technology offers solutions to that.

A lot of the conversation about how to modernise operations is shifting, in part, to unified communications (UC). It was focused on big data, which for a long time now has been cited by many as the main driver of innovation, the next frontier for competition and productivity. However, interest in UC is more immediate and over the last few years its value has come to be understood better.

Gartner describes it as the means in which an organisation, through technology, “facilitates the interactive use of multiple enterprise communication methods”. In short, it does away with silos and instead streamlines operations. So, for example, you can move between the cloud, email, video and voice – as well as devices like smartphones, tablets and computers – through a single entry point.

It makes for an attractive proposition because it reduces the level of complexity, the lack of transparency and the disparate nature of operations in organisations, allowing employees to move seamlessly from one device to another, all the while being able to access the relevant communication tool (such as email, social media an instant messaging).

In short, UC is a smarter, more efficient and cost-effective way of working that embraces various forms of communication, work styles and technology and repurposes it as a single, ‘unified’ and dynamic body across borders and time zones.

It has real leverage, as research carried out by Orange in 2013 noted. It found, for example that UC in the cloud improves “business agility”, reduces management overheads and delivers time savings of up to 20 minutes a day, per employee.

Reinventing the workplace

With many organisations embracing flexible working and positioning their operations more on an international basis – more of this later – the traditional idea of the workplace is becoming increasingly redundant. The office is no longer the prevailing environment for working, nor is the desk the only accepted base from which to do work.

More people than ever before are able to work away from the office and away from the desk. Creative executives appreciate the virtue of allowing people to work at home, on the move and in other spaces (like a library or cafe), while also acknowledging, through wireless headsets and breakout rooms, how important it is to not have people stuck in one spot.

Again, technology, as realised through UC, makes this creative approach to work effortless and relevant – with dispersed workforces increasingly the norm and stakeholders operating all over the world, being able to collaborate and engage with people in different settings is vital for success.

Everyone wins – workers feel empowered, more motivated; clients benefit from better customer service and businesses achieve on all their objectives. This is a global trend, with a 2011 report from Regus stating that “flexible working trends are now mainstream across the world”.

Widening your reach

With a more open approach to work becoming the norm across the world, doors previously closed to many organisations are beginning to open up. This is especially true of orientating businesses to be more international, and, as the 2014 Business Growth survey by Santander showed, double the number of SMEs are looking to expand overseas.

Having a global presence, after all, is synonymous with success and being the best-in-class. This is a fact that is certainly true for some of the world’s most reputable companies, which are known and respected the world over.

There is a keen difference today though, as there is more of an imperative to widen your reach in the formative, early stages of your business and 2015 is no different. It used to be the case that you would start small, think big. Nowadays, its start small but ‘be’ big. It also plays back into employee engagement – it’s an attractive proposition to know that there is a very real possibility of working overseas, even if it is not necessarily permanent.

It requires some serious consideration though, as reshaping your business to cater for new, international audiences can be a complicated endeavour. There are cultural differences to be aware of, idiosyncrasies in language to avoid and legal matters to deliberate over. As Nimble says: don’t let your business get lost in translation: do the preparartion beforehand.

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