In the week that Boris Johnson announced a blueprint for companies to get staff back into their workplaces, 44’s Jonny Hooke looks at the lessons learnt from the Coronavirus pandemic and how we can harness this knowledge to shape your internal comms in a post-lockdown world.
Businesses around the world are developing plans for how to make their culture work in the era of Coronavirus – and based on lessons learnt, they’re contemplating what their post-pandemic operations will look like.
Lasting impact from lessons learnt
Given the amount of change we’ve all experienced in recent months, it’s clearly not going to be a straightforward process – after all, the pandemic will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on every aspect of people’s lives.
But there are plenty of important lessons from our response to the crisis that we can build on in the future. The pandemic has shown how businesses and employees can adapt when they’re faced with a challenge – whether it’s adjusting to home working or implementing new digital collaboration tools to work more efficiently.
Drawing on the positives
A recent survey by the Institute of Internal Communications (IoIC) found that 90% of respondents believe the crisis will either have a positive or very positive impact on the internal communication profession, thanks to greater visibility of comms, an increase in trust, new collaboration tools and platforms, and more. So what positives can we take from the way we’ve operated during the pandemic and how can we use this in our communications plan looking ahead?
Here are some of our top tips to shape your internal comms and help your team stay connected, engaged and motivated as we look to the future.
1) Avoid communication overload
How many Coronavirus-related comms have you sent out or received in the past few months? The chances are that it’s high – after all, it’s hard to resist the urge to constantly publish updates to your workforce given the constantly evolving nature of the pandemic.
As a leader or manager, your natural instinct is to inform your workforce, but what you may not have considered is that overloading them with too much information can create anxiety and uncertainty.
Less can often be more with internal communications, so make sure you keep things simple. Making sure that your people get the information they need, when they need it and no matter where they are, has been crucial in communicating to your workforce during the pandemic, so why stop now?
Think about the platforms you regularly use too. Email can often seem like a hindrance, especially in an era of real-time communication when people are comfortable using tools like WhatsApp, Slack and LinkedIn, so why not consider instant messaging within your workforce? The more conversational communication style that instant messaging facilitates is exactly the kind of friendly, less formal interaction that keeps employees feeling connected with each other.
2) Be transparent
Transparency should be more than just a policy – it should be a mindset. It’s crucial to your internal communications because it breeds trust, accountability and open, two-way dialogue. Based on the lessons learnt, being transparent in your messaging has never been more important than in recent months.
Coronavirus has presented significant challenges, but with light seemingly at the end of the tunnel, businesses are now thinking about how to navigate through to the ‘other side’. And with that comes huge decisions, such as short-term and long-term planning, the incomings and outgoings of your workforce, and ways to protect the business, to name but a few – all important and often difficult conversations that will need to be communicated to your workforce.
Communicate directly and openly about the challenges the business expects to face, what it’s doing to manage it and how colleagues may be affected. Transparency is strength, even if it means communicating negative news. Don’t downplay potential impacts too – in fact, being forthright helps reinforce the leadership team’s grasp of the situation.
If your team feels that it’s being left in the dark on certain matters, they may be afraid to ask questions and share their thoughts. Your team will appreciate the clear, honest messaging that cuts through the cloud of uncertainty, both now and in the future.
3) Open the lines of communication
As the pace of the crisis has accelerated, it’s been vital for companies to have clear and open lines of communication with its audiences. Gone are the days of top-down, one-way communication and it’s forced some employers to rethink how they communicate to their workforce.
Remember that effective communication is always a two-way process. Make sure you actively encourage feedback from colleagues on anything from business updates to newsletters and daily calls with your team. When you open the lines of communication, colleagues will feel more confident to talk to each other, and it can help build receptive, honest relationships within your teams.
The unprecedented nature of the pandemic has meant that everyone has been affected in some way, and it’s almost certain that this will continue in the coming months. With that in mind, don’t forget that your people are your priority – make sure to provide support for employee welfare through access to employee assistance programmes, along with other mental and physical health guidance.
4) Make video a staple
Coronavirus has forced us all to adapt to new technology to communicate with our colleagues, friends and family. The knock on effect is that people are more comfortable being on camera.
We’d all love to be able to share an important message or announcement with your workforce in person. After all, it’s more impactful because we get to see and hear the person in front of us and make a connection, which gives the message more weight. But with uncertainty around future working practices, will managers get an opportunity to deliver these kinds of messages in person to a group of colleagues?
That’s where video comes in. It allows us to tap into emotions and connect with our audience on an emotional level because we can use multiple senses, especially if they’re feeling disconnected from the rest of the team. It’s possible to do this with words on a page or screen, but video does it better – after all, humans can retain 95% of a video message, but only 10% when reading it in text.
With so much about Coronavirus and its trajectory still uncertain, organisations are still in wait-and-see mode. The crisis has forced many to experiment with new communications tactics and strategies.
It’s important to recognise that while organisations have had to adapt and change their ways of working in recent months – this shouldn’t be considered a temporary move. Retaining some of these new methods of internal outreach can have a positive impact on employee engagement and morale, especially as we navigate through to the ‘new normal’.
Your lessons learnt
If you’d like to find out more, or if you’d like to share your own lessons learnt in recent months, get in touch.