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WHERE IC PROFESSIONALS COME TO TALK

A CHANGING LANDSCAPE

Through all the uncertainty felt in 2020 so far, one thing has become clear: the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the world of work will continue to be felt long after the virus has eased. As the new normal comes into view, internal communication has the chance to further elevate its position and influence how organisations operate moving forward.

27th May 2020

Think about the experiences that colleagues have been through and the journey they’re about to go on. The office environment won’t be the same as when we left.

JULIA LAMPAM, WILEY

Forced into finding alternative and effective ways to stay connected to employees grappling with a new way of working, IC practitioners have seen their workload increase almost overnight.

During the Covid-19 crisis, round-the-clock comms has been essential to employee wellbeing – covering health protocols; support and guidance; and company news and updates – as organisations looked to quell the spread of fear and panic.  

Despite the challenges, internal communicators believe the situation has brought about a number of benefits – and not just for their organisations. A survey by IoIC during the early weeks of lockdown in the UK revealed that, of almost 500 IC practitioners surveyed, 90 per cent felt their response to Covid-19 would have a “very positive” or “positive” impact on the profession.

Furthermore, internal communicators claim their comms is having a positive influence on employee trust – both in communication (86 per cent) and leadership (76 per cent).

There are a number of possible reasons why employee trust has increased in organisations, a key one of which is likely to be the visibility and openness of leadership. Employees want to see that leaders are in control, but they also want to know they will be told the truth – even when it’s scary.

Hearing from leaders, in an authentic way, is essential for good crisis management, but it shouldn’t just be reserved for challenging times. If not already in place, embed transparency and authenticity into your organisation’s tone of voice to maintain the trust that you build up over this period.

Seeing organisations prioritise employee wellbeing while under such immense pressure is also likely to boost trust. An easy way to do this is to keep communication open at all times, ensuring employees always feel connected and their concerns are heard.

Caitlin Kirwan, internal communications manager at PayPal, says: “I think the increase in trust that internal comms has seen is in part due to a general shift away from campaign-type comms, towards more of an open dialogue to help keep our people informed and engaged.”


A smooth transition

Planning for what is likely to be a staged return to the workplace is important, as organisations consider how they keep their employees safe.

Becky Handy, communications manager at Allegis Group, says: “Think about what a return to the workplace looks like for your organisation with social distancing in mind. Pull together comms packs for leaders to articulate the necessary guidelines around this, and information on things such as travelling.

“Also consider what your longer-term working-from-home policy will look like, and have a position on what to do if someone doesn’t want to come into the workplace.”

Find ways to alleviate employees’ concerns about returning to the workplace. It should be an important part of internal communicators’ comms plans.

Kerry-Ann Betton Stimpson, chief marketing officer of The JMMB Group, says: “Internal communicators need to prepare a strategy to assess the mindset of employees, post-Covid-19. This crisis has likely impacted them on so many different levels, so any effective IC plan must be informed by these feelings, to then influence the response.”

Julia Lampam, corporate communications associate director at Wiley, agrees: “Think about the experiences that colleagues have been through and the journey they’re about to go on. The office environment won’t be the same as when we left – so besides the obvious etiquette and guidance, think about the change in mindset and how we all need to behave towards each other.”

Some organisations will be welcoming back employees who have been furloughed, alongside those who continued to work. The disparities in people’s workloads and personal experiences during this challenging period may allow negative feelings to creep in, so work harder to foster an inclusive working environment, and be sensitive to and mindful of underlying tensions and conflict.

Remember to thank all employees equally, being clear the organisation was only able to achieve what it did thanks to everyone’s joint efforts, and don’t place more importance on any single role.


Lessons learned

Employees may return to the offices and ways of working they knew pre-Covid-19, but it’s likely that organisational culture and comms will have changed.

Reflect on what worked well during the pandemic response, and what didn’t, and consider how you can incorporate the lessons learned into your approach moving forward.  

Adam Nagy, internal communications adviser and blogger at komm365.hu, sees a continuity of the attitudes displayed during the Covid-19 response as essential if organisations want to see out the rest of the year as best they can. “I believe the workplace culture’s buzzword for the year will be ‘flexibility’,” he says. “And for comms, it will hopefully be ‘transparency’.  

“The upcoming months will still be full of uncertainty, questions and unprecedented situations that can only be handled via honest, clear comms.”

Lara Donovan, senior communications manager at Novartis, adds: “Simplicity, consistency and clarity will never go out of style and, with the return to ‘normal’, this will go a long way in helping people feel a sense of security and certainty.”

Organisations and employees should be open to some of the changes that have come about, particularly in regard to the way we interact with one another. “What may change, for the better, is people’s willingness to be open and personal in professional relationships,” says Lara.  

Julia Atwater, head of communicationsfor Business & Platform Solutions UK&I at Atos, agrees, adding: “I think we will maintain the humanity and empathy we have seen in recent weeks. We recognise more than ever that we are all unique human beings with unique experiences, and that we all have things going on at home.”

With so much change, IC has the opportunity to showcase its adaptability and resilience, and help organisations to not only survive, but thrive, in the months to come.

Melanie Wheeler, head of internal communication and engagement at Sutherland, reflects: “If you think of work as something you do, rather than somewhere you go, then that might give you a different perspective to consider.“Work has changed, and this is a great opportunity for IC to demonstrate value. Don’t waste it!”

Think about the experiences that colleagues have been through and the journey they’re about to go on. The office environment won’t be the same as when we left.

JULIA LAMPAM, WILEY

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