Like everything over the past year, communication has not escaped the change in pace. Like all disciplines across an organisation, we have fatigued communication professionals who, like their HR peers, have been consumed and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of legislation and documentation that had to be digested and disseminated across the business.
Any strategies, plans, or tactics that were being explored, mooted or discussed in 2019 were forgotten about or suddenly catapulted into action at a frightening speed.
However, I think this is a good thing, for two reasons.
Firstly, the pandemic along with its colossal challenges has provided leaders with the opportunity to reflect and grow. Reflect by using the gift of time to slow down and grow through adapting and embracing new working practices.
Secondly, and from a communication perspective, Internal Communication has finally got a seat and a voice at the table.
As a communication professional, convincing a leadership team of the return in investment with regards to internal communication has always come with its challenges. My hope going forward is that the benefits seen over the last few months of open, honest, regular, and clear communications will play a key role in employee engagement going forward.
However, I do appreciate this is not the case across all businesses, and challenges still exist.
At a time when we are socially disconnected, this should provide the incentive to stay connected.
Now, more than ever, we need to share our sense of identity and purpose, to provide security during these turbulent times.
Employees will continue to ask themselves “what is important to me?”, “what does this mean for me?” and most importantly, “how will this impact me?”.
Organisations must continue to provide stability through uncertainty by reinforcing core values, policies, and practices to give that shared sense of purpose and security, as well as clarity of direction, so the workforce thrives.
Communication has a huge impact on an organisation. It sits at the heart of all employee experiences. What we do and how we say it will influence productivity.
What we can also do, or as a future investment head towards, is complement our traditional methods of communication with a more empathetic, authentic, and vulnerable rhetoric from our leaders.
Share what we know, what we don’t know, and what the future may or may not look like, even if we are not certain at this time. Be honest. Share the good, the bad and the ugly.
People can handle unpleasant news when they are engaged with current and accurate information, this builds trust. Sensitivities come when words and actions are misaligned.
If we look at the Government communications during the pandemic, there has been a distinct lack of alignment and integration between the four UK nations. We cannot therefore be surprised at the confusion caused through complex messaging, different slogans, timelines and approaches, ultimately leading to disengagement and in some cases lack of trust and integrity. This is no different to organisational communications.
Keep reviewing your communication strategy, keep being proactive, keep asking your employees about what they would like to see and hear, and how they would like to receive information. Keep checking in with staff to drive positive change.
Actions we should consider going forward:
- Invest in the employee experience. What support can we give our workforce, now and in the future, whether it is employee wellbeing, financial wellbeing, or physical, emotional and mental health support?
- Encourage our leaders and managers to be role models. Invest in good practice, provide support, reinforce a sense of belonging and purpose.
- Build trust. If you say you are going to do something, do it. Trust is essential for employee engagement, wellbeing, and collaboration.
- Conversations. Keep having them!
We all have our own stories and challenges, be kind to yourself and one another. We do not know what is going on behind closed doors, even with the camera on!