The pandemic has disrupted businesses and workplaces all over the world. While some companies used to offer flexible work arrangements once in a while before COVID-19, most businesses have asked their employees to start working from home full time last March.
The sudden shift to remote work has encouraged IC practitioners to drastically rethink the way they connect and engage employees.
The thing is, the equation became complex. Much more complex.
📚Download our eBook "10 Principles of Modern Employee Communications" and learn how to communicate with the modern employee in today's digital age.
The sudden shift to remote work has disrupted our work habits
While IC teams used to connect employees working at the company's offices, they suddenly had to deal with hundreds if not thousands of different workplaces — basically, employees’ homes.
But did employees feel supported during these unprecedented times? Were they able to complete all their tasks remotely? And what about employees who worked from home with kids, did they get all the support they needed to be successful in their job?
Dealing with an extremely dispersed workforce doesn’t come easy. And most IC practitioners were not prepared for this scenario. Actually, no one was.
Internal communicators teamed up with HR and Change Management teams to find the right mix of strategies and tools to keep businesses running as smoothly as possible in these times of sudden change.
And the challenge was high:
- How to reach an extremely dispersed workforce in a timely manner?
- How to make sure all employees are able to keep up with the company news?
- How to ensure that employees are working towards the same goals?
- How to monitor and instantly share with employees COVID-19- updates from Governments and other local authorities?
- How to help employees spot real and fake news?
- How to effectively communicate safety guidelines to employees during the lockdown?
- How to ensure a smooth transition back to the office?
- How to help employees change their work habits again?
Not only did COVID-19 change the communication channels used in the workplace, but it also changed the type of conversations (top-down vs. two-way conversations), content and messages being shared with employees.
IC teams had to go one step further by rethinking the way they target their audiences to make sure that each individual gets the information they need when they need it.
The pandemic has completely redefined the employee communications landscape and IC experts did an amazing job at adapting to unprecedented changes in no time and deploying new strategies to help their companies survive this crisis.
Now, the question is what’s next?
IC practitioners’ job is not done yet. It’s actually far from being done. Now that they have helped their business navigate the crisis, they’ll need to build new strategies to engage with employees in the post-COVID-19 workplace.
Indeed, things won’t be the same after the pandemic and only agile IC teams will manage to build successful employee communications strategies post COVID-19.
Can we go back to “normal”?
This question drives a lot of debates these days. But most experts seem to agree that the changes happening right now in the workplace are here to stay. As you might have guessed, one of these changes is the shift to remote work.
You've probably heard in the past few weeks that “remote work is the new normal” as most businesses have asked their employees to work from home during the pandemic to keep them safe.
But the thing is, many businesses are planning to give their employees the option to keep working remotely after the pandemic. Change experts are now talking about the work-from-home revolution.
Companies that are leading this revolution mainly include high-tech companies. Some of them will let their employees work remotely for several years — Zuckerberg announced that half of the employees are expected to work from home over the next five to ten years — while others go the extra mile as they are planning to let a part of their workforce work from home permanently.
Indeed, a Gartner survey revealed that 74% of the surveyed companies plan to permanently shift to more remote work post-COVID-19.
Whether businesses will let a part of or their entire workforce work from home part-time or permanently, they’ll have to adapt their employee communications strategies to this new way of working. But how to get there?
5 Employee Communications Tips to Keep Your Workforce Engaged in a Post-COVID-19 World
There’s obviously no single approach in handling employee communications post COVID-19.
The strategy you’re about to define depends on many different factors such as your company’s corporate structure, culture, industry, size, and obviously, the teams that are involved in the process.
For example, a corporation with IC, HR, Change Management and Crisis Communication teams won’t manage the situation the same way a mid-size enterprise without Change Management and Crisis Communication teams would do.
However, there are some employee communications tips that can help you engage your remote employees no matter what your industry is and those include:
1. Use the communication channels that are right for your employees
As mentioned earlier, IC practitioners will have to engage geographically dispersed teams as businesses are planning to let a part of or their entire workforce work from home.
So, how do you engage your entire workforce when some of the employees are returning to the office while others are working remotely? And what about your employees who haven’t worked from home during COVID-19 because their jobs couldn’t be done remotely (i.e., your frontline employees)?
Essentially, IC experts will have to deal with thousands of different workplaces and that doesn’t come easy!
To make it work, one of the first things you’ll need to do is to re-evaluate the channels you’re using for your employee communications. With such a dispersed workforce, emailing your employees or having video calls with them won’t be enough to connect and engage your teams!
As your legal teams are probably already working on more flexible working arrangements, you’ll need to make your employee communication more flexible too. And that means using the communication channels that your employees feel most comfortable with.
While some of them prefer to use a desktop app, others may prefer to get all the important information and updates on their mobile devices. The same goes for the type of content you’re sharing with your employees: while some of them prefer to read short newsletters, others may prefer to watch videos or listen to a podcast where you share the latest company news.
2. Personalize your messages
One-size-fits-it-all doesn’t work when it comes to communicating with dispersed workforces. And let’s be honest: it doesn’t work at all! Sending out generic newsletters to your employees won’t help you engage them!
Think about it: some of your employees are dealing with hundreds of emails every day and actually, 62% of these emails are not important.
Unsurprisingly, your employees can quickly feel overwhelmed with so much (and sometimes irrelevant) information. All the changes your employees are going through these days doesn’t make the situation any better!
If you want to catch your employees’ attention and improve the way they engage with your content, the golden rule here is to tailor your messages to their specific needs, interests, location as well as the language(s) they speak.
In fact, even though English is recognized as an official language in 60+ countries, that doesn’t mean that all your employees want to consume your content in this language. I bet that some of your employees are attached to their mother tongue and if you don’t want them to ignore your messages, start writing it in their languages!
To make sure that your employees get in their news feed content that is tied with their interests, role in the company and the languages they speak, you’re going to need to segment your internal audiences the same way a marketing or communication team would target their audiences when launching a communication or marketing campaign.
As workforces are getting more and more dispersed, you won’t be engaging with one internal audience but several internal audiences. That’s why your content distribution will have a direct impact on how well you’ll manage to engage your employees.
3. Think mobile
Maybe your employee communications aren’t mobile-friendly yet. But it’s not too late to rethink your strategy. As mentioned earlier, IC professionals need to have an agile approach to internal comms in these times of unprecedented change.
You’re probably already dealing with different time zones and communicating with employees who have different working hours and things won’t get any easier once the crisis is over.
With remote work being the new normal, asking your employees to check their Intranet or jump into video calls may not be the best way to engage them and make sure they get the information they need right away. Instead, you may prefer to find a more agile way to reach them by making your employee communications mobile-friendly.
Think about it: we’re all actively using our phones — Americans now check their phones 96 times a day on average — so why make internal communications less enjoyable by asking employees to use channels they don’t engage with that much?
Keep it simple.
Use the channels your employees are used to and enjoy, such as mobile apps. What’s more, it’s one of the best ways to share urgent updates with them thanks to push notifications.
💡 Check out here how the American Medical Association made the shift to mobile-friendly employee communications during COVID-19.
4. Forget about top-down communication. Instead, drive two-way conversations
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in times of rapid change is to have a top-down approach to employee communications.
Think about it: your employees are working from home, they don’t meet with their colleagues and they can’t come to your desk to ask you for any information they may need.
Even though they’re getting used to remote work, they might feel lonely and disconnected from the rest of the team.
Having your team or the CEO share company updates with employees isn’t the best way to help them feel connected and aligned with the rest of the company.
Instead, you need to drive conversations and make your employee communications platform a safe place where your employees can openly share their thoughts, ask questions, give feedback and react to the content you share with them.
When your workforce is geographically dispersed, it’s even more important to adjust your employee communications to make sure your employees can feel supported and listened to.
Setting one-on-one sessions (either calls or video calls) with your employees on a weekly or monthly basis won’t be enough to drive engagement. Instead, you need to make these conversations an integral part of your employee communications.
5. Measure the success of your employee communications
Once the coronavirus crisis will be over, you’ll keep adjusting your employee communications as you’ll be interacting with dispersed teams.
In other words, your IC strategy will be an ongoing process as you’ll probably use the test and learn methodology.
But how can you know whether your employee communication strategy is working if you don’t measure it? How can you know what needs to be kept and what needs to be changed if you can’t identify where the bottlenecks are?
That’s highly challenging, if not impossible.
When it comes to internal communication, you can’t trust your gut, especially in these challenging times. You’ll need to use in-depth analytics to understand how well your strategy is working and what needs to be improved.
Remember, you’re engaging with several internal audiences that don’t have the same characteristics. It goes without saying that it’s most likely that they won’t interact and engage with your content the same way. That’s why you’ll need to measure and analyze the effectiveness of your employee communications for each of your internal audiences.
The pandemic has reshaped the employee communications landscape. The way you connect and engage your employees won’t be the same as before.
As remote work became the new normal, you’re going to communicate with highly dispersed teams and under such circumstances, the one-size-fits-it-all approach to internal communications won’t work!
You’ll need to build an employee communications strategy based on your employees’ needs, interests, roles within the organization, and languages they speak.
Keep in mind that you’ll probably need to rethink and readjust your strategy over time, but with the right tools in place (make sure that your employee communications platform includes the analytics you need), you’ll be on track to truly connect and engage with your employees no matter where they are.
What's next? Download the eBook “10 Principles of Modern Employee Communications” where we share tips & best practices for successfully communicating with your employees in today's digital age.