Employee Communications in the Covid Age: What To Do, What To Expect

  • August 17, 2020
Women On Computer With Remote Workers

Between Covid-19 and social, economic, and political upheavals, it is clear we are living through a period of rapid change. How organizations manage this change is inseparable from how and what it communicates. In times of transformation and uncertainty, internal communications is even more critical than usual.

While many employers have shifted how they communicate to staff during the pandemic, the questions remain– How will internal communications be changed long-term when the dust has settled? How should it change?

Here’s what some of the experts have to say:

Communicate with Transparency, Consistency, Engagement, and Authenticity

According to PR agency The Jeffrey Group, “communicators are experiencing a paradigm shift, with increased levels of engagement, connectivity, activism and, above all, a higher valuation of transparency when building reputations. In this new “Era of Truth,” consistency and genuine engagement must remain foremost strategies, rather than afterthoughts.” The quote is referring to public communications in general, but most certainly applies to internal communications since employees are crucial in defining your brand and reputation.

They also suggest the following:

  • Acknowledging mistakes and weaknesses: “When we accept our weaknesses and ask for help, audiences tend to value such gestures of humility.”
  • Putting “the real before the aspirational.” This usually coincides with an overemphasis on controlling the message. Too much “spin” or rosy, “alternative facts” can and do backfire, every day. Admit mistakes, acknowledge problems and shortcomings, show an authentic face that reflects the reality that others see while putting forth a vision and plan to make things better.

Gary Grates, Principal at the PR firm W20 Group, quoted by the Institute for Public Relations, suggests cutting the sales pitch: Employees, like other audiences, get turned off by the traditional “salesy” tone, which seems inauthentic. He argues for “discovering” instead of “selling.”

“The classic mistake most management and communicators make today is the belief that they need to ‘sell’ employees on everything – from a new benefits program to the corporate strategy.But people ‘smell the sell’ and turn off to the very thing that is being endorsed,” says Grates. “The right approach is to base communication on a ‘discover’ model − one that allows people to find the answer or truth themselves. In the era of COVID-19, leaders have embraced this new type of thinking and approach.” Grates argues for a more authentic engagement with employees to help achieve this.

Make Employee Wellbeing A Priority and Communicate It

According to internal communications tech firm Smarp employees’ safety and wellbeing will be a top priority long after Covid has come and gone. Employers will need to demonstrate and communicate that employee wellbeing is a primary concern.

Smarp quotes Rotem Slupski, Internal Communications Director at Sheba Medical Center in Israel.

“Internal communication has shifted these days from passing on the organization’s values or updating about current events to building endurance among the teams and to mentally support our employees who live in a time of great uncertainty.

Our main goals and responsibilities in the near future are to reduce the levels of anxiety and uncertainty, to enhance the sense of belonging and — while bearing in mind the intensive work in the healthcare sector — to maintain high morale.”

Laura Edwards, Head of Internal Communications at Marsh Commercial, agrees:

“We’re… heavily focusing on our employees’ wellbeing — it has always been important, but now it’s at the forefront.”

Adapt to the Workplace New Normal

The pandemic has forced many companies to embrace flexible work arrangements and remote work. Experts agree these new work styles will become more the norm.

According to Smarp, organizations will need to assess their technology and internal processes in light of this new reality.

“We’ve always worked with our colleagues in Legal and HR, but a tight interlock with IT is so critical right now to reach the full potential of Internal Comm’s digital transformation,” says Khaner Walker, Director, Global Internal and External Communications at Lenovo, quoted in Smarp.

“At Lenovo, we’re employing a wide variety of platforms and each of them must be safe for each of our employees to use, running smoothly, and easy for us as communicators to work within and update. I firmly believe that working remotely is here to stay, and we’ll only see an increased need for this close collaboration going forward”.

More Tips

Gary Grates in the Institute for Public Relations article proposes that leaders and communicators will need to do the following going forward:

  • Go beyond the traditional internal newsletter and utilize targeted, real-time communications by segmenting employee groups and personalizing messages.
  • Real-time discussion should be favored over asynchronous digital channels like social media, newsletters, or emails.
  • Appreciate that management and communication can no longer be viewed as two separate and distinct functions but as integral parts of the management model.

Though always important, recent events have bolted employee communications to the front burner for companies and organizations. When the current historical moment is behind us, internal communications will need to remain at the top of the leadership priority list.

While employees remain remote they still need consistent training. Launch Online Orientation and Training is an excellent platform where employees can watch personalized custom videos, take quizzes to ensure comprehension and continue to feel connected with the company and it’s values. For more information, go to https://www.comevo.com/