While no one expected or wanted the pandemic, it’s given us all – leaders, HR professionals and communicators – an unprecedented opportunity to learn and examine what works and what we should continue in the future.
As you reflect on progress made, here are a few True/False statements to consider, along with some insights on trends we’re seeing from our work with clients and conversations with communications colleagues.
Reflect on Communications in Your Organization
TRUE or FALSE? We’ve changed the way we communicate inside my organization.
If you answered true, you’re not alone.
A recent global survey from Boston Consulting Group, across a variety of industries, found that 73% of companies have made or plan to make a change in their marketing/communication plans given the crisis and in anticipation of rebound.
While the pandemic is by no means ideal, it’s given us an unexpected opportunity to learn and examine what works and what’s needed for the long-term.
TRUE or FALSE? My organization is communicating in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible before this year.
Communicators and leaders have stepped into their roles during the COVID-19 crisis in new ways. Why weren’t we communicating in ways that were targeted and focused before? Perhaps it was because:
- Multiple priorities with no clear focus: The pandemic put everyone on the same page about the topic we should be discussing.
- Competing agendas and stories: In so many companies, communication is competitive with different leaders and groups vying for attention, so employees have to sort for themselves the relative importance of an employee success story vs. a philanthropy campaign vs. corporate earnings. While some level of “audience-curated” experience is desirable, it more often results in too much noise and employees who tune out.
- “No time for face-to-face or listening”: It’s ironic that many leaders who didn’t have time in the past to hold a face-to-face meeting were front and center on video platforms when that was the only option. In the same breath, when surveys seemed too complicated or challenging to deploy, we seized the opportunity to learn quickly how people felt and reacted to create a true dialogue.
McKinsey recently stated that the world leapfrogged ahead in digital adoption by five to 10 years in the first few months of the pandemic. Organizations – and their leaders and employees – had to get on board or face obsolescence.
TRUE or FALSE? We now have a backlog of topics we need to talk about.
If you’re like other communicators, you probably answered true. We’ve heard from many in Internal Communications a real concern is that people will fall back to familiar practices to resume “normal practices.” That would be fine, if those practices are serving the company – but what if they weren’t?
Take, for example, the common problem of too many messages. During the heart of the pandemic, messages were clear and focused. There’s concern that messages that aren’t “essential” will resurface and start to permeate the organization, creating unnecessary clutter or distraction.
What’s behind this? Maybe it’s that:
- People assume employees have adjusted to the current state of working and can take on more “nice to have” topics rather than just “need to have.”
- There is “organizational amnesia” about how much noise and clutter there was trying to reach employees.
- Communicators could fend off ancillary topics for only so long before the pressure built and the dam burst.
- Renegade communications are circumventing the established communications process.
- It’s unclear what topics and channels employees did without during the pandemic – and never missed.
- Habit pulls people back to doing things the way they’ve always been done.
TRUE or FALSE? I feel empowered by this time of change to re-imagine how we communicate.
Hopefully you answered true to this because the time is now. There’s never been a better time to be in the communications profession, and specifically in internal communications. Don’t lose this opportunity!
We’ve seen the clients we work with make significant strides in how they communicate, because they had to. And it’s showing in how they’re weathering the storm. Through partnership and dialogue with their people, companies are breaking down artificial barriers, remaining productive, and in some cases, being as successful as they were before, if not even better.
We don’t want the companies and communicators that have done so much good to lose momentum and miss their moment. Keep an eye out for those who are returning to their older habits. If you see leaders stopping their “in person” Q&As or becoming less available, or if you see the “news” is becoming less focused on safety and expanding to a broad array of topics, your organization may be at risk for this.
How are you applying the communications lessons of this year into your communications plan for the future?—David Grossman
As you continue to reflect on your organization’s communications during the pandemic, consider taking this 3-step approach to Reboot your Communications Plan for the Future.