The cornerstone of the Great Place to Work model is trust, with open and transparent communication crucial in any high-trust relationship. Particularly when a change in circumstances occurs, such as the Covid-19 crisis, a timely and all-inclusive communication strategy is essential to ensuring employee perceptions of leadership credibility remain high. Quality communication at this junction will have a lasting impact on an organisational culture built on trust, a factor which will aid in the formulation of new ideas, new ways of thinking, and a collective spirit in adapting to change, now and in the future.
Drawing on our experience partnering with clients with high volumes of remote workers, and those who have come through transitional periods, we would like to address some common questions posed by organisations at this juncture.
What information is most important to employees?
Address the elephant in the room, as job security is a natural point of concern for many employees. Set the tone by assuring communications related to this will be prompt and transparent when information is available. Employees must be informed of what is occurring within an organisation, and have their questions answered. In the absence of official communications in periods of organisational transition, the rumour mill fills in the blanks. This can lead to perceptions of uncertainty in direction and concerns of job security, resulting in a decreased tendency to present new ideas and difficulty concentrating on work. Information cascading and communication champions will be essential tools to negate such issues.
For many without previous experience working from home, this transition will also bring about a sense of uncertainty in workflow. For those whose roles have changed, it is essential to set clear expectations as to what tasks need to be completed, setting timelines, while demonstrating an understanding that flexibility with deadlines is available should circumstances change. It is through clear communications that this is achieved, removing uncertainty and increasing the odds of high-quality output through a focused and informed workforce.
Our team is separated, how do we maintain a sense of collective effort during this transition?
A healthy workplace culture contributes to psychological wellbeing by providing a sense of camaraderie and collective purpose. Key elements of any great workplace, it is important to ensure these factors remain intact to the greatest extent possible. Collective purpose, while still being drawn from striving towards organisational goals, can now be derived from an additional source, a collaborative narrative of navigating through difficult circumstances.
To foster this sense of collective effort, leaders must set the tone through their communications. Leaders can reinforce a culture where both difficulties and successes are shared, where the resources of a community are drawn upon, and where progress is still paramount. It is through communications of this nature that trust, and credibility will be strengthened, with employees then more likely to present innovations which could aid the business during this period.
In addition to strong leadership, there are some more lighthearted ways to maintain a sense of camaraderie with a dispersed workforce. With many organisations now primarily communicating through digital media, a little creativity is need. Here is a short list of games that can be played virtually, some of which we have been testing out here in Great Place to Work (strictly for educational purposes, of course)
- Guess the baby
- Draw your colleagues on MS Paint
- Two truths and a lie
While activities such as these provide a fun outlet for staff, they also promote a culture of togetherness, caring and collaboration, clear benefits to any organisation in the current circumstances.
How do organisations know if their staff are adapting to change?
It is worth considering that there is sometimes a difference between perceptions of communication between management and employees, with staff often considering information to be less forthcoming than their employers. With this dynamic in mind, there is a clear benefit to surveying staff and gathering their perspectives on how effective an organisation’s communication strategy is, and how they are managing the transition, utilising responses to enact meaningful changes if needed.
Beyond this, it is valuable to designate contact persons for remote workers to ensure they have the tools they need to complete the job. This is a tactic which has previously proved tremendously beneficial for many of our clients with a large percentage of staff working from home. Trust will be crucial here, as an employee’s ability to raise issues and collaborate on effective resolutions will ensure a steady flow of work output.
As a final point, while we consider listening as a tool in an organisation’s arsenal, we must remember that lending an ear to issues within daily life may be just as important to your colleagues. The benefits of casual check-ins, virtual “water cooler” moments and general small talk will be more evident now than ever, where effective communication will foster a culture of camaraderie and support for all.
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