Sept 15, 2020

Everything about work is changing, from where we work, to how we work, and what tools and information we work with. It makes sense, then, that the big lesson we need to learn from pandemics, power outages, and other disruptions is that our organizations need well-designed continuity plans. And while there are technological impacts to consider, many of today’s recovery programs include extended networks and employees.

Employees have to be empowered to do their best work in a variety of scenarios regardless of the state of the globe. At this point in the pandemic, you’ve probably already implemented tools and technologies that will enable a remote workforce–but now you need to ensure that your employees are equipped to utilize that technology and feel successful and supported as they manage an evolving work-life.

This three-part blog series looks at the evolving future of the workplace. We examine how, as technology advances and companies look for more ways to control costs and increase their competitive advantage, employees need to prepare to build a strong and consistent communications culture for their workforce. The series will also take a close look at the need to find new ways of ensuring meaningful human connections in a virtual culture and world - no matter what set of crises we go through.

Building a Healthy Communications Culture

Creating, reinforcing, and maintaining a strong and effective communications culture is heavily dependent on your existing workplace culture. But in order to thrive in the era of Coronavirus, building a healthy communications culture through improved communications cycles and platforms is critical. Here’s why.

It is crucial, now more than ever, for employees to feel as if their voices matter. With workforces so spread out, a culture that encourages active listening, effective communication, and strong understanding amongst teams is important for a thriving work community. You can do this in a number of ways:

  • Invest in internal communication: Do this by generating exchanges within the organization. This includes the communication from top executives, between team members, as well as communication between departments.
  • Be authentic and transparent: Building trust that encourages a sincere relationship between employees and executives.
  • Ask for feedback: Allowing employees to comment on their current assignments or projects to get their opinion on how to continuously improve what the team does and how they do the work.
  • Clarify goals: Guide employees when issues arise. Clarification around responsibilities is vital if you intend to increase employee engagement within your organization.
  • Support professional development: Encouraging education, workshops, and other enrichment courses to increase the skills and productivity of your employees and boost the morale of the team.
  • Encourage collaboration: Use shared technology for discussion and sharing ideas on work or projects improve employee engagement and better teamwork. The most effective organizations encourage a culture of collaboration to reduce costs and improve team efficiency.
  • Give recognition and rewards: Find ways to say, “Thank you” to your employees. An acknowledgment by management and among peers is the fastest way to build trust, restore a strained relationship, and motivate employees to work harder.

In order to build a strong and connected workforce culture, employees they need to be informed about the organization, external industry dynamics, and economic developments. Using shared technology creates a collaboration platform that encourages employees to share articles and updates about your industry, competitors and economic influences with their colleagues. In turn, leaders in your organization share internal updates about customer challenges and successes. Knowledge Networks are created when employees have the means to communicate with people across departments, they can collaborate to discuss and refine ideas and projects to continuously improve innovation initiatives. Internal communications can promote knowledge networks in the following ways:

  • Knowledge culture: Employees need to be able to actively share knowledge across the whole organization. Your internal communications program needs to encourage the practice of sharing knowledge and experiences.
  • Facilitate innovation: Internal communication enables employees to brainstorm and share ideas. Beyond encouraging your employees to spend more time in the team portal, bloggers and clients can quote and share your content in their channels, increasing visibility among their audiences. Your team portal can be established as a leading source of knowledge in your field and lend credibility to your organization as a trusted voice and authority.
  • Focus on solving problems: A culture of communication nurtures a continuous improvement or problem-solving environment into how employees do their jobs. Providing information beyond the basics when delivering answers arms employees with increased knowledge. How-to videos, step-by-step guides with images, diagrams, and screenshots can be very useful.
  • Encourage disagreement: Included in the knowledge network design is for employees to have honest discussions that introduce healthy levels of disagreement.

The need for improved communication cycles and platforms

Improved communications cycles and platforms will also play an important role in employee engagement. Your communications model affects how to need to communicate and how people get information. Most importantly your communications impact employee productivity, innovation, and brand awareness. To build a strong brand identity and optimize organizational productivity your internal and external communications need to be aligned. Consider:

  • Brand awareness: External communication in the form of employee advocacy improves brand awareness. Employee advocacy magnifies your organization’s social media reach. Many people trust individuals over organizations. If 100 employees share an article on Linkedin with 100 connections each, your brand has reached an additional 10,000 people. In this way, corporate communication has a clear and direct impact generating more leads and higher revenues.
  • Employee engagement: This is a critical component of organizational success. Gallup studies consistently show only 13% of employees are engaged (Gallop, 2017). Organizations that have high rates of employee engagement are effective at internal communications.
  • Communicate vision and goals: Publish your organization’s top-level goals with everyone to help employees connect their daily activities to the strategic plan. This fosters a sense of purpose and value to their jobs and encourages each employee to contribute more.

Coronavirus has forced millions of people into separation; the role that technology plays in maintaining a sense of connectivity among employees and, ultimately, workforces, is crucial. The future of work depends on the ability of a workforce to adapt, relay information, and adequately understand employee perspectives, and a thriving communications culture is the key to promoting these values.