• Sarah Cameron

MEDIA - COVID-19 Remote Working Opportunity















Strengthening Connections through Communication

As a leader, when did you last walk the floor?  Talk to a member of your team?  Ask them how they are, how their family is, how they’re coping with today’s challenges?

Has it been days?  Weeks? Months?

We’re human beings – those connections are important.  We long for that social interaction – a laugh, a chat, a smile, a thank you.  A simple ‘How are you’ from a senior manager can brighten someone’s day.  But, for many, remote working has taken that opportunity away. 

Or maybe not.

Every cloud has a silver lining.  Perhaps, on the flip side of the COVID emergency coin is a COVID opportunity? In this case, an opportunity to build stronger connections with your people – even though they’re scattered to the four winds - that will outlast a global pandemic.

It would be easy to jump straight into sending emails and writing intranet articles but, for me, a strong foundation is key.

And that’s about creating purpose and meaning.

1. Help your people to care!

Your people will connect more emotionally with your purpose – WHY you do what you do than with what you do or how you do it. 

Think about being an injection moulding firm that makes parts for defibrillators. Do you turn plastic pellets into defibrillator parts or, do you help save people’s lives?

The human element is the game-changer.

So, it’s worth giving it a bit of thought. At a high level, ask yourself (or better still, ask your people) this question:

‘What we do and how we do it improves people’s lives by ________________’

Not only will it get your people thinking more about how their work impacts others, but it will also improve that impact and give you a ton of examples to use in your communications.

2. Think about who’s communicating

Yes, leading from the front is important and increases executive visibility.  But communications don’t always need to come from the CEO’s desk. 

Maybe there’s someone more qualified to give a particular message that’s health, IT or people-related? Not only does that build trust, but it creates a wider team of people that your employees become accustomed to hearing from.

3. Don’t underestimate the power of your people leaders

Your people leaders, supervisors or team leaders are key to creating connection. They understand the people on their teams, know their situations and, therefore, know-how and when to best land key messages.

And that means they can translate your central, ‘catch-all’ messages in a way that resonates more with their teams.

We’ve never been here before and no-one expects leaders to have all the answers. So, every communication is an opportunity for a conversation that can help teams feel a bit more settled - What is it we need to do differently?  How do we make a difference? How can we support each other?

4. Ensure messages are consistent and timely

The quickest way to erode trust and create confusion is for different people in your company to put out different messages. Yes, it’s important to contextualise messages for teams locally, but it’s key to ensure that the core, fundamental messages are the same. And they need to be repeated over and over again.  

Rumour loves nothing more than a void, so get in early!  Say that ‘we don’t have all the answers but here’s what we do know’.  Your people will appreciate the openness and honesty; and that sprinkle of vulnerability says, ‘we’re all in this together’.  

5. Create opportunities to listen 

Listening to your people is key to engagement and creating connections.

A quick ‘How’s everyone feeling today?’ in a team meeting – or better still a one-to-one chat whenever you get the chance – can go a long way to helping you understand where people are at and show you care. The same is true for bigger challenges and it’s here that short, organisation-wide staff surveys can help. 

Just make sure that when you do ask for opinions, that you do something with the feedback – and quickly!  Nothing disengages people more than giving feedback that’s seemingly ignored and they’re unlikely to be as accommodating next time round!

6. Recognise accomplishments

In a remote setting, recognising people’s accomplishments is harder and needs a bit more thought. Organisation-wide ‘Well Done Everyone’ emails are great but think too about how you recognise great work more locally in teams and individuals.  Think too about a mix of formal recognition (like reimagining your annual awards ceremony in the online world) and informal (just saying thanks in team meetings and 1-1s).

It’s fair to say that, in some companies, this pandemic is eroding the connection between companies and their people.  

So, maybe it’s time to flip the coin, to start thinking about the opportunity this pandemic has given you.  Change how you communicate with your people – it will strengthen your connection with them and leave a positive legacy that lives long beyond this crisis.

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Scott McInnes is a member of Ireland Together and founder of Inspiring Change, a strategic internal communication, employee engagement and leadership consultancy. They help their clients to implement sustainable change and drive business performance by putting their people first. www.inspiringchange.ie

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