How to communicate with staff during social distancing

Apr 23, 2020 | Development | 0 comments

Grahame Jones from Soukias Jones Design shares five top tips to ensure your team and employer brand emerge from the pandemic positive and united.

As Covid-19 brings face-to-face contact with many to a temporary halt, organisations are being confronted with unprecedented challenges in how they communicate with staff.

Strategies relating to employer brands are being put under the spotlight. The ways in which businesses demonstrate their reputations and values (empathy, communication, creativity, collaboration, compassion and listening, for example) are being amplified by agile and remote working practices and the use of digital and social platforms to connect people.

When firms get these things wrong, it won’t go unnoticed: employees will take to Glasshouse and other forums to give feedback or even rant (not a good look when recruiting top talent).

Get these things right and you will come out of the current crisis a better, stronger and more united organisation than you entered it. The stories will be positive.
Here are my five top tips to help you cultivate your culture remotely:

1. Create or recap remote working guidelines

Continue to ease the transition to remote working by creating (or revisiting) your guidelines and best practices for remote work. Consider expectations about hours of work, virtual dress codes, and the maintenance of privacy and confidentiality of documents, for example. These will provide a strong framework to help guide ‘human’ skills.

2. Soft skills training

Emotional intelligence is important when things are going well. In challenging times, it’s vital. For managers and heads of departments, it’s a good time to (virtually) top up on soft skills, promoting attributes you want associated with your brand (and making clear those you don’t).

3. Schedule regular times to connect

To help your people feel supported and connected each day, it’s important to keep open the channels of communication and maintain regular connections.

In the current climate, where we’re being asked to self-isolate and practice social distancing, this is even more important. Such strategies may support our physical health, but they can take a toll on our mental health and wellbeing. Schedule one-to-one meetings to understand how people are coping and consider implementing a regular team touch point, where you can quickly share news, updates, vision, strategy, and more.

4. Start meetings with a celebration

Whether you’re considering implementing a virtual meeting or you already have one in place, why not kick off with recognition and positive news? Celebrate successes, encourage peer-to-peer recognition, and talk about the positive strides you have taken as a business. At a time when our news is filled with negative headlines, highlight the amazing things your team is doing to take care of each other and the business.

Linklaters, for example, has been working hard to develop its open and creative mindset, encouraging its people to step forward with ideas for doing things better. A trainee solicitor recently came up with the idea of a legal tech and innovation podcast, aimed at students. Linkubator was born, and this news was shared universally.

5. Infuse fun into the working day

This is a stressful and uncertain time for many. Without making light of the situation, encourage leaders to find fun ways to engage with their people.

In the UK, PwC – recognising its staff need social contact with colleagues – is doing its own version of a television programme called Through the Keyhole. Using the format in which the TV audience tries to guess which celebrity owns a home, PwC employees try to guess which partner owns the home shown. In Australia, the firm is running a competition similar to the Netflix series Nailed It! The format is to encourage people with a terrible track record in home baking to try to recreate an edible masterpiece.

Operational and financial stuff is important, of course. But beyond that, in times of adversity, work hard to fill your airwaves with motivational stories that showcase the best of your employer brand.

It won’t be forgotten. Good stories will be shared and liked. Some might even go viral, or go down in legend. ‘Stick together’ is a phrase that gets bandied around, and culture is the glue that makes this happen.

Now is the time to focus on making your culture even stronger!

Read more advice in ISE’s Employer’s Guide to COVID-19.

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