By: John Bonoff
As the COVID-19 lockdown starts to ease up and the world is poised to return to work, companies have begun finalizing their reopening strategies, and communication has become a main focus. To ensure that all employees make a successful return, leaders will need to create clear, frequent messaging, and confirm that messages are getting through to employees. Communication during the return to work is not a “one-and-done” event, but rather it requires a targeted, personalized campaign that guides employees on a journey through the entire reopening phase, with thoughtful consideration for their wellbeing. Incorporate the following components into your return-to-work strategy to ensure that all employees make a successful transition.
1. Communication Journeys
When planning out the order and focus of messages that will comprise your campaign, consider which messages should be stand-alone communications, and which deserve more in-depth content. Which aspects of this communication are best suited to particular forms of media? Once you have a sense of the various messages and assets that employees should receive, determine the asset hierarchy, or journey, and the flow of the experience. For an example of this type of campaign in action, check out GuideSpark Communicate Journeys™.
In communicating the return to work, the main goal should be to help employees through challenging times and workplace transformation. Consider starting with a simple introductory video to show employees how the company is working toward making all the necessary changes to guarantee their safety at work. Then, provide a checklist of new processes that employees can easily print out.
2. Content Creation
Once you know what assets you need to support your return-to-work journey, you can start to craft the language and specific messaging that will connect with employees and keep them informed. Establish core messages that can be reinforced through multiple assets, to drive understanding and answer key questions. What are the most important dates for employees to be aware of? If employees are returning to a physical workspace, what measures need to be taken before coming into the office?
When creating language for different assets, keep in mind that each piece of content should fall within the context of the greater communication journey, so that only the most critical messages are repeated, and employees don’t become inundated with superfluous information.
3. Communication Strategy
Before deploying content, establish your communication strategy, or the cadence and audiences for your messages. The main goal is to get employees to interact with your content, not just open emails. The timing, tone, content, and the actions and feedback you request of employees all serve to compel them to take an active role in the journey. Communication strategy is the critical component that moves large-scale change communications from one-way delivery to two-way engagement.
4. Deployment and Iteration
Your internal database of company records, such as your HRIS system, contains singular data points for each employee, like their name, age, title, functional organization, and location. This is powerful information because it allows you to segment your audience into key groups based on one or more of these factors, and personalize your communications accordingly. Incorporating employee data into your communications strategy will also allow you to accrue ongoing engagement or results data, as opposed to sending out blanket communications to diverse employee groups. For example, GuideSpark Communicate Cloud® uses this data to improve the efficacy of your communications and drive key business outcomes. Assessing engagement across different groups will help to improve and refine your return-to-work communications, as well as journeys for future company changes.
To better understand the role of employee data in successful change communications, let’s consider a quick example:
Joe is a plant manager who is usually on the ground floor with a cell phone, and is almost never in front of his laptop. Alexandra is in corporate headquarters, and Jennifer is working with the South American regional cohort, who operate on a completely different work schedule and who are subject to local policies. All three work for the same employer, who needs to send out a critical message that demands a swift response and confirmation from each employee.
If the employer in this example were to send out a blanket communication to Joe, Alexandra, and Jennifer—for instance, an email on Monday morning—it is highly unlikely that it would reach all three of them effectively, and within the intended window. Unless you adapt communications to account for things like location and preferred channels, you are likely to see poor engagement and inaccurate results data. Prior to deployment, establish the sub-groups which will best enable engagement and harmonize messaging.
Change in the workplace is rapid and continuous. The digital landscape is more crowded and noisy than ever. For these reasons, it is imperative that change communications are built to cut through the chatter. Creating an all-encompassing communication journey, composing thoughtful content, deploying with consideration for employee diversity, and measuring engagement, all add up to a successful, united return to work. Integrate these elements into your strategy to mitigate stress for your employees, and make a successful transition through this new stage.