By: Julia Figlotti Riley
We all know that change is inevitable. And with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting people, businesses, and entire economies across the globe, there’s no time like the present for companies and employees alike to embrace change and adapt. While that can be challenging (especially during a worldwide crisis), several organizations are already leading the charge and making massive changes to their operations in record time – and communicating these changes and the new process it implies with their employees to ensure total workforce buy-in.
- As the tech industry and Silicon Valley turn to remote working, some companies are shifting their approach to providing lunches on a daily basis to their employees whose total compensation packages include access to nutritional food during the day.
- In the financial industry, banks such as Ally have undergone rapid changes, retraining much of their workforce to work with mortgages and loans as their customers’ finances are impacted by economic uncertainty and sudden shifts in employment.
- Meanwhile, Comcast has introduced a comprehensive response to COVID-19 that ensures work-from-home policies don’t reduce an employee’s productivity, and that the transition to online instruction doesn’t hinder any student’s learning. Among other things, the tech giant is allowing free internet use for anyone near an Xfinity WiFi hotspot and unlimited data for their customers.
- And manufacturing organizations around the world are stepping up during this time of crisis, retrofitting or repurposing their resources, tools, and operational plants to help develop medical equipment and sanitization products. Automakers, like Ford, Tesla, and General Motors, have switched from building automobiles to making ventilators and respiratory care products. LVMH and L’Oréal have transitioned their perfume production lines to make hand sanitizer. Gap Inc., Eddie Bauer, and Hanes are shifting their manufacturing capabilities to produce masks for healthcare workers who are working tirelessly to contain and treat this disease, and billionaire CEOs from the tech industry have likewise promised the delivery of millions of masks for those in the healthcare industry.
Manufacturing companies, especially those repurposing their production lines to contribute to the COVID-19 response, are becoming more reliant than ever on supply chains to receive the necessary materials for production as they reevaluate inventory stock. The average production firm in the S&P 500 stocks only 66 days’ worth of inventory, with companies like Apple carrying enough supply to meet only about nine days’ worth of consumer demand. As in-person labor is taken off the table for most workforces, many businesses are looking for additional suppliers to boost their standing inventories.
But it’s not just about the manufacturing side of things. With these changes to supply chains and production lines come transformations in employee roles and business models. While additional transformation may seem overwhelming, it’s important to recognize that implementing changes right now is possible, as proven above, and may be necessary for your organization. To avoid confusion and assure employee buy-in and positive results, companies will need to look beyond consumer-facing updates and invest in internal communications to align employees and effectively convey the ongoing changes that their workforces might be experiencing during these times.
Internal communications matter – now more than ever
With how quickly COVID-19 and the accompanying safety measures have spread, one thing is clear: things will continue to operate in flux for the foreseeable future. What began with warnings to practice common sense hygiene has turned into social distancing requests, mandatory work-from-home policies, and executive shelter-in-place orders. Companies have had to keep up with an unprecedented number of changes in a very short amount of time – from digital transformations to brand realignment – and communicate those shifts effectively for the safety of their workforces and communities.
In addition to communicating changes in work policies and local orders, employers have been working to convey proper health guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO), Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is true in any industry – not only of companies who have instituted work-from-home policies or have temporarily closed their doors, but also manufacturing and essential service companies whose employees are continuing to come into work for the benefit of their communities. Now more than ever, internal communications are also helping employers spread integral health information and new safety processes to protect those putting their lives on the line – the workforce.
Putting your workforce first
Over the past several weeks, we’ve all seen dozens of emails from the businesses, corporations, or organizations we follow on how they’re responding to the COVID-19 crisis. This can range from updated consumer-related policies for essential services, to “goodbye for now” messages as smaller businesses are forced to close their doors and wait it out. But how many of those companies are also communicating internal updates to their workforces – messages that go beyond health regulations and work-from-home policies?
Keeping a dialogue open with your employees is key for morale and productivity during this time. As the pandemic spreads, many things are up in the air for much of America’s workforce: job security, bill payments, childcare and education, and more. Communicating through consumer-like content experiences will keep your employees up-to-date with company news (good or bad), allows them to stay informed, and can help them see company leadership as an ally during times of crisis.
Investing in the right platform
In a time of crisis and uncertainty, you may wish to partner with a company that specializes in internal communication services to ensure the messages to your workforce are effective and far-reaching without adding to the noise and panic of the COVID-19 pandemic. A cohesive communication journey can do all of this and more, making it easier for you to communicate large organizational changes – whenever they may happen – and how those changes will impact your employees and their roles.
There is so much uncertainty, confusion, and fear during any time of transformation. It’s up to businesses and organizations to help their employees – not just through employment or total rewards, but through mutual respect and open communication. Let’s all do our part to get through this together.