This blog post is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center. 

Over the past month, it’s become increasingly clear that COVID-19 is going to be present in society, and within the lives of our companies, for a long time to come. With this in mind, leading companies are pivoting from simply managing anxiety and uncertainty – the initial phase of crisis response – to establishing a “new normal” and planning to re-enter the workplace.

IPR and Peppercom recently published a global research report, “How Companies Are Engaging Employees During COVID-19.” One surprising finding was that only 50 percent of those surveyed reported they had done “very little” or “some” planning for returning to the office after working from home, and only 10 percent said they had done “extensive planning.”

From the work we’re doing with clients, as well as what we’re learning from leading numerous webinars, a clear best practice is emerging: Though we will likely re-enter the workplace slowly and in waves, preparation for the “new normal” is happening now. At Gagen MacDonald, we’ve just published a new white paper with insights and practical tips for establishing that foundation.

While very abnormal conditions will be with us for the foreseeable future, there are many things we can do to build confidence, restore the feeling of momentum and generate a sense of progress (all hallmarks of normalcy).

For example, as you create your go-forward roadmap, you might benefit from targeted communication plans for specific employee groups based on various re-entry scenarios; an assessment of lessons learned from your COVID-19 response to date; and even auditing all communication channels to streamline efforts, re-purpose popular new vehicles and sunset ineffective old platforms.

However, as organizational communicators, we shouldn’t miss this opportune moment to make the workplace more human-centric. For instance:

  • Telling a compelling story about your company’s and your employees’ role in a changed world – continuing to connect with and lean into your purpose and contributions.
  • Mapping the post-pandemic employee experience based on strategy shift, structural changes and values (for example, has it accelerated your digital transformation strategy? Are you reorganizing your leadership team or company to address what’s ahead? Has remote working led to a culture that’s more collaborative, cross-functional, sharing, agile and caring?)

Conducting a talent brand analysis to understand how employees see the company post-pandemic – beyond the traditional “employee value proposition” – to capture the entirety of the workplace experience from the employee point-of-view. It includes capturing their perception of your company’s culture, reputation and values, in addition to the total rewards package offered.

Sherry Scott is an organizational change and business transformation leader focused on helping global corporations succeed in strategy execution by addressing the human struggle of change. Her background includes deep experience in employee engagement, change management, leadership communication and culture change. She serves as President of Gagen MacDonald, a strategy execution consulting firm headquartered in Chicago.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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