Any crisis requires active and clear communication. Best Workplaces have strong practices in place to provide updates with transparency, stay anchored on the big picture, and solicit feedback during uncertain, dynamic times.
In the third part of our series taken from our 2020 Insights Report entitled Trust Enables New Ways To Work, we take a closer look at the importance of establishing practices and mechanisms to promote active communication and the role it plays in enhancing employee experience.
During any crisis, communication becomes critical for sharing information, providing clear direction, and outlining a response. But this type of communication is often a one-way means of sharing essential information.
Active communication, on the other hand, involves a two-way exchange by listening to the perspectives, needs and concerns of others.
As the pandemic unfolded, there was a high level of uncertainty associated with both short-term and long-term actions at the national, business and personal levels. Faced with uncertainties, many leaders might choose to delay action or downplay the risks, out of fear of taking the wrong action or unnecessarily causing alarm. While this might be a natural response, strong leaders take a more active role in communicating, in a manner that is timely, forthright and iterative.
Our analysis of active communication centered on employees’ experience of Collaboration, Communication and Teamwork.
Collaboration happens when Management asks employees for their input and ideas and involves them in decisions that affect their work.
Communication happens when Management makes its expectations clear, keeps employees informed about important issues, and is seen to be approachable.
Teamwork is present when employees feel that their colleagues are willing to cooperate and that team members care for one another.
For 2020, we saw an increase in the positive experiences of employees across all organizations in these three areas. We attribute this overall increase to the unique challenges presented by COVID-19. As the pandemic unfolded, organizations, teams and employees were managing entirely new work and personal challenges. This resulted in a need for more frequent contact to understand evolving needs, and more two-way communication to solicit ideas and input. It also provided a shared experience of everyone, regardless of job, function or level, ‘being in it together’.
As we looked more closely at our survey results and Culture Audit®️ responses, it was clear that even before the start of the pandemic, Best Workplaces already had established practices and mechanisms in place to promote active communication. They had trained their people managers on effective interpersonal skills, and encouraged one-on-one meetings.
Leaders actively promoted two-way communication by regularly asking employees to share their experiences, feedback, input and ideas through pulse surveys, townhalls and one-on-one meetings.
Best Workplaces built on strong organization-wide communication models, a variety of platforms and a bias for transparency, in order to provide easy and timely access to information.
Communication was two-way as leaders leveraged this information to make expedient decisions and take further action to support their people. People from Best Workplaces were more likely to feel that they could count on their team members for cooperation and support, something that becomes even more important during periods of uncertainty.
Spotlight on Best Workplaces
As teams quickly shifted to work from home, Medtronic’s communications campaign went digital as well. They built a ‘We are Stronger Together’ site on their intranet and sent twice-weekly emails that were translated to local language and sent to all 10,000 APAC employees. In two months, the campaign helped employees stay connected and up to date, reading 157 leadership messages, watching 44 videos, and nominating 118 of their colleagues for going above and beyond in supporting their teams.
Salesforce created a daily email called ‘The Daily COVID-19 Update’ as a central source of COVID-related information and resources. The Salesforce Executive Leadership Team and Board of Directors hosted weekly company-wide All Hands Calls, to share updates and answer questions from their employees. The Salesforce Employee Success team (HR) also launched monthly well-being surveys to understand the challenges employees were facing, and the support they needed. In response, leaders acted to enhance company programs and benefits.
HP held virtual focus groups where employees contributed their thoughts to im proving work-from-home environments, and provided input about what would be needed when it was time to return to the workplace.
The effort across all companies to increase the level and effectiveness of active communication in Singapore has been admirable. As we look to the future, active communication will continue to be critical as organizations consider new ways of working.