Communication culture: Momentum and legacy in the post-COVID business environment

by Janet Houen, Group Manager - Organisational and Change Communication, and Emily Wood, Director

Published on
June 30, 2020

With the initial economic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, the task of rebuilding businesses and the economy is now high on the agenda — for organisations and government alike. We are all acutely aware that the enforced change of the past months has brought uncertainty and accelerated adaptability in equal measure, with communication being a key player for most organisations.

But as attention now turns to getting back on our feet, it’s important to review what’s been successful, what you might never do again, and which basic communication principles have stood firm during these turbulent times.

Communication triumphs 

We have seen warp-speed innovation in both internal and external communication — working from home, difficult workplace conversations about jobs and the future, finding new ways to maintain great customer contact and service delivery, and leadership communication of varying style and effectiveness. A few of the truly positive changes we’ve seen encompass:

  • Increased workplace flexibility — a change in previously rigid working hours and traditional office spaces has seen many employees achieve a more attractive work-life balance. But can it be maintained?
  • Enforced digital transformation — forced adoption of virtual internal communication methods (think: Microsoft Teams and Zoom) provides organisations with the opportunity to embed these methods as a core business tool.
  • Deeper employee connections — increased internal touchpoints for organisations looking to keep teams and individuals informed has brought a greater personal connection and increased camaraderie (how many of your colleagues’ dogs or cats have you now met virtually?) for many.

Areas for consideration

While accelerated change has uncovered some unique opportunities, much of this change has been done ‘on the fly’, without the luxury of time to test and tweak. Some inevitable challenges for businesses include:

  • A burn-out in virtual collaboration — online collaboration can be tiring, especially with an increased number of meetings and check-ins required to work remotely.
  • Increased pressure on leaders — with many teams now physically separated, there’s greater pressure on leaders to keep in touch with everyone, maintain employee engagement and monitor team members’ mental wellbeing and productivity.
  • The need for difficult conversations — not all businesses have an HR function or communication team, leaving leaders with the challenge of having difficult conversations about things they’ve never had to deal with before — job losses, pay cuts, reduced hours, mental health issues.

So what’s next?

From a communication perspective, it’s time to come back to basic principles — for both internal and external communication — as you harness the positive aspects of the past few months and build future resilience.

  • Be open and honest with your team.
  • Rely on your values to guide decision-making.
  • Cut out the ‘noise’ and streamline channels and messages wherever possible.
  • Keep your leaders in the loop and set expectations around communication responsibilities.
  • Celebrate success and recognise contributions.

These will stand you in good stead as you refocus everyone on strategy or a new direction, and seek team innovative solutions for the brave new world.

Find more information on Rowland’s corporate communication services here.