Things change every day. Information overload, coming from everywhere: management; health authorities; local councils; national government, et al. Who do we listen to? Especially when sometimes even the government’s messages hinder more than they help.
If true before the pandemic, with an excess of information and a myriad of sources creating headaches for many of us; today in the ever-changing ‘new normal’ of Covid-19 lockdown and social-distancing, the potential for confusion and conflicting information has reached truly mind-boggling levels.
Unfortunately but understandably in many cases, people have adopted a head-in-the-sand approach of resignation, choosing to ‘get on with things’ at their own pace and following their own personal rules. This has been made easier because many are still bunkered-in at their new home office, sheltered from the risks of the contagion outside, but also from undesirable information, if they so choose.
So, what can businesses do to make sure that the right messages are reaching employees in a timely manner? That is, assertive communication, on a corporate scale.
Just like so many aspects of our personal, professional and social lives, business comms also have to learn to adapt to our new normal. A bulletin board notice above the coffee machine, a couple of signs in the lobby or outside the lifts are obviously redundant if all or some of our employees are working from home.
However, these may still be useful for those staff members who are in the office. Only that now, they should also be digitalised and passed on to all employees via any and all official channels: website, internal messaging service, emails, virtual meetings, etc.
However, information overload must not be overlooked. All of us have missed that important email which got buried in the spam folder or in the middle of other messages. How many employees really check the company website for updates, for example? It is, therefore, the responsibility of both the company’s risk management team in coordination with line managers to decide the most effective method for their department, and each and every team member.
Consequently, another key element of assertive communication is coordination. Risk and line management must work in close synchronisation in order to establish, communicate and assure compliance with any relevant health, safety and security messages to be relayed to each and every employee, wherever they may be and through whichever line of communication has been chosen. A line of command must be established in order to guarantee that in our newly distanced and more digitalised work environment, all our employees have received and are complying with all comms.
It is worth noting here that line managers (perhaps now more than ever) are a crucial element for checking the ‘pulse’ and general wellbeing of a team and its individual members.
Uniformity across channels
Something that many national and local authority responses have taught us is that our message must be clear, unambiguous and with a specific goal and line of action to follow.
A perfect example of how not to do things might be the UK Government’s ‘Stay alert’ message.
Great care must also be taken to ensure that the message is not altered over a variety of formats, and key elements are not omitted. For example, the information contained in the poster stuck in the office lift must be identical (no more, no less) to that conveyed in a virtual meeting or internal messaging service. Fortunately, digital technology helps us to recreate the exact same message over a variety of formats.
A willingness to work together and adapt to the demands and responsibilities of our new normal are essential in ensuring a smooth transition to our new work environment and continued success for today and tomorrow.