The Importance of Communication in the Workplace, Pandemic or Not
We’ve all heard the phrase “unprecedented times” more than we would prefer these days. But the fact is that due to the pandemic, most modern employees are navigating a complex, unexpected situation they’ve never dealt with before. We’ve all seen the challenges this provokes, ranging from endless distractions while working from home to our absolute dependence on technology for productivity. But just because we’re forced to deal with a challenging situation doesn't mean the chain of communication should be halted. In fact, clear channels of communication are more important now than ever. According to research from Edelman, 63% of employees are looking to their employers for daily briefings about the virus. That's why it’s during situations like the pandemic that companies must hone in on a strategic communication plan that demonstrates how strong their organization is.
When Communication is Lacking
In a typical workplace, communication is absolutely vital for the wellbeing of an organization. In fact, a survey conducted by Deloitte in 2017 found that 80% of respondents said culture and engagement should be a top priority for companies in order to properly meet the needs of employees. However, that's often easier said than done. And unfortunately, a lack of internal communication, whether between employees or departments, can ultimately cost an organization greatly. This cost can be measured in a variety of ways, ranging from wasted money and resources to the mostly highly-coveted asset of many employees: time. It’s no wonder that staff retention rates drop considerably in workplaces where employees feel communication is lacking. During a pandemic, these problems can be exacerbated by the physical disconnect between team members, causing them to disengage from the company.
The Upside of a Challenge
While it’s particularly easy to focus on the downsides of our “new normal,” we’d be foolish to dismiss the positive lessons that can come from this situation as well. For some employees, the opportunity to work remotely has bolstered their productivity. In fact, one study found that workers who spend at least 60% of their time away from the actual office had the highest engagement rates. However, this is in regard to organizations with extensive internal communications systems that are absorbed by all employees. When this regimen is available, companies have the ability to flourish.
Put it into Practice
In order to implement a communications strategy that is adopted by everyone, an organization must recognize it’s a two-way street. This means creating a culture of transparency, where employees feel both their successes and concerns are recognized by management. Employees need to be able to give feedback, feel that they’re listened to and measurable action is taken based on feedback. In a pandemic when staff aren’t physically close, this can be done through a variety of methods that rely on technology. For example, Microsoft instituted a Microsoft Teams channel and SharePoint site to ensure that all teams relied on the same information and were able to create a cohesive unit, while Lenovo is running a “site leadership” system that collects all information into a single intranet portal. There are other methods of streamlining communication, as well. Social media is a wonderful public-facing tool to bring staff together and celebrate their successes, while employee communication networks like Slack, provide an internal method for people to stay in touch digitally.