Grayce Marketing Manager, Victoria Birtles shares her tips for successful communications during COVID-19.

It is said in change management that you cannot communicate enough through times of change, and is a well know adage in the change management community.

In the age of information providing timely, relevant communications seems like it should be easy to do, with a wealth of communications channels and media at our disposal, it’s not always the case.

In the COVID-19 pandemic, communication has been playing an increasingly important role for organisations as they disconnect physically and try to re-engage through digital channels.

Communication in itself remains one of the toughest challenges for organisations, and one of the areas that receives the most feedback for improvement. So how can you manage communications and engagement through a time of change such as now?

Effective communications require some alchemy to get right. Communications need clarity and authenticity, receptive audiences, trust in the message and open communications channels, so it’s best to start with a plan.

Lead with a clear vision and mission for communication

Managing communications through times of change helps when you have a communications plan, a plan that outlines key milestones through the change and what that means for the receiver. You need to lead with a clear vision and mission for communication of the change.

At Grayce we’ve been proactive in our approach to communications through the pandemic to try and offer real-time information, additional support where needed and a platform for feedback from around our community, living our value of We Care.

We’ve adopted new communication styles and delivery, introducing #motivationalmondays #wellbeingwednesdays and #funfridays involving specific communications designed to uplift, support and engage the community. We’ve taken our responsibilities seriously when it comes to the wellbeing of our community, providing support through our Employee Assistance Programme and offering direct contact points with our Management Team to check in on Analysts who are working remotely and are isolated.

A robust plan of action was created to manage communications through this period, and it started with a vision of what we wanted to achieve. Our key drivers were to continue engagement in our community, our genuine commitment to support the wellbeing of our people and also to provide factual information about the business and provide resources for people on effective remote working.

Commit to communicate

We made the commitment to communicate frequently, through multiple channels incorporating video conferences, video updates, social posts, bulletins and more.

The purpose for each communication was outlined and made clear, this is highly recommended for change communications. To be able to highlight the types of communications and the reasons for sending upfront provides assurances of consistency to the people going through the change.

For us that meant explaining what each communication was for and when our people would expect to hear from us. At the beginning of quarantine we said we would review guidance from the Government when it was announced and communicate any changes or updates within one working day of updated guidance being published. This was particularly important for us, as we have a dispersed workforce, nationwide and with some of our people heading home overseas to quarantine there.

We made clear in all communications that if the guidance changed then we would communicate again, aligning to change management communication principles.

Gain feedback along the way

When communicating through change it has to be a two-way conversation, inviting feedback you can understand how your audience is responding and how they feel. This activity helps you adapt your approach, so you can keep adding value to your communications.

Whilst the focus has been on communicating out to our community we also invited feedback and opened up channels for two way conversations. Our Management team set up individual calls, we hosted coffee break sessions to connect people nationwide and also sought people’s feedback on our approach to home working and support through a company wide survey.

All the insights we’ve gained from these channels have continued to help us shift and adapt our communications plan, to make sure our audience sees the value in what we’re communicating.

Be authentic, be personal

We mustn’t forget authenticity in communication. Communications are coming from people, all experiencing the change and with real personal experiences. Our CEO, Geoff Smith has taken a personal approach to communications, providing weekly updates and videos, sharing his own reflections and business updates.

Demonstrating empathy and compassion was part of our overarching vision for communications and aligns to our core value of We Care. From our Delivery Managers to our CEO we have balanced business updates with empathy and concern, supporting people through this very unsettling period.

This has been done authentically, providing one on one opportunities to talk, group settings, conferences and individual communications. We Care is at the heart of our business and something we take seriously; we’ve made it clear that all our Leaders in the business are here to listen. This personal approach has received great feedback from the business in our Engagement Surveys and is something we’ll continue to do post-pandemic.

There is always opportunity to improve communications, whether managing change or not. But by having a structured and authentic approach, a commitment to quality and open feedback channels led by people with a genuine desire to listen means that the alchemy we discussed earlier becomes that much easier to master.

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