As many of us start to return to traditional ways of working and, in some cases, reopen for business (lots of love if you’re in Victoria and heading back into lockdown), it’s critical that we communicate and connect in a way that genuinely engages our employees and our customers.
Given many of us have thrown our 2020 and probably our 2021 business plans in the bin, we need to refocus and reset. More than ever we need to reach out to our people. We need to ask questions to find out what they need. We need to listen to the answers, and we need to observe how they are behaving.
Our communication strategies need to have clear, compassionate and – possibly – courageous messaging. As leaders we need to be at the forefront of our communication so our people can see that we are providing the support they need.
There are three things you need to consider:
1. What do your employees need?
Different people will be in different emotional places. Many of the people I’ve spoken to recently are feeling a mix of anxiety and excitement about returning to the office full time. And some, who have returned, are feeling increased levels of stress and exhaustion as adding the commute back into their day means they are again sacrificing one or more of exercise, cooking nutritious meals, time with their family or sleep. Which means many people are feeling a bit fragile, so please be gentle.
Talking to your people about how they are feeling and what they need will help them feel valued. Consider whether working from home a few days a week is an option and what this might look like. The benefits for both your employee and your business can potentially be huge!
Think also about your organisational culture and how it has changed over the last few months. What new practices can you continue? What old practices will you stop? Have conversations to find out what activities your people want to stop, continue and perhaps start.
2. What do your customers need?
If you created new products or services to respond to COVID, will you still be providing them? I know I wasn’t the only Suncoast Fresh customer who did a very big happy dance when they announced they will continue home deliveries! As you update your communication strategy, what are the core messages you want your customers to know? And what are the core messages your customers want from you? Are the problems they look to you to solve the same or have they changed? How will this impact on your communication?
3. What do you need right now?
As leaders we so often put our own needs last, which often isn’t helpful! Make sure you look after your own physical and mental health through this next stage – get enough of the right food, water, exercise and rest. It’s also important to recognise your feelings during this time and, where appropriate, share those feelings with your staff and customers.
As you look towards the future do you have a new sense of purpose? What might this look like? For you, your employees and your customers?
How are you feeling right now about where you’re at with COVID?
If you need support with your communication strategy, or just want to have a chat, please get in touch.
If you’re in Victoria and impacted by the latest lockdown, know that I’m sending you a huge virtual hug.