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In our current climate, streamlining our communications channels, helping our employees remain connected, and enabling collaboration at pace and at scale are critical.

Covid-19 has bought these challenges to the forefront of our minds, but solving them in peacetime alone has been proven to contribute to a 10% increase in profitability for one manufacturing firm.

We recently hosted an intimate digital session with a group of handpicked senior leaders across countries and industries to swap ideas and challenges on four key questions:

  • How can you engage your employees at a global scale — from home offices and across borders – whether they’re working full time or on furlough?
  • How do you cut through the noise, and reduce overwhelm and facilitate purposeful, meaningful collaboration?
  • How can you help your people respond to changing market conditions quickly and bring together diverse perspectives at scale?
  • How do you move with agility and understand the skills required to help your people foster collaboration, hear all voices, and move with agility?

Here’s what we learned:

Based on research and insight we’ve gathered from speaking to hundreds of HR and D&I leaders over the past few weeks, we’ve found that many organisations are prioritising increasing connection — and the challenges they’re tackling can typically be broken down into four key buckets.

With many of us working from home and physically disconnected, it’s easy to feel isolated. Working from home means we lose all of these opportunities for small yet pleasant conversations because it’s these bits of communication that make us feel connected and included at work.

So what can we do if we’re not bumping into colleagues on the way to make coffee? When we can’t lean over and ask someone how their weekend was?

💡Common solutions: Social-led actions

Working remotely does make socialising more tricky. But if you recreate online structures that can mimic what break rooms and kitchens do, you can transplant all your conversation online.

In many organisations, creating social connection through re-creating social activities virtually like virtual Happy Hours, brown bags, mindfulness, group workouts and yoga, coffee roulettes, and ERG activities work really well.

Right now we need to be extra-sensitive to people who may be struggling to deal with this level of change. But it’s important that people are up-to-date, well informed and have access to the latest information the moment it becomes available.

This is critical for making sure your people can make informed decisions on the best course of action for them individually, their teams and your business. In a world where information, strategies and insights evolve so quickly, we have to make it easy for our people to keep moving forward.

💡Common solutions: Comms-led actions

To handle this tricky situation, clear, quick and consistent communication from the right source is key. Because while everybody should be able to share the message about the change, to get the best results it will need to start from the top.

We’re seeing organisations manage this with comms-led actions like video messages from your leadership team, bulletins from your CEO, using channels like Slack or Microsoft Teams, and publishing mental health and resilience resources are all effective ways to keep your team up-to-date.

Whether it’s working different hours, juggling work and kids, a new strategy or even layoffs, change can be a scary process — especially when you’re inundated with news about what to do next.

There’s a fine line to tread between keeping people up-to-date and contributing to comms overload. Multiple webinars, documents, guides, and policies all in dispersed places can increase the feeling of overwhelm. We must simplify how we communicate with our employees and be thoughtful about what they need to know and when.

So what’s the best way to go about communicating it to your team?

💡Common solutions: Centralised actions

To overcome this, it’s important to streamline communications to deliver the right information at the right time via the right channel. This can be achieved by centralising our communications on one platform that is easily accessible to everyone, sending out daily or weekly bulletins or curated news into a newsletter.

While many organisations are focused on helping their people increase connection at the moment, facilitating ways to increase agility at every level and unlock diversity of thought from the collective is where we’re seeing the most gaps.

Many D&I initiatives have taken a back seat as organisations respond to Covid-19, but with market conditions changing fast, it’s never been more important to make sure all voices are heard — and this isn’t a problem that just sits with the diversity and inclusion department.

As we think about how we can accelerate our organisations out of this pandemic — adapting to new ways of working, delivering new solutions to our customers, solving the operational challenges emerging daily, etc. — it’s critical that we give every person an opportunity to have their voice heard.

Many of the answers to the problems that this pandemic presents already exist inside the collective wisdom of our people. We must avoid information circuits that are exclusively driven top-down. If we can find ways to share knowledge quickly and at scale at every level, then we have a much stronger chance of emerging and recovering quickly.

And the crisis has shown that many organisations (even the more conservative ones) are now embracing new agile, digital ways of working because they’ve had no choice. Take advantage of that momentum to shift your people’s mindsets, encouraging them to learn, collaborate and pivot every day. Look to the channels you already have to facilitate this, but don’t be afraid of venturing into new technology too.

💡Common solutions: Peer-driven actions

Many organisations are solving this challenge using working groups and committees who meet virtually, through leadership training that fosters a culture of everyday learning, collaboration, and helps people understand what it takes to operate in an agile way, and lastly through peer learning and collaboration platforms that facilitate knowledge sharing at scale.

We love this quote from Stanford Academic & Author Nial Ferguson:

“Throughout history, hierarchies housed in high towers have claimed to rule, but real power has resided in the networks in the town square below. It is networks that innovate. And it is through networks that revolutionary ideas can contagiously spread.”

As people leaders, we can’t do it all alone. It’s essential right now that we help our teams stay connected — so it’s important to remember that the collective wisdom and motivation to push forward exists in our organisations already. And often developing organisation-wide networks is the way to make this happen.

Most people want to find a way to support their colleagues right now, so we just need to give the tools to accelerate and own the movement they’re trying to drive.

Find a way to do this through peer learning networks or online communities that allow people from all over the organisation to share their learning, stay connected over a common purpose, get support, and enable them to adapt and change continuously.

Suddenly moving around 40 hours of our life from structured, dedicated workspaces to our personal spaces of rest and relaxation is an alien thing for a lot of us. And there are also the logistical factors, like figuring out the most ergonomic set up at your dining table and remembering to switch off for lunch.

Our home lives have blurred with our work lives. Leaders should lead by example and show their vulnerabilities and empower people to bring their whole selves to work their remote offices and virtual meetings.

It’s also important to engage your empathy. With our teams under significant new stresses and worries, managers and leaders need to work extra hard to empathise with their teams. Leaders who learn how to recognise when a colleague is suffering without being in the same room as them will really improve their emotional intelligence.

In one organisation that we spoke to, the CEO instituted personal hours in the employees’ calendars. Each person has (any) two hours a day blocked out to allocate time to their family — whether for online school, looking after an elderly relative, or keeping an eye on the toddler while their partner is on a work call.

As the world settles into a new rhythm of working from home, our leaders are quickly finding that this comes with challenges — people are feeling isolated and there’s a critical need to find new ways to stay digitally connected, especially when many of our people are facing deep personal challenges.

With your workforce dispersed, on furlough or temporarily laid off, keeping your people connected, made to feel included, and engaged is more important than ever.

The key is to communicate, communicate, communicate.

If you’re interested in a few more ideas on building digital hubs to stay connected and engaged, which have helped the likes of Halma Plc, Jaguar land Rover and Shout — get in touch with us here.

How Hive Learning supports Shout’s crisis volunteers
Shout is the UK’s first 24/7 crisis text service. Shout is powered by a team of brilliant volunteers who take people in need of support from crisis to calm every single day.

They can volunteer from anywhere and are spread right across the UK. Shout wanted to give their volunteers a place to connect, share advice, support one another and learn together every day.

Here’s how Hive Learning helped them do just that:

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