Internal Communications has taken on a strategic avatar ever since Covid-19 hit the world, impacting health, economy and the social fabric of over 160 countries. Two massive and successive waves of the century's biggest health disaster struck people at a physical, mental and emotional level. Organisations were caught off guard and needed to quickly find ways to keep their people connected, motivated, engaged and reassured.
Do you need some inspiration to pump in more energy to your Internal Communications? Here's a close look at three real-life lessons on how Internal Communications became the safest bet when grim challenges confronted the organisation.
About six years ago, a huge fire decimated our office based in Belapur, Navi Mumbai. The horrifying midnight blaze destroyed all the computers, servers and furniture in a matter of minutes. There were no personal injuries but people were jolted when such a disaster struck and many lost their personal workspaces, belongings and memories. Their spirits however remained unfettered all thanks to the reassurance, motivation and positivity demonstrated by the leaders of the organisation
A crisis management taskforce was set up. The main job of this crack team was to communicate with the entire team and involve them in 'rebuilding' the physical space of the organisation. Our operations were up and running the very next day because we had been provident in saving a backup of our work in a location away from the office by using Organyze, a software we built
The work-from-home model was new to us but we adjusted quickly. Now, it wasn't about our regular work. It was also about rebuilding the organisation. There was a common goal that everyone identified with and felt emotionally close to. They put their hearts into rebuilding the office space, discussing floor plans, seating arrangements, back-up plans, and so on, with gusto.
Within a very short span, the physical office space was up and running. The fire really fired up people and kept them together. We can proudly say that a majority of our people have stayed with us even after the crisis and our attrition rates have been low.
So what worked for us?
Since March 2020, we closely witnessed many large-scale Internal Communications campaigns and initiatives unfold within our client organisations. We were fortunate to be a part of the strategising and implementation of most of them. The efforts put in by Corporate Communication teams across all the organisations we work with, are hugely commendable and deserve a standing ovation.
Working through odd hours, weekends, holidays, and even through personal crises, Corporate Communication teams came up with ideas, initiatives and campaigns to inform, reassure, motivate employees, demonstrate care for them and shower them with love. In our view, 2020-21 was the shining hour of Internal Communications.
Corp Comm teams became the 'synergists' within organisations. They helped to motivate employees to get back to operations remotely and even physically in some cases. They relayed messages of the leadership across all levels of the organisation. They got employees involved in organisational relief activities creating a deep sense of purpose to help communities in distress. They kept teams engaged and stress-free by helping organise online events. They used (and continue to use) the digital medium to tell the inspiring stories of their own Covid heroes to the external world. Most importantly, they ensured that employees got the right kind of information, help and support to improve their wellness and well-being through the organisation of health and vaccination camps.
We feel grateful and happy to have helped our clients in using Internal Communications to make a difference to their people's lives.
So what worked for our clients?
When the Maharashtra government mandated work-from-home back in 2020, all the 70 of us — writers, coders, designers, project managers — could very quickly change tracks. We had already practiced it, because of the fire, six years ago!
However, the scenario was different this time. Fear, uncertainty, social isolation, juggling household chores and childcare along with work became the new normal. The camaraderie, the office buzz, the coffee-time conversations disappeared creating a sudden vacuum in our lives.
We turned to technology to address our need for engagement and camaraderie. Our Whatsapp Group that was once for serious business only, now turned into a medium to lighten up our moods with memes, jokes, quizzes and even games. We even celebrated Women's Day this year by playing a quirky game where our HR team shared images of each of our women colleagues in their baby avatars on the Whatsapp group and the entire team was asked to guess who they thought it was. The game was a runaway hit!
To compensate for the camaraderie that was the hallmark of our cozy office, we created our own social platform "Coping with Covid" for people to share recipes, showcase their talent and keep in touch with each other. It has been a raging hit not just with our people but their families too. It is almost like our own Facebook or Instagram, where we wait to see, hear and experience and appreciate each other's lives.
So what worked for us?
We have been in the communications business for more than twenty years. We have witnessed and experienced a number of crisis situations but we admit that Covid was a major shake-up. It threw all of us out of our comfort zones and pushed us to revisit conventional communication strategies and ideas. It also gave us an opportunity to learn and draw inspiration from several quarters. What we also realised is that "communication" — from company to employee, from employee to company, and within teams, groups, units — is going to be key in keeping the human foundations of the organization strong now and in the future. You may also want to read our blog on how to keep your employees engaged while they work from home.
Reach us for any Internal Communication need that you may have. We'll be happy to help.