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It’s good to talk to employees during lockdown – as long as it’s done well

PUBLISHED: 08:30 13 May 2020 | UPDATED: 11:55 05 June 2020

Remote working has forced business to embrace video conferencing - but is it good for people?   Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Remote working has forced business to embrace video conferencing - but is it good for people? Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

francescoridolfi.com

With work forces scattered, communication within a business has never been so important. Best Employers share the secrets of effective engagement.

The Best Employers Eastern Region programme is helping businesses with a free employee engagement surveyThe Best Employers Eastern Region programme is helping businesses with a free employee engagement survey

One of the unintended consequences of the lockdown and the move to remote working has been that a great many companies have changed the way they communicate with their employees – usually for the better. Whether it’s weekly bulletins or daily updates, emails or video conferences, staff have never heard so much from the organisations that employ them. But does quantity of communication necessarily equal quality?

“The companies communicating well are being transparent,” says Lynn Walters of recruitment specialists Pure. “They update the staff on a regular basis and highlight the positives, but are honest about the challenges. They’re realistic about the situation but they communicate hope about what can be done.”

Large-scale communication

Lynn Walters of PureLynn Walters of Pure

With more than 4,000 staff, Anglian Water has to manage its communications efficiently. 
“In the early stages, our communications were very much reactive, keeping people up to date with the changing situation,” explains Victoria Sloan, internal communications business partner at Anglian Water. “Now we’re transitioning into a more supportive stage.”

Managers receive briefing packs and there’s a weekly news stream for all employees, plus additional weekly Covid-19 updates. Each of the company’s four business areas reinforces these with further messages. There’s a dedicated intranet page with Covid-19 information and Anglian Water has so far sent more than 49,500 text messages and more than 40 email updates to staff.

“It’s important to use a consistent title for the emails,” Victoria explains. “Then if people want to go back to one later, they can easily find it by searching the inbox. Text messages really work to reach the whole workforce,” she adds, “and we’ve found that videos are very well received.”

As a company with 44 employees, marketing agency StrategiQ has taken a different approach, moving away from email for internal communication. “The trouble with emails is that it’s so easy for them to be misconstrued – especially when emotions are running high,” says managing director Andy Smith.

Victoria Sloan of Anglian WaterVictoria Sloan of Anglian Water

Instead, the video conference has become the mainstay of internal communication at StrategiQ – not only within teams but also bringing together everyone in the company. “It’s not as good as being in the same room as someone,” says Andy, “but you pick up on the tone so things aren’t taken the wrong way.”

Video conferences

The consensus seems to be that video conferences can produce more focused, successful meetings – when they are well-managed. “The etiquette of the video call is important,” says Andy Smith of StrategiQ, “and we think we’ve got it down to a tee...

Andy Smith of StrategiQAndy Smith of StrategiQ

“Everyone is silent when they join a meeting. There’s an intro from the meeting host and people put their hands up before speaking, with the host calling them to speak rather than having people talk over each other. If someone has a question, they put it in the chat.”

Video conferences can also be vital for promoting the links within a team, reinforcing the social nature of work and helping with staff wellbeing. Many teams get together for virtual coffee breaks, to blow off steam or talk about non-work topics.

One-to-one communication

“It’s really important for managers to check in regularly with their people,” says Lynn. “Communication needs to be timely and it needs to be personal so people feel valued. It’s difficult to do that with big calls, where there are lots of people on a team, so it’s important to follow up.”

This means the one-to-one calls can be the most important of the day. “It’s easy to think short-term, about getting the current tasks done, but it’s more important 
to think long-term and look after the people to make sure it’s sustainable,” concludes Lynn.

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To learn how the Best Employers Eastern Region programme can help your business – and to take advantage of the free employee engagement survey – click here.

THE BEST EMPLOYERS EASTERN REGION PARTNERS:

Pure

Pure supports the growth of organisations in the Eastern region through the recruitment and development of highly engaged employees, while also helping candidates at each stage of their career.

Pure is the professional recruitment company for the East of England, specialising in Accountancy, Human Resources, Technology, Marketing & Digital and Professional Office roles. We recruit across all levels from short term temporary cover to longer term contracts and permanent recruitment. Pure Executive is dedicated to board level appointments.

From four offices located across the Eastern region, we have a comprehensive understanding of local employment trends as well as within our specialist sectors. For more information, click here.

Eras

Eras ltd are a founder of The Best Employers Initiative and are the authors and owners of the online survey and psychometric platform. We have been at the cutting-edge of psychometric products and consultancy for over three decades. Our user-friendliness, affordability and commitment to our customers has seen organisations of all sizes right across the world benefit from the wealth of our expertise. Companies ranging from large multinationals to independent consultants (many household names among them), see Eras Ltd as their first choice for all their assessment needs. For more information, click here.

Birketts

Birketts is a full service, top 100 UK law firm, based in the East of England, with offices in Cambridge, Chelmsford, Ipswich and Norwich. With a rich heritage spanning over 150 years we’ve built an enviable track record advising businesses, institutions and individuals in the UK and internationally.

We are large enough to provide specialist expertise in most areas of the law at a standard that is frequently compared with major City firms but not at the expense of maintaining a personal and tailored service. We are flexible about everything except our reputation for maintaining the highest professional and ethical standards. If you think that Birketts is the right choice for you, then get in touch, we’d love to hear from you. For more information, click here.

Archant

Archant is a privately-owned media company with market-leading media brands that inspire communities around geographical locations and specialist interests in the UK and internationally. It inspires communities by being the best media brand at informing, educating and entertaining target consumers in each community it serves.

It is the fifth largest regional newspaper publisher, with titles including the Eastern Daily Press and East Anglian Daily Times, and the largest publisher of regional and local lifestyle magazines and specialist magazine titles in the UK.

It also owns a broad portfolio of digital media assets and marketing services in Norwich and a variety of mobile apps. It also recently launched the pop-up national newspaper The New European.

The company, which was founded in 1845, has its roots in Norwich, and services advertisers by building powerful and successful commercial solutions to effectively engage with its communities. For more information, click here.


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