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Bouncing Back Better. How to engage your people through change.

Last month, we kicked off our UC Conversations series. Alys and Victoria caught up with Paul Downey, Head of Employee Communications at Microsoft and Jennifer Thomas, former Head of Communications at Direct Line Group.

We discussed the current spotlight on internal communications within all organisations, the importance of listening and learning from your people, and the increasing need for accessible and purpose-driven engagement strategies.


Here are five key takeaways from the conversation to help your business bounce back and navigate the ongoing disruption of COVID-19:


1.    Purpose drives connection  

Use your purpose to anchor your people to your organisation,and to each other. Remind them of the reason you exist and help them to understand their contribution to the bigger picture.

As communicators, we have the ability to connect the dots between the purpose and strategy of an organisation and we should be focusing our efforts on creating an authentically purpose-driven businesses and helping people find connection and meaning in their roles.  


2.    Reimagine how we engage our people

It’s time to rip up the rule book and rethink the way we engage with people. We need to take a breath and really think about what the employee experience should be in this new era of work. Companies need to reevaluate their employee journeys and consider the behaviours that are now required of people to drive the business forward.


3.    Personalisation matters

Everyone’s experience of the pandemic has been different. People are approaching their working day with a different mindset and frame of reference. One thing that is consistently true is the needs and drivers of our teams are more diverse than ever. And what motivates one person, won’t motivate another. As communicators, we all need to listen more, respond with empathy and adapt our approach as needed. That takes gargantuan effort and the role of line managers in driving productivity and inspiring change has never been so important. Communication need to be accessible, inclusive and adaptable to the different audiences we have within our organisations. And we need to force ourselves to use different methods and really think about formats that work for people at a time when they are overloaded with information.


4.    Don’t let the spirit of camaraderie slide

Connection during a period of prolonged remote working is challenging. But while everyone has been impacted differently, a spirit of camaraderie has taken hold organically within most organisations. Our leaders were humanised, revealing more of themselves than ever before, and our people were bound together through emotionally driven storytelling and had a hunger to connect and engage. We now have to harness that goodwill and ensure that as the pandemic draws out and takes its toll on both business and its people, our culture is leveraged to build cohesion and a sense of community.


5.    It’s time to close the gap between the customer and employee experience  

The customer experience and employee experience have changed as a result of COVID-19 for most organisations. People are buying differently, and employees are engaging differently. We now have an opportunity to think about both these experiences in a new way and align them more successfully so that we can build a stronger business that is fit for the future.  


One thing was crystal clear from our discussion; engagement and communication are now recognised as strategic imperatives for businesses. As a function, our activities and strategies can support innovation, spark change at speed and connect employees to a businesses’ strategy for growth. But they need to be adaptable and personalised to our audiences to succeed. In our next conversation with Jessica Merz and Scott Northcutt of Bacardi, we discuss the importance of creating a culture that drives innovation in more detail. Stay tuned for more details soon.  


You can catch the full conversation with Paul and Jennifer here.