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COvid 19

Role of Communication during COVID19 times

Sukanya Patwardhan
March 31, 2020

Role of Communication

Current Corona Virus situation is ‘once in a lifetime event’ or more like a ‘once in a few lifetimes (if at all) event’

As an HR professional having worked in the IT sector, this statement made me reflect on the crucial role of sustained positive communication by HR and top management teams in IT companies, especially in the current situation.

People are naturally nervous and have mixed feelings as they try to give their best at their work and be with their families. The main question everyone is bothered about is “How long will this situation last and what will be its consequences?”

Almost all IT companies could, fortunately, offer Work from Home (WFH) facility to their employees. It is different when people WFH by choice and when the entire company has no option but to WFH. This is when we realize how many times we connect with different people in person, for work and just like that at hallways/water cooler/cafeteria/coffee counters. These connections help us get our work done effectively.

In absence of that what do people do?

The other side of work is about those who work in the field i.e. sales, marketing, communication, service, etc teams. Their work itself is actually meeting people in person regularly.

People working in the ecosystem - house-keeping, security staff who are now coming to the empty company premises as and when required. How do they feel?

What should these people do ?

I believe leadership plays an extremely important role in creating a robust Emotional Business Continuity Plan which is collaboratively inclusive. HR becomes a key stakeholder in advising and executing this plan in a hypersensitive manner.

Here are some top tips
  • Regular communication from the CEO
    People look for direction as well as assurance from the top. Their morale is largely dependent on how their leadership is approaching the challenge and what is expected of the employees.
  • Personalized calls from the Senior Leadership team
    Most of the teams work on client and internal projects and support teams work across the company. Senior Leadership team members need to have goodwill gesture calls with each department and project team along with their managers, asking them
    • How they and their families are. How are they keeping themselves positive
    • How are they connecting with their other team members and what are their best practices.
    This builds tremendous goodwill about the company and you will be pleasantly surprised to note how creatively people keep connected and make WFH productive. They also give great suggestions to ensure business assurance.
  • Personalized daily check-in and check-out virtual meetings /calls by mangers to their teams
    At the start of the day entire team gets together and expresses themselves to help each other’s positivity and also discuss about the work-related plan for the day and at the end of the day close on a positive note. This is the time to appreciate each other and has a fun time along with work commitment.
  • Connecting with the ecosystem members
    Normally we connect with our housekeeping, security and cafeteria staff via our facilities and operations staff whenever we need something. It is time to directly call them and ask about their and their family’s well-being as well as thank them for their service during tough times. This gives them a sense of belongingness and pride in working for the company.
  • Connecting with the families of members working abroad
    In case of members working abroad, you can imagine how worried their families will be. It is important to call their family members and ask about their well-being and assure them that the company is doing everything possible to keep them safe and cares for their families too.
    This generates a very unique image of the company that genuinely cares.
  • Creating an internal portal on company website
    Employees need to know all that their company is doing to safeguard itself on people and business front. Giving regular information regarding the BCP, Customer communication, Government guidelines, additional facilities like VPN, contact points, etc. is critical at this time.
  • Customer communication
    It is time to be in a hyper-listening mode and extra sensitive to our customers. They are also unsure about their future as we are. What will be remembered is how were they treated, did they feel assured and confident of services we offer amidst massive uncertainty and our willingness to go the extra mile to help them? Our every action will be remembered fondly and that ensures lasting human and business relationships.
  • Leadership team meetings
    As leadership members gather and deliberate about the next steps, it is a good idea to create small groups of leaders representing all functions and ask them their suggestions on how to handle the situation. This should be facilitated by senior leaders. This gives the participants a sense of worthiness and being valued.
    Communicate the action points that emerged and assign them to workstreams. Ask the leaders to nominate 2-3 members from their function to participate in workstreams.
  • Group communications
    People choose to communicate virtually (WhatsApp groups or so), it is a good idea to send positive, uplifting news too.

Essentially, it is important to spread the spirit “We shall Overcome”.

The only truth in such tough times is that each one of us chooses to stay positive and supportive and help each other to do so!

This is so beautifully expressed by the famous song “We Shall Overcome”. This iconic song was first sung in 1965 by Joan Baez. It has been translated into every imaginable language and has always been the rallying song of every movement across nations.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nM39QUiAsoM

I remember singing this lovely song “We Shall Overcome” in my mother tongue loudly with friends in school and college, trips and gatherings. Do you? It is time to sing it again… virtually!!

We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome, some day

Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day

We'll walk hand in hand
We'll walk hand in hand
We'll walk hand in hand, some day

Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day

Truth will make us free
Truth will make us free
Truth will make us free, some day

Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day

We shall live in peace
We shall live in peace
We shall live in peace, some day

Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day

We are not afraid
We are not afraid
We are not afraid, TODAY

Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day

Written by

Charles Albert Tindley

About the Author

Sukanya Patwardhan, Vice President - Learning & Organizational Development

Ms. Sukanya Patwardhan is a versatile HR and Learning and Development professional, and known as an innovator and thought leader with strong execution and collaboration ability across diverse cultures and working with global senior leadership teams.

She made major contributions in the areas of Human Resources, Talent Management, Learning and Capability building, consulting to enable thought leadership, Gen Y, Diversity, Women's Leadership, Large Scale projects in Learning and Organizational Development, Capability building for business results via the extensive experience of working with Global leaders and different stakeholders. She is recognized with several awards at national and international level and has several publications to her credit.

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