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The Influencers

Keeping Employees Engaged through Covid-19

INFLUENCER: Visual communications can provide a respite from the regular email barrage, writes MerchantCantos Hong Kong's Wendy Choy

Keeping Employees Engaged through Covid-19

We achieve great things working together as teams. However, with the global Covid-19 situation employees are facing a new reality with WFH or flexible working arrangements. Struggling to stay connected globally from a small apartment, possibly while home schooling your children, can spell distraction and low productivity. And, even for those who are coming into the office daily, the current uncertainty with the constantly changing situation, will be preoccupying minds from the corner suite to the office pantry.

It goes without saying that crisis preparation is necessary, but how companies and organisations go about addressing and delivering our response and recovery is even more important to a business’s long-term performance and talent retention. 

Good leaders inspire commitment in their teams even in difficult situations, and the key lies in striking the right balance between delivering against immediate business needs by communicating factual operational information, and in addressing a human response to employee needs. Now is the time for powerful employee engagement.  

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but it helps to develop a strategy by asking the right questions around what will help employees feel connected, think about more flexible ways to work, stay positive and work as a team. One thing to note too is that it doesn’t have to be a huge investment - short and concise content, disseminated regularly, can bring reassurance to anxious employees. There is likely plenty of material to kick off with already, from CEO messages to employee stories and repurposing previous comms. Visual communications provide a respite from the regular email barrage. Here are some practical ideas:

• Keep employees updated via short form content vs heavy text. The brain processes visual content 60,000 times faster than text. For example, the Government in Singapore chose to share a filmed speech by the Prime Minister via official pages and other social channels, along with links that direct the public to additional information.  

• Make it a habit. Communicate regularly and frequently with relevant information. Silence can be unnerving and erodes trust, so providing clear centralised 2-way communication channels which are easily accessible is important. This could be microsites, a YouTube channel or internal social media etc.

• And, it’s not just about demonstrating leadership but also celebrating employees. Many people are facing personal challenges at this time, and employees are going above and beyond to deliver, and we should shine a light on them and their efforts. The South China Morning Post produced one demonstrating how volunteers are helping communities during the outbreak. 

• Encourage and reinforce any best practice and behaviours - protocols like self-hygiene tips and other complicated policies can be explained with fun content like infographics, factsheets, or films for broad distribution and easy sharing. Here are two examples out of Hong Kong and Singapore. Some organisations like the NHS has taken a humorous approach to introduce a selected playlist for 20-second handwash. 

• Reinforce previous campaigns using existing materials that are relevant.  Given remote access protocols, this is a good time for a cybersecurity update while also reviewing other internal comms topics to cover from this new perspective in fresh and relevant formats.  

• How do you keep learning and development or meetings alive with remote work arrangements? Take the physical online by transforming in-person meetings and events into a digital / livestream experiences.     

As we begin to map out what the new normal looks like, we can use this very difficult time as an opportunity to equip ourselves for success in a changed business landscape.  



Wendy Choy is director of client services at MerchantCantos in Hong Kong. 

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