As the world continues to grapple with the Covid-19 outbreak, one thing is clear - the way we work has changed forever. The pandemic has disrupted workplaces, forcing organizations around the world to shift to remote working for the safety of employees while maintaining business continuity. As we slowly adjust to the new normal, the role of technology in human resource management and employee communications is now more critical than ever. Businesses everywhere are adopting new tools and technologies to ensure productivity while working remotely.
The need for communication management for a seamless WFH
The experience of remote working can be quite challenging as employees have to deal with the process and daily routine disruptions, non-workplace environment, uncertainty, and communication gaps. Lack of regular communication can hamper cross-collaboration efforts, reduce morale, and lead to chaos and confusion. Transparent, empathetic, and timely internal communication is the key to seamless work-from-home. It can help teams ensure work continuity while monitoring employee health and wellbeing. Technology is aiding HR teams to develop better communication management plans to help the workforce stay engaged and sustain productivity with a work-life balance.
Better preparedness is the key to effective remote working
These developments will not happen overnight. There are a few things one needs to keep in mind to help teams communicate better when working remotely. To ensure a smooth transition into work from home, HR, IT and Admin teams must keep in mind that they need to help employees ease into the new virtual workplace and get comfortable with new technologies. They must check with employees for possible connectivity issues at home and have a contingency plan to provide quick, secure solutions.
A representative from each team/function should be identified as a single point of contact. HR teams must patiently listen to every team’s requirements and challenges and implement their plans accordingly to help them stay connected and be efficient. Every team must undergo rigorous training sessions to learn to navigate the technology better. HR and IT teams must be prepared to provide timely technical assistance as necessary.
Stay connected and collaborate better with remote communication tools
Emails are still the primary digital communication tools for businesses. Several companies have upgraded their email etiquettes, and policies, to ensure data privacy as well as effective communication with external stakeholders. However, organizations have also been quick to invest in best-in-class communication technologies to streamline remote work, help employees come together and collaborate better. In many cases, tech companies are giving businesses free or subsidized access to remote working enterprise solutions. The presence in the cloud is no longer the future – it’s the present and remote workforce cannot function at an optimum level without cloud-based network, organizations need to ensure they are present in the cloud.
High-quality video conferencing tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, Google Meet, and Skype are gaining popularity as daily communication channels to connect with teams, senior management, and external stakeholders. Video conferencing tools are also helping teams maintain an emotional connection with each other. They are easy-to-use, secure, and continue to offer new features and upgrades for increasingly better user experience, making them the go-to tool for every engagement from team meetings to client calls to employee interactions. There has been a surge in the popularity of workforce collaboration tools focusing on team communication and efficient project management like Slack and Asana, while WhatsApp remains the preferred medium of choice for instant messaging and quick communication.
Employee engagement tools in the age of Covid-19
One of the biggest challenges of remote working is employee engagement. A highly engaged employee is more productive, better equipped to meet deadlines and tackle business challenges. Technologies can help HR teams navigate the complexity of employee engagement in the time of Covid-19. The intranet is a valuable repository of information that can keep employees informed about important organizational updates, health and safety advisory and can provide easy access to all the resources for effective remote work. The intranet can also act as a hub of all learning and development opportunities that employees can use to reskill or upskill themselves and realize their full potential. Last but not the least, corporate social media accounts are also being effectively used by many companies to boost morale, recognize star performers, and drive employee engagement. Through interactive sessions such as fun social media games and live chats with CXOs, companies keep in touch not only with their workforce but also with key external stakeholders.
Challenges and Learnings
As businesses worldwide are dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, organizations are being forced to reimagine workplace practices. The companies are rethinking their internal communication policies to suit the needs of a rapidly changing work environment. The challenges have been manifold, from fragmented communication, connectivity issues, data security lapses to serious technical problems. The technology has been a game-changer, but many employees had struggled with digital adoption, especially in the initial days.
The organizations need to evaluate the effectiveness of their communication plans and tools adopted during remote work and redefine their communication strategy accordingly. They need to speak to their workforce to understand their challenges and changing needs and find room for improvement. Work-from-home may soon be the new norm rather than the exception for many businesses. They need to step up to the challenge, balance business interests with employee wellbeing, and adapt to the new realities of work with the best communication infrastructure technology has to offer.
Please note the article was originally published in the Economic Times in June 2020.
The opinions expressed are author's own. Fidelity International is not responsible for the author's opinions.