With lockdown 5.0 coming into effect in many states of India, the unlock of lockdown 1.0 resulted in the opening of many offices, stores, and shops. The last ScoRe Talk that was conducted on May 27, 2020, focussed on employee wellbeing, that many agree to it, but would choose to not discuss it. School of Communication and Reputation, in partnership with Reputation Today, invited panelists across different geographies to the last SCoRe Talk to share their communication strategy in this regard.
The panelists included Elan Shou, MD of Ruder Finn, China, Ian Rumsby, Chairman of Weber Shandwick, Australia, James Brasher, Managing Partner at Rice Communications and Penny Burgess, CEO of WE Red Bridge. The moderator of this dialogue was Sunayna Malik of Archetype.
Before beginning the dialogue, Sunayna Malik, emphasised from where the panelists belonged, she said, “Interestingly there are different recovery points in the COVID journey, and we’ll learn from their experiences and their learnings so that we are little better informed about the shape of things to come.”
The first panelist to speak was Ian Rumsby. He spoke about the uncertainties of the employees post-COVID in an industry that works really hard and is sensitive to the commitments that people make. He further said that as part of the transitional journey a new thing that is being noticed is the sense of leadership in the organisations which is becoming more transparent. “Sense of visible leadership and transparency is the absolute key,” said Rumsby.
“We have to build a much more open and more personal relationship with all of our employees and with our clients through this entire journey,” said Penny Burgess. She talked about how this pandemic affected every individual personally and everybody got a peek into each other’s personal life, at least in those zoom calls done in bedrooms or closets. The pressure on parents of homeschooling, isolation of the individuals living alone, etc, taking these matters into consideration their team had to build a more personalised strategy and be more accommodating and flexible.
James Brasher said about being supportive, “Being mindful about your colleagues and your clients in the unique circumstances that they’re dealing with.” He further said that no one really knows what is to come and these situations are unpredictable, which makes decision making even more complex and risky than usual.
Elan Shou talked about the work situation in China and Hong Kong, saying that the Chinese government finds work-from-home unsuitable, whereas Hong Kong offices tend to function better while employees are at home. “From our side, we try to have human touch, and try to have people seeing each other. On our side we still want to see that our team is united and understand the other party.
James Brasher talked about his office culture, the behaviour, ritual and activities one does offline, in some ways these define their culture; and their team members have continued doing that on online platforms as well.
Sunayna asked a question about how has been the response of the employees to these fun activities that have been created in online platforms. Has the participation of the employees dropped or increased? To this Brasher answered that he noticed waves of mood. Sometimes employees are really excited, and sometimes they do not wish to participate. Penny had a different view, she said that participation is often driven by Government announcements. Employees are optimistic about the changing situation and are excited to go out and meet people.
To the question made by the moderator, “What did you do to keep the morale and motivation of the employees up?” Elan Shou narrated the kind of fun activities they do and would continue to do in her office to keep the employees engaged and would also benefit the local schools in funding for their hygiene. But these are being done to bring back the mood of the office post COVID, when people are really stressed about the uncertainties.
Ian Rumsby added that personalised communication is going to be the key, irrespective of the signs of the organisation. There is the concept of survey fatigue, and one has to be sensitive, and understand what people are thinking. This will help in making better decisions. Penny narrated about her team and the kind of upskill training they went through digital evolution. “For me, this is the perfect time to question: What the purpose is, and how are we moving towards as businesses and what value can we give to the team,” said Penny.
Baishali Banerjee, the student of SCoRe, asked the question about laying off the employees at the time of pandemic. What is the best way of implementing a communication strategy in this situation? To this, Ian Rumsby answered that the need for empathy in the context of deliberate decision making is the absolute key.
In conclusion, Sunanyna said “PR industry is a resilient one. Technology and spirit of the people has kept us going and I am hoping that employee well being will continue to be fundamental and subscribe to new initiatives.”
You can watch the webinar recording here
– Alisha Shireen
Interesting read: How Brands Across Geographies Are Preparing for COVID
Alisha Shireen is a part of Class of 2020 of PG Programme in PR and Corporate Communications at SCoRe, Mumbai. She completed her winter internship with SPAG Asia, Mumbai.
She did her schooling from Auxilium Convent School, Bandel, which is 52.3 km from Kolkata. She did her graduation from Patna Women’s College in Mass Communications. She was a freelancer for The Times of India, Patna Times for a year (2018-2019), and wrote advertorials and event coverage for the English daily