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How to secure a seat at the table post COVID-19

Recently, I've seen quite a few conversations about the importance of internal communications during COVID-19. Some have argued that this newfound responsibility and seat at the table may be the lasting change we have always hoped for. Without wanting to jump on one bandwagon or another, I've tried to look at the situation from both the employee and leadership perspective.

With this in mind, I think that in order to maintain our place at the table post-quarantine, we cannot ignore the pressures and stresses that our leaders are facing and the economic impact quarantine will have had. We need to be there for them as guiding hands to shape and support them post-quarantine.

Although not all industries have shut down, many are working at a reduced rate with furloughed staff or have ceased production entirely. Sadly, as we know from the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, for these companies, each day brings in yet another economic crush. If you are an internal communicator from one of the worst-hit industries, no doubt you know exactly what I am talking about.

There is a glimmer of hope, however. That when quarantine is lifted, we move into a boom of productivity, back in the physical workplace - whether this be offices, restaurants or salons. Hopefully with the economy bouncing back as a result. No one really knows for sure - but let's hope this is the case.

Executive committees, shareholders and the like will turn up the gas once they receive the green light from the government and some may even lean towards returning to the previous unsustainable way of working. If you are an internal comms professional, this is your chance sway the conversation, step in and guide them towards purposes and strategies that reflect a new, post- COVID-19 world.

To do so, be prepared to show the data. Be ready to be the leadership team's first mate in these uncertain waters and demonstrate the impact your efforts had during quarantine.

If this seems a little daunting - don't worry. I've got you covered. Here are the top priorities you can be focusing on to get ready.

  1. Start conversations with your leadership team now. Find out how they are going to adapt to the new world and what are their shifting priorities.
  2. Develop a list of all the things you have learned from communicating virtually with your employees.
  3. Present to your leadership team how you would communicate post-covid and support your plan with research on how you think the ways of working will shift, how the interaction with teams will shift, and finally how to ensure that the organisation is putting employees' health and safety at the heart of their return to office plan.
  4. Take note of any new values that are emerging.
  5. Try and gauge how employees want to communicate and collaborate moving forward? If you aren't sure - take advantage and ask your employees now.
  6. Finally - think about your own strategic mindset. Does your internal comms plan really need to have those expensive roadshows or digital screens? Scrutinise everything you have planned and see where you can cost save and add more value. Its likely budgets will have decreased dramatically once this is all over.

Use all of the above to inform your decision-makers and help them to create strategies that reflect both the employees' voice and shareholders' objectives all in one. As internal communicators, you have more power to influence post-quarantine than you think- just as long as you prepare well.

Showing a willingness to change, adapt and support your leadership's current and future needs will tell them that you are forward-thinking and have great business acumen - well worthy of that coveted seat.

It will also help them to shift the focus onto what employees need to adapt to a post-quarantine world. This could be along the lines of temperature checks on arrival at reception, screen-protectors or more flexible work patterns etc. All elements that you can help craft into the new strategies and purpose with internal communication as a key element.

If you want that seat long term you have to take the necessary proactive steps now. If you don't, you may very well get side lined once more - resigned to daily intranet posts and poster designs only.

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