Bought yourself a designer face covering yet? Booked a two-hour time slot at your local for some antisocial socialising? Planned a ‘quick’ trip to the corner shop for a pint of milk with military precision while allowing at least 30 minutes for shuffling through the one-way system past the questionable ‘meat’ products?
It’s a funny old time at the minute, isn’t it? Heck, it’s even got its own brand with a Marmite moniker – gotta love that ‘new normal’; or hate it…
Nothing’s as it was. We’re all feeling it and reacting to it differently. One day we’re loving cooking another meal from scratch, the next we’re screaming through a Kafkaesque existential crisis – or is that just us?
Yes, the personal challenges of surviving a global pandemic are taking some getting used to – after all, there’s only so much forward planning you can feasibly apply to being human before the wheels fall off; only so much ‘shoulda woulda coulda’ any of us can forgive with a wry smile.
So how on earth do you mitigate the impact that something like COVID-19 will have on your organisation – or the real-life people who work so hard to keep it going?
Like businesses all over the world, leading resource management company Veolia UK & Ireland had no choice but to take control when the coronavirus first took hold – and its small-but-perfectly-formed IC team did what came naturally: they embraced the challenge that a crisis like this brings, tackled it head-on and took the opportunity to shine.
As Head of IC Emma Weatherby said: ‘Our campaign needed to be as reactive and dynamic as the evolving situation itself. Therefore, ‘adaptability’ became our mantra.’
And the team wasn’t messing about. The launch of their meticulously planned four-year global strategy was sidelined for the immediate delivery of one simple goal: to make sure their people were in the know when it came to the operational impact of social distancing, home working and the partial closure of the business.
Quick and clear messaging needed to be a priority, as did delivering this to the right people in the right way.
And, boy, did they deliver! Weekly exec video messages, dedicated Whatsapp groups, bespoke COVID comms branding, new Google+ communities and intranet pages, tailored multi-platform newsletters… and that’s just scratching the surface – V-Source, anyone?!
But how did they know so much about the wants and needs of the diverse, dispersed, 15,000-strong workforce that was relying on them so heavily for guidance?
One word: insight.
We’d worked with Veolia on an internal comms channel audit in 2019, the results of which were the IC team’s ace card during their dynamic coronavirus campaign planning.
There was a lot of meaningful evidence in the audit report, and because of this the Veolia IC team knew which of their comms channels were the strongest and which methods of communication would be best received by the workforce.
Hours of interviews, peer reviews, surveys, measurement, focus groups and segmentation exercises during the audit told a story of an appetite for clear messaging from senior leaders – and insight into how coupling this with everyday operational info yielded a delivery double whammy.
Plus, knowing that the workforce had a preference for digital channels but many frontline workers were without intranet access told the team that reaching those sites was a problem that would need a fresh approach – and the fact that the V-Source app (that’s what it is!) saw 1,500 new users registering over a three-week period speaks volumes about their innovative solution.
The importance of goal-oriented communications had never been so clear – and as lockdown took hold and the goalposts moved yet again, thanks to the fresh insights unearthed by the IC audit, adapting to even more change was just a day at the (home) office for Emma and the team.
The Veolia IC team are rightly proud to have achieved smashed through their initial goal to keep their people informed, supported and safe over the past four months – and the fact that it’s been done with a clear focus on employee wellbeing, open communication and very visible leadership makes this an even bigger success.
The results speak for themselves, but knowing that their drive for greater employee engagement through tailored, people-first comms has raised the bar is what’s really making Emma and the team tick right now – and it’s safe to say that the evidence and analysis offered by their IC audit plays a very real, very valuable part in that.
We all know us IC types aren’t in it for the glory (well, not that we’d admit), but when your HR Director says ‘you’ve done a phenomenal job and we are very grateful’, it’s easy to see why the team is giving itself a very well-deserved pat on the back.
And as they build on their success and use their COVID learnings – and the results of their IC audit – to influence the way forward, resetting the strategy for 2020 and beyond is being met with a sense of excitement about what happens next…