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Communication is Key to a Successful Remote Work Transition

Communications, KAI Partners, Remote Work, Virtual Work

By Mia Di Miceli, PMP, CSM, CSPO 

From In Office to Home Office: The secret ingredient to shift an entire workforce to a remote working environment.

I have worked in Executive Communications and Employee Engagement with private sector businesses for over 15 years; the immediate reaction to Shelter-In-Place requirements of COVID-19 put my knowledge and experience to the test. Supporting a public sector client where the practice of remote working was just a nice thought made responding to the COVID-19 pandemic seem daunting. 

The first question that came to mind was, how was I going to help my client shift their entire workforce from the office to working from home, with littletono productivity loss? The answer became immediately clear–by using the best secret ingredient around:

Strategic, thoughtful, and focused communication.

Organizations frequently underestimate the value of thoughtful communication, but communications can be a game-changer for any organization. As a Communications Consultant, you might say I am biased, but really, a communications professional is one of the most impactful resources an executive should have at the ready.

Creating a strategic, thoughtful, and focused communication approach does not have to be hard or complex. Here are 4 tips for creating a quick communications plan to help transition your workforce for any situation–pandemicpost-pandemic, or otherwise.

  1. Determine the overall theme of the message. Does the organization want to convey a specific message such as: business as usual, we are united, or do not panic? Work with executive leadership to determine and help guide a thoughtful theme to be conveyed to the workforce. 
  2. Identify the two or three best channels to deliver the message. In times of crisis such as COVID-19, the usual channels may not be the best for quick, concise, and efficient messaging. You may have to adopt something new like a vlog (video blog) or virtual office hours. Deciding the channels upfront will help streamline the volume of content and will set expectations for future communications with the audience. The channels chosen should also lend themselves to a natural feedback loop. Whether it’s as simple as advertising an Outlook inbox location or just capturing comments from the vlog hosting sitea feedback loop is imperative to a focused approach.  
  3. Ensure all content supports the overall theme message. As an example, if the theme is, “We are united,” then all content distributed should have a tone, language, and relevance to support the feeling of unification. For this theme in a teleworking environment, you could produce a vlog series with tips and tricks on staying connected while working remotely. 
  4. Document the frequency of publishing/distributing for each channel. With the theme determinedthe channels identified, and the content outlined, you will need to work on a cadence calendar. This calendar will help leadership understand how often the workforce will receive the push of content, and it will highlight opportunities for leadership to insert additional instructions or relevant information. 

Utilizing these 4 steps, I supported my client to successfully mobilize over 300 staff members and contractors from a 100% inoffice environment to a 100% teleworking environment in 2 weeks. This approach to thoughtful communication guided direct support of the executive team through daily crisis management meetings where we identified and approved appropriate messaging, determined the frequency with which we would engage the management team and staff, and helped ensure we had a plan for technology training and the comfort level of staff in being able to perform their regular job duties in a remote environment.

As mentioned at the start of this post, strategic, thoughtful, and focused communications can be the secret ingredient needed to support an organization to engage with what might now be a remote workforce. Communications will support the process of acceptance and can help you inspire what might be the new hybrid way of working. The days of everyone in the office every day might be over. Embracing teleworking as a long-term possibility now will help you ramp up for the next inevitable transition.

How will you get your organization through the next acceleration?

About the Author: Mia is an Executive Communications Consultant for KAI Partners. Mia joined KAI Partners in late 2019 with extensive experience in the private sector technology industry. She has successfully supported C-Suite executives in transforming their organizations through employee engagement, strategic communications, and organizational change management. She is an active member of International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and holds PMP, CSM, and CSPO certifications, and is trained in Six Sigma Green Belt.

In Case of Emergency: Have a Crisis Communications Plan

Communications, KAI Partners, Risk Assessment, Sacramento, Strategic Plan

By Stephen Alfano, PMP®, CSM, Prosci 

There is no sure-fire way of predicting when (or how) a crisis will occur in an organization or a business environment. Crises, by their very nature, are all too often unpredictable and all-consuming events. 

However, with the practice of risk management, organizations and business leaders can assess potential crises and quantify their ensuing impact. More important, they can use the assessments to create mitigation plans to prepare for potential emergencies. 

One such mitigation plan is preparing a crisis communications plan. 

A crisis communications plan provides a framework for timely and clear messaging from when the crisis hits through its evolution. A crisis communications plan often extends well beyond the end of the crisis to ensure that everything and everyone is on the same page or narrative. Like most proactive business management strategies, crisis communications plans fall into categories that mirror the most critical operations and functional areas.

Here are the top five crisis communications plans and what they aim to mitigate.

  • Financial Crisis Communications Plan: This plan focuses on controlling the narrative surrounding revenue loss or asset devaluation caused by external factors (like decreased customer demand) or internal factors (like poor purchasing decisions).
  • Personnel Crisis Communications Plan: This plan focuses on controlling the narrative surrounding either illegal or unethical behaviors of staff or stakeholders which could damage the organization’s reputation. 
  • Organizational Crisis Communications Plan: This plan focuses on controlling the narrative surrounding negative press coverage or media attention when an organization mistreats or manipulates customers in pursuit of profits or market data.
  • Technological Crisis Communications Plan: This plan focuses on controlling the narrative surrounding technology failures, such as a customer-facing website crashing or errors in codes that disable business processes and limit or shut down operations. 
  • Environmental Crisis Communications Plan: This plan focuses on controlling the narrative surrounding operations disruptions ranging from one-time or temporary delays or closures (like a power outage or gas leak) to sustained, long-term delays or closures (like a plant shutdown or a devastating hurricane). 

Most Crisis Communications Plans have the same core phases and steps, including:

Pre-crises Phase 

Step 1: Identify Potential Crises Risk

Step 2: Designate and Educate Potential Crises Risk Owners and Spokespeople

Step 3: Standup Notifications and Monitoring Systems

Step 4: Test Response Regularly

Post-crises Phase

Step 5: Assess the Situation

Step 6: Create and Rollout Key Messaging

Step 7: Wind down/Wrap up Response as Quickly as Possible

Step 8: Perform Postmortem of Response Steps

Step 9: Revise Plans with Postmortem Insight

For more insight into Crisis Communications, check out these links:

Your Survival Guide to Crisis Communication – HubSpot

3 Best Practices For An Effective Response Plan – Business 2 Community

Crisis Management: Communications Best Practices – Department of Energy

If you need additional information or support creating crisis communications plans explicitly designed to fit your organization or business, contact us to learn more! We would love to help!

About the Author: Stephen Alfano is an Organizational Change Management Consultant and Communications Expert. He has over 30 years of experience in leading and managing initiatives for both private and public-sector clients. His résumé includes providing both new business and business process improvement services to Apple, American Express, AT&T, California Department of Transportation, Chevron, Entergy, Levi Strauss & Co., Louisiana Office of Tourism, Mattel, Microsoft, Novell, SONY, Sutter Health, and Wells Fargo. Stephen currently works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc., providing change management and communications expertise and project management support services on several active contracts.