Employee Communication Strategies That Work for a Virtual Workforce

September 22, 2020 | Shannon Shoemaker

Many of our teams and employees are now working from home. HR teams have had to find new ways to engage, build relationships, and share company updates and information, along with HR changes and resources virtually. We are competing for attention as our employees deal with personal struggles and challenges including sick loved ones and family members as well as finding ways to entertain kids at home with limited childcare options while working remotely. In short, employees have a lot on their plates right now and HR leaders must get creative in ways that allow us to engage and communicate with employees that resonate with them beyond emails or Zoom calls.

 

Employee Communication Is Essential for a Remote and Virtual Workforce

We touched on some resources for remote employees in How to Support Your Employees and Leaders Who Are Working Remotely; here, we’ll focus on specific communication strategies that can keep your employees engaged and informed.

1.) Omnichannel communication.

Using a single channel for all work-related communication might be efficient, but consider segmenting the type of information you need to communicate to employees and changing the channel. For example, rather than sending lengthy emails for HR and company announcements, make use of your company intranet hub and put the content there. Instead of paragraphs of information, consider having your company leaders present the information in informal videos so employees can watch on the hub at their convenience.

With platforms like Sharepoint, you can even add an interactive social element to your internal communications. While it is typically used for file sharing, your employees can create robust user profiles that reflect their personality, share to a team feed using hashtags, give coworker shout outs, and create an information feed that’s participatory.

Some companies are offering SMS communication to employees (opt-in) and using it to send updates on location opening or safety guidelines, links to helpful articles, and even weather and critical information alerts that are geo targeted.

2.) Make it fun.

You can use online polls or quiz technology to make video conference calls with large groups more interesting, or have a regular online trivia or karaoke competition in place of a virtual happy hour. There are free platforms you can use to do all of the above and it’s one way to keep your teams involved and entertained. Your managers are looking for ways to keep their teams interested and engaged. You and your HR team can create a support list for your managers and team leaders that offer links to tools that they can use during regular meetings to turn them into morale builders.

3.) Variety is the spice of life.

As your managers and team leaders have daily team meetings, or weekly one-on-ones, think about how you can vary the methods of communication so they don’t become monotonous. You still have to be focused on work, but consider how you can open this up. If you don’t already have team Slack or Microsoft Teams channels that are specific to work groups, set them up and let text-based meetings occasionally stand in for video conferences. Have call-only meetings. Designate one person each day on your team to lead the daily meetings to review work items. And for performance reviews, consider using a platform like 15Five that takes the entire process online rather than having team members sit through an item by item appraisal of their work via call or video conference.

4.) Be flexible.

Understand that this may be the time to introduce flexible hours, so the different methods of communication you use can adapt to share the same information with a team that might include a developer that prefers to code at night, a design team member that might want to make their weekend days Sunday and Monday, a team lead that works 7 a.m. to noon and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. This flexibility takes into consideration that an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday with a one hour lunch has been left back at your physical office. Depending on your employees’ location, leaving their home for lunch may not be possible, so they may prefer to eat lunch while they’re working and wrap up their day an hour earlier. Flexibility also supports your employees that have had to get creative with childcare options, needing to be available to their children during normal working hours and return to their workday once their children are in bed.

5.) Repurpose and repackage content.

You and your team can produce company podcasts or quick video briefs to help reduce the number of all hands conference calls while also allowing you to distribute your message on multiple channels like Slack, email, intranet, or via your managers and leaders.

 

Make Your Communication Intentional and Seek Feedback Often

Finally, remember that your employees are your best resource for measuring engagement and identifying challenges while everyone is working remotely. Send surveys that ask specific questions about how your employees feel about working from home, what challenges they are experiencing, how your company can better support them, how safe they feel returning to your office, and so on. Data can help you identify morale problems, communication issues, and other needs your employees have while working remotely that you might not have considered.

Working remotely is challenging on its own; working remotely during a pandemic isn’t something any of us have encountered before. We’re all trying to find ways to make it work, reduce anxiety, handle childcare or other scheduling challenges. A simple ask: “How are you?” accompanied by a survey lets your employees know that you are working to support them, that you care about their emotional well-being, and serves as a reminder that HR is standing by to help.

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