Best Practice

Connecting during Covid – it’s time to flip the coin to look for a silver lining.

Over the past seven months or so, there’s been a lot written about the negatives of Covid.

And there’s no doubt that there are lots of them – companies have folded or had to downsize, people have lost their jobs and, as a result, have found themselves under really serious pressure.

And there’s been a lot written about how working from home is eroding connection and making it difficult for companies to maintain the cultures they worked so hard to build.

But against that backdrop, it’s also important to take a moment to recognize that every cloud does have a silver lining. It might seem microscopically thin right now – but it is there. 

And it’s important that organizations put a strong focus on helping people to see that silver lining. Because even with all the recent and positive talk of vaccines, it’s unlikely that much will change dramatically, at least in the first half of 2021. 

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So, we have to play the hand that we’re currently holding. As far as I’m concerned, there’s little point wasting precious energy trying to fight something that we can’t do anything about. We just have to learn to co-exist for the time being and to focus on the positive.

For me, that silver lining is a Covid-driven opportunity for organizations to build more human connections with their people.

And at the very core of that is a focus on purpose.

We’re human beings and so the connections through purpose are important. The idea that the work we do is having a positive impact on other human beings is incredibly powerful.

I remember, when I worked at Allied Irish Banks, hearing the then Head of Marketing saying, ‘We don’t sell mortgages, we help people to buy homes.’ It’s exactly the same thing but with a very simple yet powerful shift – from a focus on what to a focus on why.

Help your people to care!

It was Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with Why’ that really put the idea of purpose slap-bang in the spotlight – shifting your focus from WHAT you do to WHY you do it. Yes, maybe you make the world’s best widgets, but it’s WHY you make those widgets that people care about 

‘Our widgets are a key part of defibrillators that save hundreds of lives every year’.

Now THAT’S motivating and it’s the human element is the game-changer.

So how can organizations really bring their purpose to life? 

Quite simply, it’s about rooting out the stories that will connect with and motivate your people on a more human level – stories that really bring your why to life.

Some of these stories will no doubt come via your senior team or through your internal comms team and they’ll be broadcast out across the organization. But the more powerful stories are those that come from your people.

And you don’t need to be Spielberg to do it. Everyone who has a smartphone has an HD film studio in their pocket, and those short, home-made videos are really powerful. Additionally, with internal social networks, SharePoint, Slack, Yammer, and all manner of other tools, writing and publishing employee-generated content has never been easier

We worked with a client and 150 of their staff earlier this year to help them define their purpose and values. They launched them in January but, because of COVID, they weren’t able to formally roll them out to everyone across the business. What’s happened instead is that they’ve rolled out more organically and, in many ways, perhaps more powerfully. 

They were made available to their staff via their intranet and people simply picked them up and started using them. The purpose has been talked about in CEO updates and in their staff magazine. And staff have been using the values to recognize their colleagues for great work they’ve done and, maybe more powerfully, to underpin updates and stories from across the business – stories they’ve filmed and submitted themselves. 

Since March, almost 100 staff have submitted short videos talking about those values and how they’re bringing them to life every day. And countless others have published articles and nominated colleagues for great work.

So yes, maybe it is fair to say that, in some companies, this pandemic is eroding the connection with their people.

But maybe it’s time to refocus, to see not the cloud but the silver lining, to start thinking about the opportunity this pandemic has given you.

Change how you communicate with your people and underpin it with WHY your business exists. It will strengthen your connection with them and leave a positive legacy that lives long beyond this crisis.

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