June 22, 2020
I’m really chatty. I’m a people person. So I really miss random conversations in the office kitchen, the pop-in to an office for a quick hello, gatherings in the conference room for a staff meeting.
It’s not that these conversations aren’t happening while working from home during COVID-19; they are happening -- over Zoom, Slack, Teams, Skype, email and even the old-fashioned telephone. We’re in an era of multiple communications platforms. It’s a little overwhelming.
So how does a business leader stand out amid the constant buzz of alerts, vibrations, dings and bells? Communications between organizations and employees must change to stay relevant in a changing world.
Companies have responded in a variety of ways to stay connected and maintain positive relations with dispersed workforces. I’m going to speak to the novel approach Finn Partners took starting in March. Company leaders from around the world created short videos on themes of creativity and inspiration. I’m not holding up my company as some paragon of internal communications. (Is it heresy for someone at a PR firm to say that?) But I thought I would share a few ideas inspired by the home videos that other organizations may find effective going forward.
Try something new: Our CEO doesn’t usually communicate with employees via video. He prefers email. In one of his emails shortly after we started working from home, he said he wanted to stay in touch with everyone and thought a video would be a nice supplement to his emails. His video was short, and I don’t remember much of what he said but it was still memorable. For the first time I saw him without his business uniform on. I don’t work in the same office as the CEO but he’s visited the Chicago office a few times in the two years I’ve been with the firm. I’ve also seen plenty of photos of him. He usually wears a jacket, dress pants and a white shirt. In the video he’s wearing what appears to be a houndstooth patterned long-sleeve shirt. His outfit wasn’t the new business casual of sweatpants and a T-shirt, but it still brought a smile to my face.
Bosses are people, too: Other firm leaders made short videos and they have been distributed every week or so. The videos are a good reminder that it’s OK for business leaders to let their hair down, so to speak, and let their employees see them in their natural habitats. The executives have not been afraid to give us an intimate view of their lives. We’ve seen pets and children. We’ve seen the inside of homes and apartments. One executive -- who I learned is an avid runner -- took us on his favorite running trail and showed off a gorgeous view of the San Francisco Bay.
Be your own director: Judging from the videos, Finn didn’t give the executives a script or any talking points. The company trusted their creativity and judgment. Some videos were funny. Some were heartfelt. Some offered great insight. Some involved the entire office and had Oscar-worthy film editing. They were all authentic.
Many voices, one company: The videos introduced employees to leaders across the firm. I met leaders in our international offices that I probably would never meet. Since I'm relatively new to the firm, there were U.S. executives I had only heard by name that I saw for the first time. Even in a two-minute video, I got a sense of their personalities. The videos connected me to a company beyond my office of 50 or so people. For the first time, I saw all of Finn.
Freedom to create: Videos have become common platforms for internal communications. They don’t have to have high production values. Sometimes a single take with a smartphone is all you need to say something meaningful.
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