Town Hall Lessons; A Safe, Productive Return to Work in Manufacturing
Radically changing a global manufacturing organization is no easy task. Doing so in the face of a global pandemic and with pressures to create new products for the good of society, well that is another thing entirely. How do you mobilize an entire organization to respond in a safe, productive way?
In our recent virtual Town Hall, A Safe, Productive Return to Work in Manufacturing, I was joined by two communications experts from manufacturing giants who shared their views on being prepared for COVID-19 and their thoughts on getting ready for the next phase of this crisis. Brett Lutz from ADM and Christine Miller from Dow, spoke about the critical foundation they had at their disposal and the mindset necessary for a new way of working.
What They’ve Learned
With exposure globally, being able to use communications to mobilize their workforce quickly was essential. At Dow, they had the luxury of a stable foundation with the SocialChorus platform powering Dow Connect so they were able to create and publish communications quickly and in a targeted manner. And as much of the workforce moved from the workplace to home, having the ability to reach employees wherever they are — mobile, intranet, newsletters — gave them the confidence they were getting their people the critical information to stay informed, while building trust in their company as a source of truth.
At ADM, while they’ve traditionally had strong engagement with their networked (desk) workforce, the big initiative before COVID-19 was to ensure they were reaching their non-networked frontline workers. With the need to understand what was going at the corporate level, as well as at a local level, the effort to reach non-networked teams was accelerated. And the effort paid off — engagement with the communications Brett’s team creates has skyrocketed.
While reaching everyone has been important, aligning their people around the right messages was a key learning point. Both Brett and Christine came to the realization that their previous notions of high production, perfect content was falling by the wayside in favor of more real-time video communication filmed on a mobile phone. At ADM, their CEO is now prone to create direct communications through their platform, which helps maintain a high level of trust through authenticity.
At both ADM and Dow, the notion of “return to work” isn’t really accurate. Their workforces have been working at near full capacity throughout this crisis and prefer to think of this next phase as a new way of work and returning to the workplace, respectively.
To support this next phase, the focus is on targeted communications to give their people the right tools for new protocols, both at the corporate and local levels. The content needs to be small and consumable. People are stressed and they’ve got to make it as easy as possible to get the information needed.
Building on the reality of the level of stress of their workforces, both Brett and Christine agreed that it was important to acknowledge that it is normal for people to not feel normal. Each person has their own challenges, whether in the workplace, in their homes or in their communities. The role of communications is to help these people in both small and large ways. This is taking the form of increased recognition and wellness programs, as well as a focus on enabling leaders to communicate more with their teams. Christine stressed that it’s important for leaders to alleviate concerns about employee safety, reassure their teams that we’re not rushing back, and be open and honest with the workforce so they can be proud of what their organization is doing for the greater good.
If every company can take that kind of employee-centric approach and carry it forward, we’ll be well on our way to much safer and productive workplaces now and in the future.