Town Hall Lessons; Mobilizing a Retail Comeback
Few industries have been hit harder by the pandemic than retail. The images of shuttered storefronts are heartbreakingly common, but the situation is so much more complex than that when we’re talking about the largest retailers in the world. With a combination of in-store workers, warehouse staff and office workers, the challenges of COVID-19 have only accelerated the pressures on this industry to change the way it communicates and change fast.
In our recent virtual Town Hall, Mobilizing a Retail Comeback, I was joined by two communications experts supporting global workforces. Nolan Carleton from AT&T and Kelsey Graziano from PVH spoke about their experience leading through this crisis and their thoughts about a new way of working in their organizations.
What They’ve Learned
When Nolan led the charge to sunset AT&T’s intranet, in favor of using SocialChorus, as the homepage for all employees at the beginning of March, no one could have envisioned what was about to transpire just weeks after launching the new interface. All of a sudden, they had a great way to engage the workforce with real-time communications as thousands of employees transitioned to working from home. Real-time communications was truly the key to fulfill the mission of their Employee Communications team – deliver news and information to help employees know something, feel something and do something.
The ability to communicate in real-time was just as important at PVH, who encouraged leaders to embrace video. With the use of SocialChorus, Kelsey could help leaders from multiple brands appear more relatable and human while showing more of their individual personalities by having them record and distribute their message directly to their teams. The resulting engagement has been greater than anything they’d done before.
At PVH, engagement with the workforce was, and is, a chief concern with a large percentage of their workforce furloughed. To combat this, PVH decided to not restrict access to their SocialChorus program, PVH Insider, and created a dedicated “Stay Connected” channel used to share resources and motivation to all workers. They were especially targeted in their communications with managers, to help them understand how to support their furloughed workers during the crisis.
Both Kelsey and Nolan agreed, data is an essential tool for managing through this transition into a new way of working for their organizations. Nolan is taking the particular approach of keeping her mind open to what she likes as an individual and marrying that up with the mindset of other employee personas, who have different preferences and learning styles, to build a communications plan that accounts for all types of workers. She then measures each step of the way, so she and her team can fail fast and improve even faster.
Nolan also shared that when it comes to measurement, while it is helpful to hear what people think and what they want, it is critical to cross-reference this information with behavioral data. Nolan is able to see what content is most viewed, engaged or shared by geography, department and roles. If they think they are seeing the important content you want them to but actually aren’t, that’s a signal that it’s time to retarget and bridge the gap.
COVID-19 has created unique situations across geographies and regions. At PVH, Kelsey is focused on ensuring that she can continue to meet their people with content, wherever they are, using content amplifiers to stream content for their Stay Connected program into each of the organization’s dedicated regional intranet pages. She doesn’t want to force anyone to any single channel or send a blanket message that doesn’t account for each region’s situational nuances.
At the end of the day, both want to harness the wave of high employee engagement, amplify user generated content and most of all, retain the mindset of real-time communications so their organizations can respond to the complexities of what’s coming next.