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Case Study: Internal communications in response to pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic required a rapid shift to work from home, a public service organisation sought support to develop internal staff communications that would provide key information to staff in line with government protocols.

Situation

Due to sudden onset of work from home orders due to COVID-19, a public sector agency in the midst of significant internal reform recognised the need to respond quickly to this changed environment. In addition to the need to facilitate as many of their staff working from home as quickly as possible, the organisation would also need to provide new communications structures to keep staff engaged and connected in a different working environment, ensure business as usual and continue the key reform program. In addition, the internal communications and marketing team were part of a broader restructure and were facing capacity and capability gaps.

Action

FPL Advisory was engaged to provide support to the General Manager, People and Culture as an extension of the communications team. In addition to drafting internal communications in a structured and digestible way we identified the structure and long term planning for communicating broader issues. The approach sought to manage a range of external issues including an ongoing sense of panic, escalated by a heightened 24-hour news cycle, unprecedented restrictions to people’s choice and sense of personal freedoms, heightened anxiety and deep concerns about job retention for staff and their families by providing certainty, control and an comprehensive pattern of communication.

In response to reviewing previous communications, our primary recommendations were:

  • Develop a sense of ownership and control for stakeholders – transition communications away from instructions and instead ask for action
  • Use less formal language and, where appropriate, use a more conversational and familiar tone aligned with personal interactions
  • Deliver quality communications rather than quantity – avoiding rapid communications that could convey a sense that there isn’t control.

Outcome

As a result of an agreed process and driven by identified principles, FPL supported the organisation to turn sporadic and complex team updates into a simple and engaging internal email distributed to staff on a regular basis. This included general business updates as well as key activities in response to the crisis. The format meant the leadership received these in a consistent way allowing for fast sign off and delivery. This significantly reduced the workload for the Executive Team, reducing the influx of emails that had been overwhelming staff which lessened overall anxiety and insecurity. Copies were provided to the Board and this gave them confidence that internal staff matters were being well communicated.

FPL Advisory supports clients across many industry sectors to resolve risks, create opportunities and support government engagement.

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