By Andrea Jastrebski
These past six months might be described as uncertain, unprecedented and unknown, and while this is still the tone today, the good news is, we can now begin to reflect on the results of the work we’ve recently been doing. For our new blog segment about COVID-19, we’re looking at how COVID has shifted communications strategies in 2020 and what practitioners are planning for in the coming months. We chatted virtually with Andrée Morier, communications manager at Steel Reef and IABC/Calgary member to learn more about what the “new normal” looks like for her role and organization. She offers us an inspiring story about connection, safety, teamwork, technology and embracing change. Here’s Morier’s take on communicating during this pandemic.
We asked Morier to summarize communicating with stakeholders today. She explained, “it’s an environment of increased communication to all stakeholders.” In looking at an article about how smart companies are communicating during COVID-19, it seems that increased communications to stakeholders is not uncommon, and it’s what’s required.
We chatted about communicating in the early days of COVID. At the onset, Morier created a plan for communicating with stakeholders – particularly employees. In her look back to March and April, she says, “we were communicating daily to make sure employees were COVID-aware and felt safe and connected to the organization.” While we talked, it became clear that connection to people and being there for each other led the way for what was next.
Early on, Steel Reef integrated a Business Continuity Team to take a daily look at the unfolding situation and to make it possible for the organization to shift to a work-from-home setting safely. Morier explains, “the priority to protect our people and culture continues to be weaved into what we are doing now.” After the response to safety, the focus shifted to corporate culture and wellness. Adopting all things connective and interactive, the team introduces a virtual corporate culture embracing safety, health and wellness, and working in a new way.
Steel Reef implemented some fun tactics as a result of needing to communicate in a new way. To help educate employees about COVID and minimize the spread of illness while ensuring access to good information, Morier launched a wellness site for employees. The site repurposes how Steel Reef uses SharePoint and provides easy access to wellness resources for employees. Integrating new technology and repurposing existing technology is a strategy that is working for Morier’s new communications plan.
Morier is using other tactics to connect with employees too. To get people working together while apart, employees participated in a virtual Amazing Race. Teams tracked kilometres walked in a day, and those numbers would bring people through a virtual course of the company’s operations in Saskatchewan, North Dakota and Denver. To help with lack of face-to-face communication, Morier and the team introduced the Social Reef – a SharePoint function enabling online chat for employees. Working particularly well is an employee spotlight segment called Exploring the Reef, highlighting corporate and field employees. These new ways of communicating are making a difference for employees, and they plan to continue this increased communication in the coming months.
With change happening so quickly for communicators recently, we wondered if anyone is reflecting on the work they’re doing, Morier is. She explained, “I’m proud of the team. Everyone is rallying together to make sure that employees are supported and informed. We’re all making sure that our culture and community are maintained.”
Morier’s team is taking a highly collaborative approach with employees and stakeholders, but not without some challenges and opportunities. She explains, “We’ve become purposeful around connectivity because interaction can’t be taken for granted.” While employees at Steel Reef haven’t taken each other for granted, being together was expected. However, this awareness opened up possibilities for Steel Reef, including a more aligned internal communications strategy.
Navigating the “new normal” at Steel Reef highlights connection, creativity, and growth in corporate culture. While we are always aiming to communicate our corporate culture, these pandemic times will shape how we talk about our organizations in the future.
Thank you, Andrée, for giving us a look at communicating during the pandemic at Steel Reef.