How not to "drop" the effectiveness of communications online? Interview with Maria Reutskaya

What are the key changes in attitudes toward the individual that have occurred in companies?

The main change, in my opinion, is the growth of trust between management and subordinates. This change was forced at first - as we remember, the government obliged employers to send their employees to work remotely, and this was very difficult for many managers. Unfortunately, many had rather negative attitudes toward their colleagues:
- It's impossible to organize workflow on a remote basis;
- If you can't see and personally (read: physically) supervise an employee, they can't work effectively;
- They all sleep and see not to work when the manager is not around, etc.

Earlier, the process of relaxing employer control had already begun in some companies. But had it not been for the epidemic, it could have stretched on for years, if not decades. As the saying goes, there would have been no happiness... And today I know quite a few companies (mostly international) that have already revised their office visit policies after all the restrictions were lifted. And this hybrid work format, where employees can work from home for a few days, will have a positive impact both on the motivation of the employees themselves and on the company's budget (because it is now possible to reduce office space, etc.). So it turns out that there is work outside the office. And even in greater quantities than in the office.

Another significant change that I would like to mention is that there is more authority and more autonomy in decision making. This is particularly true of the HR function. Again, this is a direct consequence of long remote work and inability to control many processes by managers. A very positive trend, which, hopefully, will stay with us for a long time.

What principles should be adhered to now?

Now it's very important to maintain this momentum of trust and empowerment and not slide back into the old format of pressure and control. Otherwise, all the achievements of the past year will be nullified. Numerous international studies show an unprecedented increase in trust in leaders. It is also important to consolidate this achievement and continue to develop programs aimed at developing dialogue with the leadership. On the other hand, a return to offline mode of work will overcome the sense of alienation and detachment that most employees have experienced on a remote basis. And we as HR can also help this "reverse" adaptation.

How to communicate effectively with the employees, if the company has three working modes (remote, hybrid and offline)?

Communication can be called effective only if it reaches 100% of its target audience. Of course, there are no guarantees that the potential coverage will ever coincide with the actual coverage: it is simply impossible, for a number of reasons, to involve 100% of your employees in a particular program/activity. But giving all employees the opportunity to participate is our first priority. Of course, the format and content decide a lot, but that's another story.

I would prioritize those channels that allow you to reach your audience as much as possible. And these channels will be different for every company. On the other hand, if even 2% of your employees go unreached, it can be critical for business. Think about whether all the channels you use allow for full coverage. My advice is to use all of the channels you have in your arsenal, but emphasize the one that is most in demand by employees.

Which internal communications solutions do you think you will keep in your company's arsenal, and which will go with the pandemic?

You can already say that digital is forever. "Thanks to the pandemic, the mentality of employers and employees has changed. We're not so tied to our workplaces anymore, and that gives us freedom and flexibility. I think that digital channels will continue to evolve and improve, providing more and more opportunities for communication and for business.
It's hard to predict anything right now, but for some companies it's absolutely certain that some offline events will be permanently replaced by the online format - at least for the next few years. And beyond that... I've rarely seen companies go back to more costly expense items if you can use the usual low-budget formats.

What are your immediate plans and the projects you're working on?

We're continuing to master the digital space and go even more online. This year we are planning big online events, webinars and master classes for our employees. Video content has become very popular, replacing articles and longreads, so we focus a lot of our communications on video interview formats. This year we want to work more target-oriented with our internal target audiences in order to better understand their needs and make our communications more targeted.

As for my plans as an independent HR communications expert, this year I'm looking forward to launching my first big HR Content course, designed for HR managers, internal communicators, PR people and anyone else who wants to figure out how to create content that works. It should be very interesting.

What will you share on March 2 at the HR Communications conference in your talk "The Challenge of Time: How to 'not drop' the effectiveness of online communications?"

I want to review global HR trends - the part that directly relates to HR communications. We will discuss in detail the advantages and disadvantages of online communications, especially in light of the events of the past year. I will share new digital practices that have been implemented in the company, which we absolutely will take with us into the future. At the end I want to talk about the importance of feedback in online communications, and I will share examples of how we collect it.