While the pandemic continues to take its toll around the world, our first “post-pandemic” summer in the United States is shaping up to be profoundly different than previous ones. The cultural, social and lifestyle shifts that we adopted in the past year have left their indelible marks on individuals and corporations. Below, we reflect on what all of this means for communications teams and the industry in the near term.
The makeup of communications teams is changing
The Wall Street Journal recently called working from home the ultimate signing bonus.
As the lines between personal and professional life continue to blur, it’s increasingly acceptable to consider “lifestyle” a legitimate career-choice element, even a primary one.
As companies decide whether to call employees back to the office, people are taking the time to deeply evaluate their lifestyles and what they want for their families. This trend means the communications industry is changing as workers ask themselves fundamental questions. Do they want to live in a city or in the country? Do they want to commute every day? How much stress are they willing to put up with daily? How demanding do they want their jobs to be? Are they adamant about working from home full time and refusing air travel? Do they want to move to a less expensive city if they are no longer geographically bound to an office?
As with other teams in your company, “the great resignation” is causing a shift in the makeup of communications teams, as people unapologetically seek out the arrangements that work best for them, often found at smaller firms. This movement is creating more diverse communications teams at the same time that many companies are also making a stronger commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). The result is that companies are willing to consider or embrace richer communications campaigns and content, with attention to DE&I and other social issues. In addition, team members in different locations or with different backgrounds can bring fresh perspectives and ask important questions in communications planning.
Corporate culture is having a moment
For many companies, contemplating “return to the office” strategies have triggered thoughtful consideration of corporate culture and values. Corporate reputations are on the line as communications teams update shareholders, consumers and other external audiences on their plans.
From an internal communications standpoint, this one decision, and how and when its communicated, stands to overshadow other priorities for employees. Considering the previous discussion about workers being willing to change jobs to fit their lifestyle choices, companies need to provide complete information about working in the office, remote or hybrid options and any workplace adjustments that have resulted from the pandemic. All executives and managers should be provided with a common understanding of any changes in HR policies so that they can be communicated clearly and consistently.
The communicator’s role is expanding
A company’s success hinges on reputation, especially now, as employees and customers have shown they will switch to a competitor if they don’t agree with a company’s words or actions. With the pandemic, social unrest and – in the U.S. – a presidential election in the same year, consumers grew increasingly concerned with the values, ethics, and behaviors of their favorite brands.
It has always been the communication teams’ job to not only protect reputations, but also to guide the company’s larger decisions that affect that reputation. Communications professionals — who were already responsible for marketing, public relations, social media and more — now face additional responsibilities in business consulting; diversity, equity & inclusion (DE&I); environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting and strategic planning.
Thanks to the dynamic nature of our current environment, there is a tremendous opportunity for communicators to make moves, define their roles, and contribute in meaningful ways to important dialogues impacting their companies, customers and communities. Despite the turmoil and the changes that have occurred in the industry, it can be a positive and fulfilling time to be a communications professional.