NEW online masterclasses launched - Explore how you can learn with me online. Click to find out more >

How to use tech to communicate with employees during COVID-19

Is COVID-19 impacting your internal communication? Thank you to everyone who has got in touch over the past day or so to share their examples with me and ask queries.

Conversations today appear to be focused on how to communicate, particularly how to use technology to bring people together when you have restricted travel or lots of people working remotely.

In this article I’m going to share some ideas for you to consider. If you are due to hold a Town Hall or large company event and have restricted travel, a virtual conference is probably on the cards.

I keep spotting various examples of large events being cancelled e.g. #AdobeSummit. As a result, the US Summit is now an online-only event this year. However, the Adobe EMEA Summit in London is still scheduled to happen.

Further reading: If you’re just starting your COVID-19 (coronavirus) comms, see yesterday’s article for official medical resources and 15 questions you need to know the answer to for your internal communication activities. You can download them as a PDF.

10 March 2020 update: Free crisis communication guide.

How to communicate during COVID-19: virtual conferences

If you have Microsoft 365, you have a few options. How you set up and prepare the live event impacts the production quality of the event. Live events can be created and viewed in Yammer, Stream, or Teams.

Option: Yammer Live Event

See the Yammer Live Event playbook online or below for a guide.

Things to know (and talk to your IT department about)
To host a live event in Yammer you must enforce Office 365 Identity and you must be using Office 365 Groups. Verify with your IT Department before you schedule your first live event. The live event is held in a public or private Yammer group. All Company cannot be used for live events. Only Yammer Group Admins can create and schedule live events.

Find out more via the Microsoft website.

 

Option: Create a live event in Microsoft Stream

See the Microsoft website for full instructions on how to use Stream for your live event.

 

Option: Broadcast a Yammer event using Teams

Ready to create a Yammer live event using Teams? You can have up to ten presenters and producers, including you. This type of event is designed for when presenters use Teams to video themselves from their own computers.

Tip: Schedule the event now so you have time to promote it. Then, set up a test event to make sure everyone involved knows what to do during the actual event.

Tip: There’s a step-by-step video on the Microsoft website to help you schedule your live event using Teams.

 

See the Microsoft website for more information.

Roles

There are four roles used in Teams and Yammer, each with different permissions. There are also functional roles in your organisation that should be assigned as needed. See the Microsoft website for more information.

Live event roles in Teams and Yammer

  • Organiser: The person producing the event.
    • Produce the event (configure the event stream)
    • Cancel the event
    • Edit the event
    • Share the event with others
  • Producer: The people who are coordinating the event.
    • Produce the event (configure the event stream)
    • Share the event with others
  • You can have up to 10 presenters at a time.
  • Presenters: The people who are presenting during the event.
    • Produce the event (configure the event stream)
    • Share the event with others
  • You can have up to 10 presenters at a time.
  • Attendees: Everyone attending the event, either before, during, or after the broadcast.
    • Participate! Comment, ask questions, or answer questions.
    • Stay organised. Follow a post or bookmark specific questions or comments you want to follow-up on.
    • Share the event with others by sending a link to it.

Additional responsibilities

  • Moderator: The moderator is responsible for monitoring and responding to posts from attendees.

8 April 2020: I just spotted this great example from Jamie Angus at PDSA, they’re using Microsoft Teams for leadership communication:

Option: Use Group FaceTime for up to 32 people

If you are using iPhones, iPads or Macs at work, I believe the latest figure is you can schedule FaceTime with up to 32 participants. See the Apple website to learn more about Group FaceTime.

 

Option: Use Workplace from Facebook

Julien Codorniou, VP Workplace from Facebook says: “In times of emergency, organisation-wide collaboration tools give companies the ability to send updates to employees instantly. However, it’s equally important to have two-way communication to receive updates from the field, especially with a globally and physically distributed workforce.

Our customer success team has compiled a list of key Workplace features and best practices we’re learning from our customers, to leverage during a crisis:

Create an open and default group to provide a single source for daily updates and safety recommendations and then ensure these high-signal updates reach everyone effectively by marking them as important.

This is the strategy being followed by VietCredit, a financial services provider in Vietnam where 16 cases of Covid-19 have so far been reported.

“We’ve set up a default group on Workplace and added everybody in the company,” says Head of Internal Communications Tien Nguyen Hoang Nhat. “We have a pinned post at the top of the group with clear instructions on how to prevent the virus, like sanitising personal devices four times a day and avoiding social gatherings or festivals. We’ve even created pictures to make the information more useful and engaging.”

Facebook themselves are using Workplace to communicate updates on COVID-19

Option: use video via Workplace

Use video to make information and tips more engaging. Writing on the Workplace website, Lindsay Devereux, Senior Manager, Communications, Asia at American insurance giant Sun Life says: “Workplace has been a great tool for us to communicate during the outbreak. We’re using mark as important to amplify and track employee engagement with important announcements for people in affected areas. We’ve also been able to use video to share hygiene tips. We’ve seen an increase in posts as employees use Workplace to virtually connect and share with each other when it’s not possible to be together in person.”

Options: Workplace functionality

  • Encourage leadership to go Live to provide assurances and support. Julien says: “Recently, two of our Australian-based customers, Taronga Zoo and Ambulance Victoria, used Workplace to share live updates with their entire workforce during the widespread bushfire crisis.”
  • Enable remote working (i.e. at home) with Workplace Chat and rich video calling using Portal.
  • Encourage more employees to take training courses online or in VR using Oculus, to avoid traveling and gathering in large groups, and without compromising the quality of learning and development.
  • Extend remote working capabilities beyond your workforce to all the partners and customers you work with, using Multi-Company Groups (MCGs). At Facebook, we’re encouraging employees to coordinate and collaborate with the thousands of partners we work closely with, using MCGs and video calling.

Yesterday I highlighted the excellent resources available from the World Health Organization (WHO) to help you communicate the latest information about COVID-19. They are also using Workplace for their internal communication.

“Thanks to Workplace, we are able to deliver real-time, essential updates to our staff on the Covid-19 outbreak,” says Carey Kyer, Lead – Internal Communications at World Health Organization (WHO). “Workplace ‘ticks the box’ on our need to communicate, engage and connect real-time with our colleagues around the world, especially during this public health emergency of international concern.

“Our Covid-19 Workplace group is the second most-followed group at WHO. It’s become an easy-to-access channel for our staff around the world to watch the daily press briefings, staff seminars and to find resources, while providing an open forum for staff to ask questions and receive instant feedback.”

Julien Codorniou, VP Workplace from Facebook adds: “Our sympathies go out to all those affected by this outbreak around the world. We hope our technology will be able to help in preventing more people from being exposed to the virus and have an impact on this worldwide crisis.”

Option: Record audio and transcribe it.

If you don’t have the tech to do any of this, you could even consider using third parties (if it’s not sensitive). For example I’ve used the Voice app on my phone and used WordBee or Rev.com to transcribe. I did this when I spoke at the Simply-Communicate conference a couple of years ago. I used the audio recording to have a transcription created that I could publish: How disruptive technology and culture go together. 

You could also strip out the audio from a Town Hall and publish it internally as a podcast. There are various platforms available to help you do that.

What to think about at this time

Here is some of the advice I’ve been sharing with my clients:

Source of truth
Make sure you know where the source of truth is in your organisation. Is it your intranet? Line managers? Do they contain/have the relevant information so your people can make informed decisions? (Regular readers of my blog will know my unscientific test for this is snow comms – if it snowed, would people refer to their people managers or intranet first?).

Rumours
What are the rumours? Consider publishing myth-busters if you have rumours re: home-working / self-isolation happening in your company. See above – you need a source of truth where you publish credible, accurate and reliable information.

Medical information
For medical information, refer to any of the sites I’ve listed in this blog.

Jargon busting
Consider creating a glossary. There are a few unusual terms around e.g. self-isolation. You may know what it means based on medical websites, but what does it mean for your organisation?

What it means for your company
For company-specific information, you need to firstly know what people are talking about, then point them towards accurate and reliable information. This could be a Q&A section of your intranet, a conversation thread on Yammer or a line managers’ briefing.

The method doesn’t matter, what’s in it does – if you’re creating content, make sure your employees know where to go to discover the latest situation and be able to ask questions – you need to have two-way mechanisms in place. This is not the time for broadcasting. .

In crisis situations, my rule is to give certainty of communication, even if I can’t give certainty of content. I recommend doing the same for COVID-19.

This means statements like we will keep the intranet updated daily. Then you need to stick to that. It becomes your source of truth. Yes sometimes the update will say there is nothing new to add, yesterday’s information still stands. You’re still providing an update (certainty of communication).

In my experience, when you say nothing, employees fill in the gaps or think you have something to hide. Ideally to champion the two-way element, you need comments on and you need to monitor what is coming in from employees so you can respond. Sentiment analysis on enterprise social networks will help you see at a glance.

Work with your internal network
Create a guiding coalition (this will be familiar to Kotter fans if you’ve studied Change Comms). This is essentially a group of decision makers, typically Comms, HR, IT, Facilities and Legal in situations like this who make decisions e.g. who is providing equipment if employees are able to work from home, are you closing sites etc.

Tip: Don’t forget to update your employee assistance provider (EAP) if you are making internal decisions they need to be aware of.

Further reading: Where to get accurate information about COVID-19.

I hope this is helpful. Are you using something else? Google Hangouts or Skype for example? Do let me know.

As ever, you’re welcome to comment below or you can find me on Twitter @AllthingsIC.

Thank you for stopping by

Rachel

First published on the All Things IC blog 3 March 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. […] chat and conferencing channels are being leveraged also. Rachel Miller of AllThingsIC has created a useful guide covering a variety of options including Teams, Yammer and Microsoft […]

  2. […] Rachel Miller from AllThingsIC has put together a thorough list of technology to use for your internal communications as a safer alternative to speaking face-to-face during this time. Organizing meetings using Yammer, Facebook, and FaceTime, Miller has some great tips for keeping employees informed. Check it out here. […]

  3. Vanessa Canzini says:

    Rachel, as always your blog is so helpful and informative. However, could I ask that you amend the comment about the Adobe Summit? While it is true that we have made the decision to make this year’s US Summit an online-only event this year, this relates to the US Summit only. In Europe we are still planning to go ahead with our hugely exciting EMEA Summit (in London) and so it would be helpful if you could distinguish between the two events. Thanks so much Vanessa

  4. Hi Vanessa, thanks for your message. Of course, I’ll edit now, thank you for letting me know.

Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How can I help?

I help practitioners around the globe increase their knowledge of internal communication.

There’s a variety of ways I can support you including trainingconsultancy and mentoring to boost your skills and confidence.

Or visit my shop to see everything I offer.

Who has hired All Things IC?

Clients say working with me leaves them feeling inspired, motivated, full of ideas and ready to turn plans into action.

I’m proud to have been invited to work with, and advise, some of the world’s leading brands.

Get in touch...

Would you like to work together? Do you have a query for me? Do get in touch below. You can also book a free 15-minute call this way.