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Finding calm in a global crisis

Jenni Field, a business communications strategist, founder of Redefining Communications and Vice President of the CIPR, discusses The Field ModelTM and the impact of globalisation on organisations in her book: Influential Internal Communication, published by Kogan Page in 2021.

The world of work is not always local. Many organisations operate globally with head offices located in one country and satellite offices in others. Technology today means we are connected no matter what and since the beginning of the global pandemic, working anywhere (at home mainly) has been made possible because of the technology we now have at our fingertips.

The globalisation of work has taken a few turns since the early 2000s and today we see a focus on global services, rather than moving goods from one place to another. This means we have to build relationships, have deeper conversations and enhance our ability to communicate effectively and efficiently across time zones and cultures.

Internal communication has never been more important. In a year when we’ve been forced to change how we’ve worked for decades, the need to connect and engage a workforce in crisis meant internal communication was catapulted to the top of the agenda. The recognition of the importance of people and the quality of the employee experience is echoed internationally and became critical without the anchor point of an office location. The pandemic has been a great leveller in many ways.

For years there have been conversations around the different levels of maturity in the internal communication profession in different countries. I know from my own experience that there is a variation in focus in terms of tactics and strategy in different countries – but technology means we can access insights and support from anywhere. And a pandemic that creates a sense of “all being in it together” and the need for survival means a community of support will always come forward to help. I am now part of so many online groups and communities that span countries and time zones and it’s great to see how the profession is dealing with these issues and challenges globally.

What will be interesting to watch as we move forward is how these communities shift. Will they remain? How will they adapt to the changing ways of working? And will people continue to be open to sharing ideas for the long term?

Globally, everyone is at different stages of the pandemic and for international organisations, this can easily lead to things becoming chaotic. I write a lot about chaos inside organisations. It can manifest itself in many ways; from people off sick with stress, teams not getting along or an over-emphasis on financial aspects of the business. But chaos is confusion and communication can combat confusion. It doesn’t matter how complicated something might appear, a conversation, listening and communicating about it will help. When we are confused, we want to ask questions and we want to be heard.

To gain real clarity in the complexity that exists in organisations today, we must get to the root cause of the issue. This is why I developed The Field ModelTM, which works for teams and organisations anywhere. It has three phases: understand, diagnose and fix.

The first step is to understand. People come to me when they recognise something is wrong and they’re seeing negative or chaotic symptoms. There’s rarely a quick fix - we must dive deeper to understand the symptoms and their source. The diagnose step will use the right tools to get underneath the issue. It helps you use the right tool to diagnose what is going on. This could be surveys or focus groups or listening interviews; it will depend on the specific issue. Then you can fix it with a long-term perspective. Sometimes this process takes months, sometimes years.

At the stage we’re at in the pandemic, we might start to see the impact of different lockdown rules, vaccination rules, and hygiene rules, which could polarise teams. This could manifest itself with teams not working well together or productively, people avoiding each other or a lack of awareness and understanding of local challenges.

If we see teams not working well together it would be easy to set up a team building event online for people to get together. However, if you aren’t investigating the root cause of the friction (or the chaos) then the team building is a waste of time and money.

The three-step approach supports our natural curiosity. As communicators, we’re even more curious than most. As we look at how to navigate our way through the pandemic, I believe following this model will help us direct this inquisitiveness to get to the real issues and help our leaders and organisations move forward.


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