MARCO, the international communications agency based in Spain, continues its programme of sectorial webinars to analyse the challenges facing communication in the era of COVID-19.
In its latest edition, focused on internal communication and moderated by Noelia Cruzado, MARCO’s Managing Director, representatives from AENA, AXA Seguros, Danone, Iberdrola and Telefónica discussed the present and future of internal communication in relation to their business. In the session, participants analysed the new realities established as a result of the pandemic: the boom in teleworking, the increase in the use of social networks, health and safety limitations, and the change in consumer profile.
THE RISE OF TELEWORKING
Overnight, thousands of workers have had to switch to working from home. Each company has managed the need to continue its economic activity in different ways, usually with the majority of their workforce confined at home. Transparency has been key for companies. In the case of Iberdrola, 70% of the workforce was able to telework because, as Patricia Vázquez, Iberdrola España’s Internal Communication Lead, comments, “a very important effort had already been made in digital transformation in recent years.”
With regard to communication with employees, Vázquez said: “The confinement coincided with the launch of a global internal newspaper in three languages, Iberdrola News, which is distributed in Spanish, Portuguese and English. With all that a daily media requires, its implementation has served as a guiding thread and as a loudspeaker to share and anticipate Spain’s experience with the pandemic to key countries for us such as Mexico and Brazil, which are now suffering the ravages of COVID-19.”
In the case of Telefónica, María Paula Baylac, Head of Internal Communication at Telefónica Global, highlighted: “We are a service company without the option to stop in order to offer the best connectivity to society. 95% of our staff is teleworking, with the top priority being to guarantee the health of all our employees. The most important thing for us has been transparency with employees, communicating to them everything that has been happening in the company. Today, we prioritise teleworking.”
Keeping employees informed has also been key for AENA, as María Lloret, from Internal Communication, underlined: “Transparency was a fundamental pillar when this crisis began. In our case, we have again taken up a traditional channel. This is our magazine for employees that we chose to publish on a daily basis, instead of weekly. It has been a key tool for the staff, so that they could express themselves and learn about the evolution of the company.” AENA has a staff of more than 8,000 employees in Spain, the United Kingdom and Brazil, so the magazine helped to structure the experience of employees, who proposed topics on a daily basis to be published in the magazine, such as how they lived in confinement. “It was also clear to Senior Management that they should address the entire workforce on an ongoing basis and, as an example, a digital event was held with the company’s president and the human resources director, in which we gave all employees the opportunity to participate and resolve their doubts,” adds Lloret.
For Mireya Muñoz, Director of Culture, Organizational Talent and Employee Experience at AXA Seguros, internal communication for employees was, first and foremost, very focused on the most essential issues such as ensuring the efficient use of technology or basic health measures.
“From there we created a global ‘Separated but connected’ plan aimed at maintaining a positive work experience for our team. This included initiatives such as ‘Positive Fridays’ for employees to share news or positive thoughts to help others, with the intention of creating a support network. And it has worked, as according to our internal wellness survey, 95 percent of employees have felt very connected to each other.”
For Albert Raich, Danone’s Internal Communication Manager for Spain and Portugal: “We reacted quickly and effectively to accompany the Danoners, our employees. We set up a crisis group before the state of emergency and established essential pillars of employee support. We made a joint internal communication plan with HR in which transparency was a fundamental pillar, as well as employee health and safety.”
Adapting to an unprecedented situation has meant an immediate change for employees. According to the MARCO study a 68% majority reported that they would prefer to continue teleworking beyond confinement, and after the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted.
SPANIARDS AND BRANDS: A CHANGE IN PERCEPTION
The COVID-19 crisis has also led to a change in consumer perception of brands: 40% of Spaniards say their expectations of brands have changed with this crisis. As a result, society has shown more support than ever for brands that show greater concern for health and safety in the workplace and the treatment of employees (70%).
It is no longer just a question of product quality, but of the human values behind the brands: safety, hygiene and respect. “For the first time in Danone’s history we have been able to carry out an internal corporate communication action called ‘Feed for Love’, the aims of which were to look after Danone’s value chain, such as employees and suppliers, to look after the social side to guarantee basic supplies, and a third component which is education for children and underprivileged groups,” says Albert Raich.
María Lloret highlighted the 50,000 return trips for health care purposes, in which AENA contributed by waiving airfare fees, and the donation of 2 million euros to CSIC.
“In addition, we launched the solidarity payroll which was of great success, with more than 110,000 euros collected in addition to the donation to the CSIC,” she added.
This new debate has been added to the solutions that MARCO designs for its clients. “This webinar has helped us to understand how transparency and support have been fundamental, how digitalisation has been promoted during the crisis and how to accelerate cultural change. In addition, internal communication has been key throughout the confinement period to maintain a sense of belonging, and has become relevant at all levels as a backbone not only at a tactical but also at a strategic level,” says Noelia Cruzado, Partner and Managing Director of MARCO. She adds that “there is no doubt that internal communication is facing a new era after confinement, a new reality full of challenges, but also full of opportunities.”