Avoiding Return-to-Office Blunders

Written by Trident DMG

Make internal communication your priority

Employees at companies nationwide, surprised by return-to-office (RTO) policy announcements imposed from the top down, have launched petitions against their companies’ new policies that they say could negatively impact post-COVID growth, employee well-being, staff retention, and productivity. To maximize employee support, companies should prioritize internal communications before and during the launch of these policies.

When companies fail to engage in transparent dialogue and proactive internal communications, the results are predictable and inevitable: critics and employees are more likely to push back, generating both internal acrimony and negative press in the process. Many companies have emerged as highly-publicized examples of the PR mayhem that can result when employees are not prioritized.

These examples of executive flip-flopping and backtracking on policy guidance resulted in employee-led airing of grievances and internecine strife.

Work culture is shifting, but companies can help ensure smoother transitions by approaching employees like a political campaign. This means:

  • Being proactive – Culture shifts require advanced outreach and ongoing communication with key constituencies. Policy shifts made without notice can be surprising and distracting, leading to frustration and distrust among the ranks.
  • Developing an active dialogue. Connect with employees through town halls, listening tours, internal polling, or unannounced conversations. The most effective politicians listen to the concerns of their constituents. Employees want to be heard by management in the same way.
  • Being honest and transparent – Once decisions have been made, speak openly with employees so they understand the rationale behind policy changes.

Once a policy has been determined, messaging must be delivered consistently and accurately to employees, with all levels of leadership armed with the same talking points. Is the social media team aligned with PR? Is the CEO delivering the same message? Do managers know what to say to their teams? Do shareholders have the same response? Repetition is key and doesn’t spoil.

The key takeaway is this: when a company is considering significant policy or cultural shifts, give employees a chance to weigh in and make them the first in line on the communications plan.