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There's been a common thread in conversations we've had with Chairmen, CEOs, CTOs and NEDs over the past week. Our clients and contacts, including leaders of super funds, are planning out how you'll operate in this new environment, and sifting through learnings from the last three months.  It's time, if you haven't already, to get better at communicating at scale - intelligently anticipating inbound queries and answering them proactively.

1. Market Feedback

Intelligence about the impact of COVID-19 on specific financial services sectors, not published by media. 

A. Super Funds

Over the past week, senior folk from many super funds, have identified common themes about how you'll operate in the next phase: 

  • All have been surprised by your agility: funds have adapted in a ways not possible just months earlier.
  • Technology was key to this rapid adaption. Funds see this, and many other changes, including more flexible work practices, as essential to keep. You're openly assessing which bits of the positive experiences to take forward
  • Almost all funds have remarked that being purpose driven and very focused on member outcomes has made it easier to get through this period. People have leaned in beyond expectations

Interestingly, all funds responded in ways that reflect the uniqueness of your own member base. You see the changes through a lens of member experience, and the ability to enhance that by controlling more of the touch points and communication with members.

B. Office space and its longer-term use 

When speaking to diverse organisations about the future of the office three overarching themes have emerged: physical safety, use of space and technology.

When it comes to physical space, no-one is saying they will keep their workstations as they were pre-coronavirus, or that they will keep working the way they had been. Those I have spoken to say, “we need flexibility, we need a fit for purpose space, and we need collaboration.”   

As we emerge from the lockdown, many of you want home to be your main place of work. Many of you won't need as much office space, or you'll use it differently. One large organisation is fitting out new office space, and will be using built in technology to provide a level playing field for staff regardless of whether they’re working from the boardroom, from home, or from their car. 

C. Return to work

While keen to keep offering employees flexible working, most organisations are planning some type of return to the office, with significant conversations about this now taking place. For almost everyone, this return will be gradual. One of you has 30 per cent of your people back now, with a clear and structured approach to get to 50 per cent. Others have rosters in place. Others have a designated office day with the other four days of the week working from home. A minority aren't even thinking about going back until at least September.  

Return to office plans involve specific policies and procedures to ensure employees’ physical safety. Interestingly, this doesn’t mean the end of hot desking. Some of the clients and organisations we work with will stick to this practice but with biosecurity measures in place, such as equipping individuals with sanitary gear, to ensure their safety.

2. Management responses

This section outlines how CEOs and their leadership teams are responding.

A. Prepare for the unexpected consequences of RTW

There will be a different kind of disruption as your teams reconnect physically, and spend more time catching up and talking together.  Those we know trialling a RTW, and from our own trial, observe this leads to better social engagement; therefore team engagement.  

On the flip side, this could also lead to lower productivity, both due to time spent on important but not critical conversations, and some of you are feeling the time drag of the commute. Some of you are concerned there will be fewer conversations between different teams and different levels of seniority than when you were remote.  

B. Shifting priorities for the disrupted environment

You’re re-prioritising projects, aspects of strategy, HR, and marketing, and you’re moving forward member or client experience projects or aspects of strategy that make sense in a more disrupted environment. For example, where costs are lower, capacity is greater or the need for a particular upgrade or improvement project is clearly higher in the new environment.  

3. CEO guidance regarding coronavirus responses

This section provides our guidance on management and communication responses.

A. Survey staff about their ideal “work 2.0”

If you haven’t already asked your staff about their experience over the past three months, do that now. You should consider running employee feedback as a specific project that’s focused on a better future, taking the COVID-19 learnings from your team into an upgrade that directly reflects the positives from this time. 

Employee feedback can provide you with valuable cues about the office of the future, or indeed, the work of the future, which may not be an office as we know it or the way you worked before

B. Use client feedback to spot patterns: answer questions and address concerns before you’re asked

Gather feedback from your clients or member-facing staff and use it to work out how to answer commonly asked questions. Then turn this into a content strategy so you can answer those questions before you're asked in the contact centre or a client meeting - equip all client-facing staff with the information they need.  You will all get smarter together, faster. Then you can move on to solving higher quality problems.  And you'll start to anticipate, not just respond, to concerns, if you haven't already.

Having answers to questions you hear all the time ready when people need it is a more efficient and effective way to serve people. That goes for both your clients and your team.  

4. Appendix: How to help us help you

This briefing is collective intelligence gathered, anonymised and shared with you by my firm for the greater good. We’ve taken the view, based on client feedback, that the collective benefit to you all takes precedence over normal competitive pressures at a time like this.

This is an excerpt from one of our client COVID-19 CEO response briefings. For more COVID-19 response resources and guidance, visit our COVID-19 Response page

If you’d like to discuss adjusting your communication strategy for the current times, please call us or fill out our contact form here.

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