The pandemic has altered work for many, requiring mask-wearing and social distancing. In our office, we lost the incredible perk of a complimentary coffee bar. An awareness of danger is present now that urges me to move into a conference room, and close the door behind me, if anyone sits down nearby.
In addition to those universal workplace changes, some job roles have been heavily impacted. One of those is marketer. According to an article in Digiday by Tony Case, chief marketing officers are being asked to double as psychological support systems, reassuring employees that they are safe and OK. “The marketing chiefs of some of the best-known companies—from Mastercard to Celebrity Cruises—have employed novel approaches to keeping the troops happy and secure in these trying times, everything from inviting the family dog to Zoom calls to sending ice cream care packages,” Case writes…“Marketing chiefs this year faced the dual challenges of driving business during one of the worst global economic crises ever and reimagining the workplace to accommodate factors such as social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines. On top of that: managing displaced, sometimes overburdened team members juggling home and work from the kitchen table.”
The transformation of this job role greatly surprised me because I assumed responsibility for soothing employees would fall solely on Human Resources. I wondered then what a CMO’s traditional responsibilities were. When I Googled it, I saw that, as I suspected, the primary responsibilities of CMOs are external marketing.
The question becomes why so many CMOs have had to start marketing internally during the pandemic. And what kind of support have marketers, who have taken on the responsibility of keeping employee morale up, received? I never thought of marketers as warm and fuzzy types, so I wonder whether many companies have deployed Human Resources and Learning professionals to help them frame messaging to employees. Are your company’s HR and Learning and Development teams working hand-in-hand with marketers to message employees in a way that buoys them through the pandemic?
A great challenge must be balancing hard financial news with morale-boosting messages. You can’t hide poor financial performance, and the elimination of bonuses, from employees, but you also can’t have all the messaging during this time be negative. How do you find the right balance?
One way you could do it is by putting hard financial news into context. For instance, I heard a story recently of a manager who informed an employee inquiring about the likelihood of bonuses this year that it would be unlikely given that the department fell short by around $100,000 of its goal. He then buffeted that information by explaining that, even though they probably would not qualify for bonuses, falling just $100,000 short in a year like this is an accomplishment. He explained how heavily the department relies on in-person meetings for revenue generation. He noted how impressive it was they were able to do as well as they did without that huge source of revenue.
A company also can ensure a stream of uplifting news by sending a monthly e-newsletter that highlights all the positive developments. The newsletter would especially emphasize the impressive innovation that has occurred during the pandemic. Employees would learn how their colleagues are overcoming the pandemic’s barriers to continue delivering a high level of customer service. In some cases, the newsletter might even be able to show how employees are capitalizing on opportunities that have opened up during the pandemic.
For example, in eyecare practices—another area of the business world I report on for a different publication—great success has been found selling eyewear that makes spending long hours on the computer more comfortable and safe for the eyes. Computer glasses (even for those with no need of vision correction), which include harmful blue-light-blocking technology, are selling like crazy. In your own line of work, what opportunities have there been? Are there certain departments in your company that have done a standout job finding these new opportunities and running with them?
A new award to enterprising employees may be in order. In my first full-time job, nearly 20 years ago, I received what my then-employer called the Entrepreneur’s Award. My salary was entry-level, so especially low. The award came with a $500 prize. For an entry-level employee with a modest salary, an extra $500 is huge, and the recognition is equally satisfying. In your company, you may find the most impressive innovations have come from habitually overlooked entry- and mid-level employees. It is the employee in a normally unsung position who often is the one faced with stepping up and getting creative to deliver superior customer service. What are the stories of heroic customer service during the pandemic? In addition to the morale boost, these stories are each teachable moments. Sharing them ensures that the pandemic will be more than a time of great stress. You have a chance to turn it into a time of invaluable lessons in business continuity and customer care.