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Injecting marketing input for winning tenders

June 7, 2022

In most large IT businesses, responding to RFPs and tenders is the domain of the sales and bid management team. The marketing department usually doesn’t play a direct role – which is a shame, because there is a lot of value they can add!

At Explore Communications, we were a little bit surprised when a request came out of the blue some years ago to assist with an RFP response for a major IT contract. However, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise; after all, the role we play is to help articulate the value of our clients’ products and services to the market. There can be just as much benefit (if not more!) in articulating that value to a single customer, especially when that could result in winning a multi-million-dollar deal or a highly strategic engagement.

Since then, we’ve helped out on a range of strategic bids for a few different clients, with our focus primarily on the executive summary and supporting content, including presentations and videos.

We’ve found that there are some really effective areas for marketing input in this process.

First of all, it’s great to be engaged early on. It’s much more difficult to have an influence on the overall direction and focus of the response just a week or two out from the submission deadline. By engaging early, you can better understand the motivations behind the RFP or tender, and have greater context based on the initial discussions that have taken place with the customer and also internally amongst the sales team. This in turn helps to distil what’s important to the customer, and to understand the core strategy and approach the sales organisation plans to take for the bid.

Second, having a marketing lens involved ensures that the bid response process maintains an external perspective, and doesn’t become too internally focused. Marketing can stay at arm’s length from the technical, logistical, financial and contractual elements of the bid – which are critical to ensuring the response meets the tender criteria but can also take it away from the overall theme and value you want to convey. By not being heavily involved in putting together the detailed response, marketing can have a much more objective perspective on the content and approach.

Third, it’s vital to get the executive summary just right. This is the one piece of content that every customer stakeholder will read, before they delve into their area of specialisation in the detailed response (which is potentially hundreds of pages). It’s also the content they will use to support their justification for their final decision when they need to convince the senior executive or board that they have made the right choice. Ultimately, anything you can do to make the job easier for the customer’s stakeholders in winning internal approval for their decision, the more likely you are to win the deal.

Three steps for getting the executive summary ‘just right’

In writing the executive summary, do it with the specific audience in mind – something in which marketing specialists excel. You also need to take a hierarchical approach with the content, prioritising what is of the most value to the customer.

First, clearly articulate what you see as the customer’s most critical objectives to be gained and problems to be solved with your solutions and/or services. You don’t need to repeat every one of these from the RFP or tender – that’s the job for the more detailed response behind the summary. What you are demonstrating is that you have not only listened to the customer, but you have thought deeply about their business and how you can help. It’s marketing’s role to challenge the sales team on what these most important elements are – if you get this right, the customer will immediately sit up and take notice of your response. Marketing’s early engagement in the process really helps here because these ‘nuggets’ might not necessarily be present in the tender documents themselves; they might have been gleaned in earlier conversations and meetings with the customer.  

Second, tie these outcomes to the value that your solutions or services can provide, and be more descriptive on how they will achieve those outcomes. At the end of the day, the customer is buying something from you. This will also be the critical component supporting how the customer will sell their decision internally. Here it’s worth keeping in mind what will differentiate you from the competition.

Third, and this is particularly relevant to significant multi-year or multi-million-dollar contracts, articulate why your company is the right one to choose. Again, this needs to be tied to the customer’s objectives and concerns, but the criteria are more likely to be general in nature – risk, security, profitability, competitiveness, longevity, viability, etc. This content will also be relied on to justify the decision internally.

Finally, it’s not a bad idea to challenge the customer’s thinking at the end of the summary. If they have read this far, then it gives you an opportunity to plant a seed in their minds – something that might influence their decision on the proposal. It might be a different way of tackling the project, an additional offering that you think will add value, or it might be related to a future opportunity that you know is coming up with that customer, where you can already start the sales process. It shows that you have gone over and above the constructs of the original tender or RFP, taking into account the customer’s broader organisation and needs.

Explore Communications has had a high success rate on the bids we have worked on over the years, but we certainly can’t take credit for the wins achieved – there is so much more that goes into a successful tender response! However, it is worth taking that extra bit of effort on those contracts that you really have to win (or should win!) and that will really make a difference to your business. If the one document that every customer stakeholder reads is not up to scratch, that puts you behind the eight ball at the very start.

Extending CX strategies to job candidates and business suppliers

March 31, 2022

interview, business, communication, conversation, collaboration, businessperson, management, white collar worker, service, job, business school, Free Images In PxHere

(Photo by Waseem Farooq from PxHere)

While interviewing a client for a whitepaper about recruitment last week, the concept of “candidate care” came up:

“Your reputation as an employer is critical, so it’s also important to be practising ‘candidate care’ throughout the recruitment process. That means treating your unsuccessful candidates just as well as you treat the successful ones. A bad experience is more likely to be shared than a good one, or that candidate might end up being your customer one day.”

That resonated strongly for me, for a couple of reasons.

One of my close relatives had a very poor recruitment experience applying for a job at a major supermarket chain. After completed two rounds of interviews and then a medical, he didn’t hear anything further in relation to his application. I thought that was odd for a couple of reasons.

First, why make him undergo a medical if you are not going to be offering him a job?

Second, why was there no notification at all that he was unsuccessful?

Anyway, that didn’t deter him, so he applied for another job opening at the same company again a month or two later. Once again, he completed two rounds of interviews and then a medical.

Apparently, in the second interview he was told that the reason that he didn’t hear back the first time he applied was due to the area manager who interviewed him leaving suddenly. That’s not a good sign about the processes in place to effectively manage recruitment.

Despite all of this, he was unsuccessful again. At least this time he was notified – via an automated rejection message.

So, once again, why put him through a medical if there is no intention of hiring him? And where is the sensitivity in managing the rejection given the poor recruitment experience he had the first time around – let alone the amount of personal time and effort expended in going through the interview rounds and medical, twice.

Now, I don’t think this is a one off. Another close relative just had an almost identical experience. This time, it was for a graduate position at a large technology company. She made it through two rounds of interviews, then to a third interview – a “coffee catch-up” – as one of the final three candidates.

After that, crickets. So she assumed that someone else was offered the role. I told her that wasn’t good enough, and she needed to call them out on it, so she contacted them to confirm that she had been unsuccessful.

The company was effusive in its apologies – apparently, there was an automated system to inform unsuccessful candidates, and there must have been an error.

An automated system to let one of your top three candidates know they had been unsuccessful? After meeting your team face-to-face over a coffee? It’s astounding.

Even if the process had worked, and she had received that automated rejection email or SMS, it’s still a lousy way to close off the interaction.

If your recruitment process is based on an interpersonal connection between your hiring panel and your candidate, there’s a jarring dissonance when all of a sudden it’s switched to an automated response.

As an employer, you just need to think about the cumulative impact that has on your brand. Imagine that same negative recruitment experience, replicated hundreds if not thousands of times by unsuccessful candidates for job roles at your organisation. These are people who are already or are likely to be working in the same industry or field as your business; they might not just be your potential customer in the future, they might also be a potential future candidate, business partner or supplier.

Looking at it from a classic customer experience (CX) perspective, as a customer if you’ve engaged with an organisation via one channel, you expect that you will continue to engage that way.  Automation is fine, but only if you as the organisation have set the expectation that you will be using it for any response.

CX is just as applicable to business suppliers

At the start of this post I said this resonated with me for two reasons.

The second is my own experience as a provider of marketing services. Most of Explore Communications’ work is through industry word-of-mouth, recommendations and referrals, so potential clients generally approach me first. I rarely make any ‘cold’ approaches or respond to tenders or general requests for proposal. In those instances, I’m OK with someone ignoring me, or sending an automated response – I do the same when it happens to me!

Most of the people who approach me will call, send an email or a LinkedIn message, which then leads on to an introductory meeting and chat, usually followed by a quote or a proposal. I’ve had a few instances lately where, despite that initial interpersonal engagement, and despite a few follow up emails and calls, I never receive a response back at all.

To me, that’s just as damaging to your brand as giving an unsuccessful job candidate the brush off. I’m OK with the fact that Explore Communications isn’t always the perfect fit and you choose to work with someone else – I’d just like to know, so I can move on.

Your corporate brand is reflected in everything you do, and it can be either strengthened or weakened by the way you engage with your wider business community. That includes your prospective candidates, partners and suppliers – and it’s just as important to show respect to those you say ‘no’ to as those to whom you say ‘yes’.

Long live the conference!

February 28, 2022

After the last two years of webinars, virtual events and remote presentations, I was starting to wonder if the days of the big in-person conference were numbered.

Just thinking about the effort of getting up early to travel, finding the venue (and parking), drinking sub-standard coffee and eating too much unhealthy food – was going to a conference all worth it?

Last week, attending Pearcey Foundation’s Riding the Digital Wave Summit brought it all back for me. I got up at 5:30am to leave the house at 6. Two and a bit hours later, I was driving around Sydney Uni looking for a place to park, and at 8:45am I was at the registration desk, sipping a very average coffee from one of those pump-action insulated pots.

However, straight away I was chatting to colleagues I hadn’t seen in person for last two years and soon found myself sitting at a table as The Hon. Victor Dominello (pictured above) opened the conference, giving us some great insight into the challenges of digitising NSW Government services. From there, we were treated to a stream of amazing speakers, ideas and loads of information and insight.

I remembered why conferences like this could be so magic. You hear things you might not have realised before, and they spark your own thoughts – it was a conference that sparked the idea to start Explore Communications. Our logo is based on my handwritten notes from that event.

You meet people that you otherwise might have only had an email exchange with in the past, or they were one of the faces in a video conference. You see and hear brilliant people, concepts, businesses and technologies for the first time, or to a depth you hadn’t been exposed before.

Best of all, you experience all of this directly, spontaneously and dynamically – most of which is missed in articles, podcasts, videos and webinars. You are also more engaged. At home, watching on from your desk, it’s nothing to be checking your email or taking a call while you’ve got the webinar on in the background – but in the room, in front of the speaker you can be giving them your full attention, and you reap the benefits of that attention too.

Is there still a place for virtual events and webinars. Definitely. The last two years have proven why this works. You lower the barrier to entry, and you can reach people who would otherwise be unreachable. There are potentially no limits on the size of the audience, and you’ve got a long tail impact, where the video content can be posted online for future consumption. In fact, putting on the Summit last week, we had the debate – given that a lot of people weren’t able to travel to be at the conference, do we run it as a hybrid in-person and virtual event? The decision was taken to make it in-person only, so as to preserve the experience for people in the room and capture the magic of the conference. The great thing is that the Pearcey Foundation managed to do that, and also recorded the event, so we can make the proceedings available to everyone shortly. I’ll update this with a link once the event content is posted online.

Will we see the ‘Great Resignation’ here, or will it be a case of the Great Pumpkin?

October 26, 2021

There has been a lot of evidence lately that Australia is about to suffer from the ‘Great Resignation’ – a massive staff turnover rate that some parts of the world are already seeing. The U.S. Government reported a record level of workers leaving their jobs in August and more than 25 million people quit their jobs in the first seven months of this year, according to PBS NewsHour.

With Halloween coming up this weekend, will the Great Resignation actually happen in Australia, or will it be like the Great Pumpkin? As a kid, I grew up regularly re-reading old Peanuts comic books, and one of the best story lines was a recurring theme about Linus’ dogged belief in the arrival of the Great Pumpkin in the pumpkin patch on Halloween night. Of course, the Great Pumpkin never appears.

So will we see the Great Resignation here?

As everything slowly returns to ‘normal’, there has to be some sort of bump in employee turnover, but I’m not sure it will be as massive as predicted. In one recent survey, Slack found that more than half (59.9%) of Australians say they are likely to change jobs in the next year, and in this poll embedded in an article from Gartner’s Aaron McEwan in, 54% say they have already quit or are planning to leave their job.

Most of us have been living a very insular working and personal existence for the last two years, and anyone who has been unhappy in their job or looking for a career progression or change has most likely parked any decision to leave. We haven’t been mixing with many people outside of our work and family bubbles, we haven’t travelled or attended conferences, and we haven’t been in the office or met with friends or industry colleagues for lunch or drinks after work. As things open up and we start to do more of this, new job opportunities will come up. Businesses that contracted during the pandemic will be re-hiring and other sectors will start growing rapidly, and the decision to leave that we had parked during the pandemic suddenly becomes viable again.

However, the biggest change we’ve seen through all of this has been in the attitudes of organisations and our business decision-makers towards working from home and hybrid work. I think this will have a more significant bearing on people’s decision to move or stay put. In 1998, when we planned to move to a country town from Sydney’s inner west, I had my heart in my mouth when I asked my employer if it might be possible to work from home three days a week and come into the office for two. The prevailing attitude in my organisation and just about every other business at the time was against me. If they had have said no, I was prepared to quit. Luckily for me they said yes, and I proved it was possible to be a productive and collaborative member of the team from that day on.

How things have changed!

Earlier this year, a survey conducted by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald of 50 of the nation’s largest companies found that, overwhelmingly, these organisations would be permanently adopting hybrid working policies for office-based employees. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. What about the public sector and the vast majority of Australian organisations that operate in the small-to-medium business sector? The attitudes have definitely changed. The Committee for Sydney surveyed 130 organisations that employ 640,000 workers across Australia and found that 51% expect their workers will commute to the office for just three days a week, and 36% expect their staff will cluster their office days from Tuesday to Thursday (see further ‘Bosses anticipate ‘long weekend’ trend to stay once Australians head back to the office’). In an embedded survey in the same article, when asked what’s most important to you in a job?, 58% of readers responded with ‘work/life balance’.

In a survey that I’ve read but is yet to be published, it’s really interesting that business decision-makers are far more positive about the experience of remote and hybrid work when compared to workers in general. Work/life balance is one of the biggest factors in this response, as well as the effectiveness of collaborative technologies to enable remote work. This says a lot about why organisations large and small have embraced a permanent hybrid work policy and why I also think the Great Resignation will be a small bump rather than a big shock as life slowly returns to normal.

Workers want flexibility, and a better work/life balance, and will go looking for it elsewhere if their current employer isn’t going to offer it (see, for example, ‘Here comes the Great Resignation. Why millions of employees could quit their jobs post-pandemic’). But that doesn’t seem to be the case in Australia. Most Australian businesses, from the biggest to the smallest, seem to be happy to offer their office-based workers greater choice and greater flexibility in where and how they work – taking away one of the main reasons cited for the Great Resignation.

So how do I wrap this up with a final allusion back to the Great Pumpkin? In a Peanuts strip from 1961, Linus cites confirmed appearances of the Great Pumpkin in Connecticut and Texas as evidence for the likelihood of it showing up in his local patch while Charlie Brown argues that conditions might not be ideal for it. That’s my argument too – I think conditions in our ‘local patch’ and the enthusiasm with which Australian business has embraced hybrid working will minimise the chances of the appearance of the Great Resignation here.

Explore turns ten

September 7, 2021

Explore Communication has turned ten! Like with a lot of things in life, it seems to have been forever and the time has just flashed by. I set it up with no expectations beyond creating a sustainable long-term business that would be the vehicle for me to “explore” new opportunities, and work with a diverse set of organisations and people. Looking back on the last ten years, I’ve had one-off projects, short-term and long-term engagements with more than 50 different client organisations. I’ve been able to prioritise and spend time with my family throughout, which has been the biggest benefit of all. And I’ve worked with hundreds of great people, who have been instrumental in broadening my professional perspective and helping to make Explore Communications a success.

It’s also given me the freedom to try new business ventures and explore (there’s that word again) new ideas. To date, I’ve had to put these down to “learning experiences”, but I’m really hopeful that my newest venture is destined to succeed. Born out of the heart of the pandemic last year and based on my personal experience and wanting to make a difference to the arts sector, Giving Culture® is coming soon! If you want to know more, I’d be happy to chat.

I posted Explore’s anniversary news up to LinkedIn yesterday, and I was amazed and heartened by the response from my community. Thank you so much for the lovely comments, and thank you to everyone I have worked with and who has supported Explore Communications over the last decade. I’m looking forward to the next ten years with great hope and optimism.

Writing phrases that people can’t forget

April 30, 2021

This week, I had the great honour of introducing a panel session featuring four of the leading figures in Australia’s technology media sector over the past 40 years. The event was part of the regular Pearcey Conversations webinar series. These are monthly panel discussions capturing the stories and experiences from people involved in the Australian ICT industry to inspire the next generation.

Tech Scribes – telling the stories of digital disruption’ was moderated by InnovationAus founder and editorial director James Riley, with a panel comprising former technology editor at both The Australian and the AFR, Helen Meredith; former technology editor of the AFR Beverley Head; and former publisher at Allure (now Pedestrian Group), former editorial director at CNET and current publisher of Byteside Seamus Byrne.

There was a lot of reminiscing about the days before digital (hardcopy and faxed press releases, writing up stories on typewriters, newspaper layouts on bromides) and the incredible ‘rivers of gold’ in tech publishing and advertising in the 1980s and 90s when there was a plethora of IT publications and The Australian’s weekly technology section took up 40 pages.

Digital technology really changed things for tech journalists from the perspective of the growth of the internet, the accessibility and removal of the barriers to entry for start-up publishers and writers with low-cost blogs and website platforms.

The other hotly discussed topic was the initial struggle to have technology stories recognised and promoted by the mainstream, something that’s now ironically suffering the reverse problem. With technology now embedded as a part of just about everything we do, the difficulty is not in getting on the front page; it’s getting the technology angle to the story effectively and accurately covered.

There were two refrains throughout from the panel – how technology journalists today no longer have the luxury of time to write their stories and the importance for publishers and editors to invest in great writing.

The issue of time is a real problem. With so much competition to get breaking stories out quickly, how do you find the time and put in the effort to produce great content?

Unfortunately, we ran out of time all too quickly, and the panel probably needed another hour to really get into the future of technology journalism in Australia.

Beverley Head did end the session neatly though with a Clive James quote on producing great writing:

“One thought at a time. Clear. Articulate. And above all, memorable, if you can be. You’d like to write phrases that people can’t forget as soon as they read them.”

Keep an eye out for a recording of the session, which should go up here in the next few days.

Is media coverage reporting still important?

February 24, 2021

Yes – media coverage is an important gauge of the overall success of your brand, not just on the performance of your PR program. Sure, you can use coverage stats to measure the success of a particular campaign or press release, but it is everything else that is happening around these activities that are really interesting.

Your PR strategy should be all about building ongoing awareness in the market of your brand and what your organisation does, which helps to generates impetus and increasing inertia over and above the specific PR activities that are executed. The metrics captured above are from ANZ for one of Explore’s clients for January this year – typically a very quiet month for PR, given it is our extended summer holiday period. Also, no traditional PR activities were undertaken that month. It’s a great sign that the PR strategy and approach is working, that your organisation and your products and services are in the conversation. It’s giving your brand a life of its own in the local market.

While public and private sector organisations and the media are increasingly relying on social media to amplify their content, it’s important as a brand to maintain a healthy marketing mix – one that doesn’t rely too heavily on social media activity. Facebook’s stoush with the Australian Government is a case in point. We also now know that the algorithms being used by search engines and social media platforms are influencing what content we see. This is driving people – including your customer base – to source content directly. Those direct sources include local and international media outlets, your website, blog, videos, webinars, events, press releases and announcements, etc. A diversified social media presence is also part of this mix, but most importantly it is the social network – the people your brand is connected with – staff, partners, customers, analysts and journalists – who are helping to carry on this conversation about your brand. The manifestation of this includes the coverage you receive in media publications.

So, you can measure the success of a press release by the number of media clips it has generated, but that’s a very transactional approach. It’s better to measure PR success when things are quiet. Are people still talking about you when you don’t have any news or a new product to announce? Are you maintaining or increasing your monthly media coverage? What’s the readership like on your corporate blog posts? Are you adding followers and increasing views on social media channels?

Establishing a media monitoring and reporting service is a great way to start. Please contact us if you’d like to find out more.

Fair use: search engines and social media

January 29, 2021
Photo by Alan Levine (PxHere) – Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

While I’m reluctant to weigh into the current Google debate in Australia (I think both sides have a point), it does raise a number of issues – particularly the continued pressure on the viability of news publications and the journalists who work for them. Google ANZ’s managing director says that about 95% of searches in Australia are made through Google, which makes its threat to pull out of Australia a serious one.

I’m old enough to remember being introduced to Google by one of our tech guys in the office when it had just started out, and being amazed by how much better it was than the existing crop of search tools (remember AltaVista and Ask Jeeves?). Recognising the power of Google at the time, we quickly embedded it as a search bar on the company’s intranet. I’m not sure how many people would have predicted Google’s complete dominance and, given the company’s longstanding (now demoted) “Don’t be evil” motto, it’s hard to reconcile Google of the late 1990s with the company we see now.

Google’s recent “experiment” in hiding Australia news was particularly chilling, especially when you think about the concept of a free and open internet – which Google’s own (and Internet pioneer) Vint Cerf expounded on without irony. Like many other professionals who rely on keeping up to date with news and media coverage, the thought of an expurgated search engine is really concerning and a threat to our ability to do our work. I’ve been busy trying out other search engines this week, but invariably fall back to Google as my default.

What I don’t understand is why we need to keep creating new legislation and regulatory controls to deal with technology and internet issues. The internet and the technology we use is just part of life and how society works. We just need our legal system to keep pace with the rapid change (another issue altogether!)

In this case, that’s the Federal Government’s proposed digital media code that would force tech giants to pay local media companies for providing their content in search and sharing their content on social media. Is that really necessary? For media companies, it’s all about protecting and creating revenue from their content, so why don’t they simply rely on our existing copyright laws, and launch a joint legal action for copyright infringement? While there are currently no fair use provisions in the Australian Copyright Act (as Gizmodo and other publications have pointed out), it’s still a defence that can be used in court. Rather than the government stepping in to regulate, maybe it’s better to see how the legal system would deal with something like this. As a test case, the court’s decision would actually have far greater power and impact than a media code. It’s a great definition of what constitutes fair use for search engines and social media companies, particularly when you consider the eye-watering amount of advertising revenue being generated by Facebook and Google in Australia – “Google told a senate inquiry the regulation would make the function unviable, despite paying just $59m in corporate tax while reporting over $4b in revenue“.

For me, it keeps coming back to the protection of Australian journalism and independent media content. We should be able to do that successfully by relying legal principles that have been protecting the rights of content creators and publishers for centuries. If Google, Facebook and other big tech players want to benefit financially from news content, why don’t they join the other side, employ journalists, and create and publish their own content?

The future of work? (2020 version)

July 30, 2020

WFHEarly in the COVID-19 lockdown I took the opportunity to use that extra time to completely re-organise my office and clear some of the clutter accumulated over the last 20 years working from home (WFH).

In the process I found an old APC magazine from 2002 which had an article from Phillipa Yelland about the future of work, featuring a much younger me.

At the time, the article stated, about one in 16 Australians were doing some or all of their work at home or away from the office.

Yes, in 1998 my family moved away from the city to the NSW Southern Highlands. Armed with an eye-wateringly expensive ISDN connection, I started working remotely about three days a week. I carried a concertina of paper files with me between the office and home and I had to remember to divert my office desk phone to my WFH number (these were the days before unified communications!). I often forgot to do this, so had to sheepishly call one of my office colleagues to redirect it for me. With a home Internet connection charged on a time used basis, I was very judicious about when I would go online during the day.


Since COVID-19 hit, suddenly just about everyone is ‘WFH’. There’s already been a deluge written about WFH and how it has changed our working lives, so I’ll quickly mention the two things that quickly became apparent for me, and then I’ll stop there on that aspect.

First, I realised that your productivity, your output and your results defined how well you were working – which is actually how it should be for any role, but isn’t always the case in organisations.

Second, you have to be far more present, available and responsive. People can’t see you at your desk or walking around the office, so if they can’t reach you straight away (or if you don’t respond to them quickly) there’s a perception that you aren’t working. You don’t have to live up to that same expectation when you are physically in the office.
What I really wanted to talk about is some of the macro trends or the ‘new normal’ of WFH post-COVID.

In The Register, Simon Sharwood predicts a corporate backlash against WFH, and pens an imaginary ‘all staff’ email in 2022 from a CEO cancelling the organisation’s WFH arrangements, calling everyone back into the office. (‘A memo from the distant future… June 2022: The boss decides working from home isn’t the new normal after all’) Sharwood foresees insurmountable issues around staff productivity, inequality and cultural division as the killers for WFH.

On the other hand, Anthony Caruana believes WFH is here to stay, provided we sort out a few technical and operational things first. (‘Working from home is the new cubicle farm’) And it’s not necessarily from a corporation’s altruistic intentions! Responding to Sharwood’s article, Caruana writes: “The clear benefit of working from home is simple for employers. It’s cheap.”

While corporate attitudes are key, I think the future of WFH will largely be driven by personal factors.

WFH simply doesn’t suit everyone. I made the decision back in 1998 to work remotely due to personal and family circumstances knowing that it might be detrimental to my career progression and chances of promotion. However, my motivation was driven more by the constantly changing nature of the work I was doing and being creative – and these could be achieved just as well, if not better, away from the office. That’s not going to suit the ambitious corporate types out there with a five-year plan and career trajectory mapped out.

I’m also not the typical nine-to-five style worker. I’m happy to work whenever I have to, and to keep working on something to get it finished, whatever that takes. That’s a great way to work at home, but not necessarily so great in an office. However, that can be quite difficult for some people to manage. At home, it is hard to keep up the same sort of routine you can have in the office, because the boundaries between work and leisure aren’t marked by the daily commute and the parallel schedules of your colleagues.

The biggest issue by far though is the dichotomy of personality types in the workforce, and how that affects their ability to work from home. I’ve seen a polarised response to WFH during the pandemic. Some of my family, friends and colleagues are revelling in the isolation, and in the opportunities it has given for them to have time to themselves and to ‘get things done’. On the other hand, other people I know are really struggling without being able to draw on the energy and inspiration they generate from the social interactions and physical connections they have in an office environment.

So, what do we do?

We’ve already proven through the pandemic that most office-based businesses have continued to function through the extended lockdown and social distancing period with the majority of their staff WFH, so there is no reason why that can’t continue in some form when things return to ‘normal’. In white-collar industries we can complete all or most of the work we do on a day-to-day basis from home; we can securely access the applications and data we need, we can participate in meetings and connect with our colleagues and customers via a multitude of channels, and we can collaborate effectively on projects and documents.

After all these years, it’s finally dawned on most organisations that ‘work is something we do, not somewhere we go’. Hopefully that means we will all stop being measured by the length of time we spend sitting at our desks or tapping away on our keyboards. We might start getting better at recognising genuine productivity and achievement across all levels of the organisation, which will make it immaterial if we are at home or in the office. That way, where we work becomes a personal choice, and we might get more out of all the different personality types in our employee base in what will be a much more diverse and hybrid workplace.

Pictured top: ‘Female hand writing at home.‘ by Nenad Stojkovic, shared under an Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) licence.

Communications in the Time of Corona

April 2, 2020

off to the sunNews that both MSNBC and CNN are no longer airing the full White House briefings on the COVID-19 pandemic is gobsmacking – given the alarming escalation of the virus in the USA right now.

One of the MSNBC hosts made a telling observation:

“we know these briefings have a tendency to veer in a lot of directions. Not all of them are informative or relevant in the midst of this crisis.”

At times of crisis, people are looking for clear, concise and factual information and advice – and also an expression of empathy for the emotional distress and anxiety we are all going through.

While I can’t speak for the veracity of the information, the clear, concise and empathetic way this executive responds to the situation regarding the Ruby Princess is a good example on how to communicate in a crisis.

Here are some quick pieces of communications advice for organisations right now:

  • Make sure that you are communicating regularly with your customer base and with your partners. They will want to know what you are doing to respond to the pandemic, and how any changes you are making will affect them. They will also want to know if they can continue to receive products and services from you during this time, and maybe other ways in which you can help them deal with the crisis.
  • Don’t be afraid to promote your products or services, as long as they are relevant during this time. Organisations and individuals are looking for ways to help them get through this crisis – whether that’s IT solutions to set up remote networks or support their employees working from home, personal protective equipment, supermarket opening hours or home grocery delivery services.
  • If you are providing advice or sharing information, limit this to areas in which you are a subject matter expert. Stick to known facts. At times like this, don’t waste people’s time with your personal theories or irrelevant information. They will already be looking to their own trusted sources of information and experts for this advice.
  • Get to the point quickly. People are dealing with an overload of information with regards to COVID-19, but they do want to hear from you if it is going to have a material impact on them. If you aren’t succinct or providing them with important information quickly, people will switch off and that’s the worst thing that could happen. You want to set the expectation that when they hear from you, your message is relevant and useful.
  • Don’t forget this is personal. While keeping things simple and to the point, be aware that this pandemic is affecting everyone and express that in your communications. Be empathetic throughout, and acknowledge the difficulties and distress we are all going through at the moment.

I hope everyone stays safe and healthy through this pandemic, and gets the information, makes the services and connections they need to keep on top of everything that is going on right now.

Pictured above: off to the sun, by Predi, shared under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) licence.