Social distancing, by Wikimedia user Mbrickn.
Used under a creative commons license.
Every day, we see more bad behavior in corporate communications.
But with some digging we can find examples worth following, too — especially from CEOs who are direct and decisive about COVID-19 and working from home. It’s not that they don’t face risk, but they confront it boldly to foster trust. If your company needs inspiration for bravery, start here.
Today, The New York Times leadership told staff “the earliest day we will ask people who are currently working remotely to return to our offices in New York will be on Sept. 8.” They’re communicating clearly and taking a big step, not baby steps — but there’s confidence in vulnerability.
New York Times memo to staff, May 5, 2020. Via https://twitter.com/oliverdarcy/status/1257727622383099906
This announcement came after they acknowledged that employees need to know how to plan their “families’ lives over the next few months.” Speaking to the broader context, that employees’ work affects and is affected by family needs, builds trust — as do compassion and clarity.
The full memo adds detail to communicate what employees should expect next in communication from their managers. Voice, volume, and vulnerability combine to empower employees so they can plan their lives appropriately.
Today, automated research platform Suzy CEO Matt Britton made a similar announcement, which he shared on Medium. He told staff that they wouldn’t be reopening the New York City offices. He cited the team’s success at work from home and employees’ need to plan their lives.
Excerpt from Suzy message to employees citing planning needs.
He also expressed compassion for the choice reopening Suzy would force on employees — not to mention the cleaners and other building staff who support them:
Excerpt from Suzy message to employees citing safety concerns.
Compassion also comes from Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang. In a March 24 email shared on LinkedIn, he called out parents: “You are pulling triple duty, caring for your family, homeschooling, working from home. Prioritize family. Our work will wait. Let your colleagues know. They will rise to support you,” he wrote. While the company’s challenges are important, he tells employees to focus on more pressing needs at home. Less confident leadership might find that approach risky or even none of their business — but when the majority of a company’s employees are working from home, it would be foolish to ignore the lines between business and life.
Less confident leadership might find that approach risky or even none of their business — but when the majority of a company’s employees are working from home, it would be foolish to ignore the lines between business and life.
Then in an April 14 internal email shared on LinkedIn, employees learned that Nvidia would pull in annual reviews. This news raised concerns Huang quickly addressed: “We’re accelerating your raise to put extra money in your hands,” he explained. Nvidia saw the value of getting more money back into the community.
He moves on to say how Nvidia’s products serve genomic processing for a COVID-19 vaccine — detail that demonstrates respect for his reader and an investment in employees’ sense of security. Closing with news of a new baby and commiseration with parents new to homeschooling, he’s vulnerable, familiar, and trustworthy.
There are a million examples of brands behaving badly right now. But here and there, companies are using a human voice, the right volume of detail, and relatable vulnerability to empower their audiences and foster trust. That adds up to fuel something more: hope.
For more on building trust through corporate communication, see this post on communication from Zoom CEO Eric Yuan.