HOW TO BUILD MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS IN A HYBRID, DISTRIBUTED, GLOBAL WORKPLACE
As the modern workplace navigates unprecedented changes, Bessie Kokalis Pescio, vice president and global head of internal communications at Philip Morris International, shares the steps the company has taken to keep employees connected.
For the past three years, our organisation has been on a journey—one that many others found themselves on as well—to create a channel strategy, content strategy, and content mix that can maximise reach, engagement, and impact across our hybrid, distributed, global workforce.
The global pandemic has put the spotlight on the need to consider the different work models—from deskless to wireless, fully remote, fully on-site, or hybrid—when communicating to 70,000-plus employees across 90-plus countries. First, we created a strategy playbook to help our internal communicators become more intentional in how they use our global channels, and equip them with best practices, to reach as many employees as possible.
Next, we developed a series of employee personas to help us understand how our colleagues were consuming communications based on their preferences and the available channels. We shared these with our communicators to use as a springboard for creating local personas, along with a robust example that one of our markets, Indonesia, has built out.
‘What’s in it for employees?’
We also knew we needed to make our communications more relevant to employees, so we put ourselves in their shoes to consider ‘what this means for me.’ We then scoured our markets and functions to see how they were contextualising global communications. We identified a handful of best practices—podcasts, weekly news programs, and newsletters—along with some of the challenges others faced, such as limited creative resources.
Based on what we uncovered, we curated different approaches that could be adapted and scaled locally and compiled them in another playbook. We also decided to include customisable assets for local intranets, Yammer, and email communications in all our toolkits for cascading any global program or initiative going forward.
Post-pandemic, employee expectations have changed drastically in terms of access to our senior leaders as well as information about and transparency into decisions being made. They want to be heard on the issues that are important to them—such as our business transformation, inclusion and diversity, as well as sustainability—and talk with senior leaders, not be talked at. As a result, we worked to establish Yammer as an informal and approachable channel to connect employees with executives and each other.
We also looked to elevate employee voices and spark more dialogue that way. For example, our town halls shifted from a presentation-style to a conversational format, using employee questions to shape the agenda and leaving plenty of time for a live Q&A. Our CEO and other senior leaders also host informal chats that create additional opportunities for dialogue. We’ve also developed all-employee panels: moderated by and showcasing our diverse employee base to provide their perspective on top-of-mind topics. All these initiatives helped improve our employee survey scores relating to confidence in our leaders and perceptions that our leaders are demonstrating visible leadership to over 70%.
Building a community
For the past three years, we have found countless other ways to turn physical distance into social closeness and make our programming more human, empathetic, relevant, and engaging. For example, we tapped into our employees’ passion for food and music, and ultimately debuted two experiential programs showcasing our colleagues performing any number of talents. Our third and perhaps most popular program—Your Story on a Plate—encourages employees to share a family or local recipe along with the story behind that dish.
As our communications have become less formal and more conversational, we also updated our guidelines for voice and tone, and created tips for bringing employee voices into all internal communications. Employee surveys confirm we are on the right track—the last three years have seen double-digit increases when it comes to the clarity, relevancy, and consistency of our communications and, according to our last Pulse Survey, our overall employee Net Promoter Score also showed a double-digit increase.