Engaging with Employees during COVID 19 – Change Exchange


On 9 June Montfort hosted its third Change/Exchange since the beginning of the pandemic. These sessions bring together senior change and communications practitioners to share their experiences.

Scott McKenzie

The latest session was focused on the ‘return to work’, with Scott McKenzie from Montfort setting the scene around the crisis shifting into a new phase around transition and transformation.

Scott was joined by two guest speakers: Sian Jones, Head of Internal Communications at the Bank of England and Natasha Perfect, Communications Director, Smiths Detection, followed by a range of contributions from the other attendees.

Key discussion points included:

  • The importance of early planning in preparing for the return to work and where possible setting out a clear roadmap with principles/decision-making criteria
  • There was acknowledgement that managing the mass shutdown from the workplace was considerably easier than managing a phased return
  • The importance of open, strong and visible leadership and focus on engaging employees whether onsite and working through the crisis, or for those leaders working remotely
  • For local leaders the provision of practical checklists has been a vital element of support – helping to provide reassurance and confidence that they are doing the right thing
  • The value of listening to employees – using regular surveys or leadership forums to gather insight
  • This has helped to inform the approach to communications and engagement, as well as sharing best practice across the organisation
  • Informal peer-to-peer engagement has also increased via online chatrooms/video calls – this has helped breakdown siloes and hierarchies
  • Strong and simple messaging included going ‘back to basics’ with the use of posters at the entrance to sites, for example
  • The importance of establishing a rhythm of regular communication: helping to build confidence, mitigate uncertainty and to manage employee expectations
  • This has also been about reinforcing the organisation’s values and central purpose, as well as communicating short term priorities
  • The crisis is highly likely to increase the trend towards flexible working. It has proven that with right access to technology many workers can be productive from home
  • Need to acknowledge that some tasks do need to happen in the workplace, or can be done more effectively (for example, complex policy work)
  • Longer term there is a concern about creating ‘in groups’ and ‘out groups’
  • There is also optimism that there is an opportunity to create better, more flexible and productive operating models – with offices being more focused on collaboration rather than simple tasks

You can also view a video with some highlights from the session here, and Scott has written a blog post picking up on some of the points raised in the session.

If you are interested in any of the themes raised in this session, or would like to attend a future Change/Exchange please contact Scott McKenzie at mckenzie@montfort.london or Jerome Reback at reback@montfort.london