Operational pivots, production slowdowns, fast-turn product and service launches, workplace contaminations, furloughs, layoffs, new government directives, bankruptcies, calls for specific industry expertise, unique collaborative partnerships. 

We’ve literally seen it all in the past two months and for those in corporate communications and marketing, COVID-19 has felt like one long accreditation exam. None of us – even those with decades of experience – have seen this array of business issues affecting this wide spectrum of stakeholders in this short of a timeframe. 

The good news is we’ve had best practices and playbooks to work from and provided we’ve followed them, they’ve worked pretty well as companies have slowed down or shifted production, transitioned people to work-from-home and shifted business models to accommodate government and safety-mandated COVID-19 adjustments.

But now what? 

Padilla has been conducting an ongoing ethnographic study of C-suite leaders and communications and marketing professionals, and the thing that is on everyone’s mind right now is planning for “Return to Work” in whatever form that takes.  

As helpful as tried-and-true playbooks were during the mad rush of the past two months, my colleagues and I believe that their utility will be limited as companies plan their return scenarios. That’s why we developed and launched the Padilla Return-to-Work (R2W)SM Process. It certainly builds on past experience, but also takes into account the unprecedented complexities and interdependencies of a return-from-coronavirus environment. And these complexities cut across stakeholder groups.

  • Employees will not all come back at once – whether that be your choice or theirs –  and determining who comes back and under what conditions will most certainly have an impact on operations and on the culture.
  • Customers want to know which of the changes to their experience that you made over the past few months are going to stick and which ones will revert back to the way they were.
  • Investors who based their assumptions on your performance and strategy at the start of the year may need a reset with the new business realities.
  • Your supply chain – which you relied on and which relied on you – will want to see some level of clarity on what your go-forward plan is, since it directly affects their strategies too.
  • And with all of these are the inevitable questions of liability – who ultimately assumes the risk and responsibility if things are to go as planned or promised. 

And this is just scratching the surface, which is why we need a new playbook. Padilla’s Return-to-Work Process begins by assessing key considerations for determining the right timing and sequence for a transition back to long-term operations. It aligns those considerations with the company’s values and purpose – and accounts for which operations will revert back to their original state and which are permanently changed. These steps inform the communications content and connection strategy necessary to build the right understanding, appreciation and action by customers, employees, investors and strategic partners. 

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all, fill-in-the-blank product, but instead a strategic framework used by our experts in vertical sectors like food, health, manufacturing, agriculture and technology and in horizontal disciplines like research, insights, brand strategy, crisis/issues management, employee engagement, marketing and investor relations. From how to structure transition teams to key considerations for functional areas and critical workstreams, this approach can help any organization come together after the pandemic – clear-eyed and with renewed purpose. To learn more, visit Padilla’s R2W website here.