With the sudden shift to virtual work environments this past year, companies have been grappling with how to keep employees engaged despite a lack of physical connection. Our recent ROI Forum invited senior communication professionals from more than 20 Fortune 500 companies to come together (virtually, of course!) to explore innovative approaches to the continuing challenge of virtual work and engagement.
Qualcomm hosted our February Forum, providing a behind-the-scenes look into how they have helped employees feel connected, engaged and valued while working remotely.
Although we couldn’t meet in person at the Qualcomm campus in beautiful San Diego, attendees got a taste of the sunny location in advance through a fun care package containing treats from The Baked Bear in San Diego’s Pacific Beach, known locally for their monstrous ice cream sandwiches.
During the Forum, attendees had a chance to network with fellow communicators and win raffle prizes – a cool Lume Cube to help them look their best in their next Zoom call!
All were eager to learn about unique communication, engagement and recognition programs Qualcomm has launched during the pandemic. A few examples include:
- Quarantine tips: A daily email aimed at “staying in touch, sharing information and acknowledging the situation” in a quick and fun way. One of the most memorable: “Home Haircut Tips from the CTO.”
- Weekly CEO video messages: By keeping messages informal (recorded via Microsoft Teams), short and to the point on a few key areas – Coronavirus updates, employee recognition, encouragement, and, as time went on, business updates – the CEO created an authentic connection with employees.
- A global recognition site and app: With the launch of a new app and competitions encouraging participation, the company saw significant increases in recognition.
- Engaging online experiences: An online summer festival series featured employee variety acts and interactive games; regional global holiday festivals spotlighted employee talent; and a virtual celebration of Qualcomm’s 35th anniversary offered multiple opportunities for employees to get involved, including sharing photos and stories, joining a fireside chat with the company’s founder, and much more.
Takeaways from the event
Qualcomm’s advice for hosting successful online events:
- Employees want to see other employees.
- Keep videos to 5 minutes or less.
- Combine pre-recorded videos with a live host to avoid network overloads.
- Ensure performances are global.
- Keep it fun. For Qualcomm, live trivia with prizes was a big hit.
New strategies to support employee wellbeing:
- Offer more global holidays.
- Establish “No meeting” productivity zones.
- Set up automated unused vacation time reminders.
- Provide mental health intervention training.
- Train managers on how to model healthy behaviors.
For over a year now, companies have been stretching their virtual work muscles and finding ways to reach employees where they live. An unexpected outcome of the new virtual work world is that it has broken down office walls and opened up new lines of communication. People we previously thought were unapproachable turn out to be genuinely funny, ever-so-slightly rumpled, and sheepish when their kids come barging into their office during an international news broadcast or company video conference. A colleague you’ve never met before brightens your day with an astonishing talent from half a world away—available both live and on replay!
Or, at Qualcomm, you just may learn how to cut your hair at home.
Beth Miller Thiel
Beth is a Director at ROI who has worked as a writer for more than two decades, first as a journalist and then in corporate communication roles for many of Silicon Valley’s leading companies.
ROI Forums provide a unique, invitation-only opportunity for Communication and HR senior leaders from Fortune 500 companies to share best practices, exchange ideas and discuss the latest issues and emerging trends.
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