In Portugal, there are tens of thousands of companies whose activity is the starting point of the production and distribution chains, which support many of the big brands with which we are used to living daily as end consumers and which are totally unknown. Despite the companies focused on the business business-to-business (B2B) work on backstage of the value creation process, they are a key part of the national and international economy.
All companies, regardless of their focus on B2B or business-to-consumer (B2C), or more recently in D2C - direct-to-consumer, were surprised by a scenario that few, if any, had considered in their strategic planning. This event, classified by many as unexpected and, by others, as predictable, but not resolved, required many of them to redefine their routines and, at times, even to rethink their purpose.
In this context, what is the role of Communication in building and managing relationships with stakeholders of Portuguese B2B companies with relevant international business? And what are the ways to respond to challenges that these organizations may face, today and in the future?
According to the InterComm Report – B2B Communication Trends in Global Businesses, when asked about the stakeholders With whom they communicate regularly, employees appear as the second most relevant – customers (95,1%), employees (81,4%), suppliers (79%), partners (77,4%). By asking whether there are plans to increase investments in communication with the aim of strengthening relationships with stakeholders, once again employees appear in the TOP 3 of priorities.
Communication with employees emerged during the pandemic as a reinforced priority for all organizations regardless of their sector, business or size. At a time when people heard about automation and robotization and the challenges that such realities brought to the labor market, the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic placed the issue of humanization on the table in an urgent manner.
Faced with an unknown context that required a quick adaptation, the priority was to ensure, whether through teleworking or through an investment in personal protective equipment (PPE), that the teams had all the conditions to perform their duties.
With the safety and health of employees safeguarded, a new challenge quickly emerged on the table: how to communicate with teams dispersed in the space and who were learning to deal with a new normal, having to reconcile their professional, personal and family life within four walls.
When looking at what happened a year ago, the good practices shared by the companies included active communication from the organization's top management, as a way to maintain the trust levels of the teams. On the other hand, the creation of specific communication supports, which, depending on the characteristics and needs of each company, made it possible to share essential information to ensure business continuity and also content associated with the pandemic and the company's identity. New dynamics of events and interaction mediated by digital platforms and new offers from service providers that allow a feeling of closeness between everyone. This was an important year for rethinking and testing new communication models with employees.
The State of the Sector 2021, an international reference study with more than a decade, which focuses on the analysis of challenges and trends in internal communication and employee engagement, reinforces some of the conclusions of the InterComm Report, namely the importance of employee engagement in the next times. We will use the term of EX - Employee Experience, to highlight that managing the relationship with employees is a complex process and influenced by different factors such as well-being, financial stability, the work environment, technology used, leadership and culture, strategy and models change management, career progression, and rewards and benefits. Considering the variables presented, the question that may arise is: Where does communication fit into this equation?
Communication will be the aggregating element, and it cannot be understood only as information, but as a process of creating a relationship. If this function has been seen as a minor issue, it is now emerging as a function with increasing importance, taking on a new priority position among the strategic thinking of several companies. Considered as the “voice” of brands, Internal Communication should be understood as an anchor to inspire trust with different people. stakeholders.
The scenario we have been living in for over a year and we are not sure when it will end, made it evident that it is time for the top management of companies to understand what contribution Communication can make to companies to be more competitive . It is possible for a company to survive without communicating with its employees, but it will be more efficient if it intentionally and strategically manages the communication processes with those who embody the company and guarantee its activity.
In HR Magazine