How has COVID-19 impacted consumer behaviors & organizational responses

From panic buying to online shopping, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted consumer behaviors during very short period of time.  Since I teach Consumer Behaviors in the online environment in our graduate program, I would like to discuss the emerging consumer behaviors, analyze the underlying factors that drive the behavioral changes, and provide suggestions about organizational response strategies.  So far, four consumption trends have emerged.

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When communication matters most

How are communication leaders around the world responding to the Covid-19 pandemic? What do they see as challenges? And how will they adapt to a post-pandemic environment?

GarzaThese are some of the topics we discussed with Artemio Garza, who leads Egon Zehnder’s Communication Officers practice in North America. Artemio is a core member of Egon Zehnder’s Marketing and Digital practices. Based in Miami, his special focus is on multi-unit retail, consumer goods, and private equity companies.

Carl Zangerl (CZ): Tell us about what your job at Egon Zehnder entails.

Artemio Garza (AG):  Our mission at Egon Zehnder is to create a better world through great leadership. I have a marketing and communication background myself, and I advise companies on how to structure their communication functions and help identify people who can assume leadership roles.

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Shifting to a digital transformation mindset

We’ve been talking about the term ‘digital transformation’ for a long time. Many organizations have been re-thinking how they do business, how they interact with customers, and how they engage their own people.

Digital TransformationThe realization is now setting in that the current Covid-19 crisis is accelerating the pace of digital transformation. I regularly turn to McKinsey for insights on what’s going on in the economy and organizational change.

Here’s what they they are thinking: “The coronavirus pandemic is a humanitarian crisis that continues to take a tragic toll on people’s lives. There’s no denying it is also acting as a catalyst for change—economic, societal, personal, and corporate—on a scale not seen since wartime. The scale of the change and the speed at which it’s happening is shining a bright light on the fact that companies are facing a once-in-a-generation shift. And for all the uncertainty about what the future will look like, it’s clear already that it will be digital.”

So what are the implications of all of this us, as communicators?

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What to do when the learning curve becomes even steeper

During my tenure on the board of the Boston chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators, I had the good fortune of meeting and staying in touch with Jodi Freedman. Jodi was a communication leader at the Bose Corporation for many years and recently accepted a position in an entirely different sector (healthcare) and during Freedmanan extraordinary time (the Covid-19 pandemic).

She posted the following article on LinkedIn, and her reflections deeply resonated with me — facing the challenges of learning about a new organization and sector, compounded by those unleashed by a profound crisis.

I’d like to share Jodi’s reflections with you:

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Illustration of transformational learning with unexpected rewards

Finding My Place in the Cross-Cultural Communication Field

It was three years ago that my career gained what I thought was to be my launch into the global market. After graduating from college and achieving my dream job of working at a huge corporation in Tokyo, the unexpected occurred. Within six months, I quit and moved back to my home country, the USA.

Mika wearing a yukata, a Japanese summer kimono, during study abroad in Japan.

Deciding to leave so quickly shocked not only my community, but also myself.  I had spent four years learning about Japanese language and culture.  Having studied abroad, researched, and interned in Japan. I had braced myself for expected sexism in the workplace, strong drinking culture, and even power harassment. However, the one thing that was I had not prepared for was my own lack of cultural agility.

Despite knowing what the Japanese perspective might be, I found myself defining right and wrong. I would often deem Japanese corporate culture to be unhealthy for its collective mindset, in contrast to my valuing individuality and freedom as someone raised in the USA. When I ended up leaving Japan to pursue a career in cross-cultural communication, I came away from the experience subconsciously wanting to fix Japan.  I had a vision and a strategic plan; next steps were to gain the tools.

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What does it mean to be innovative?

“Innovation cuts across all sectors of life and all aspects of a company,” says Tucker Marion, chair of the entrepreneurship and innovation programs within Northeastern’s D’Amore McKim School of Business. For this reason, organizations—and even individuals who innovate effectively—have the potential to make an impact on the landscape of their industry, just by being willing to take risks and learn from their mistakes.

While Marion says individuals should feel motivated to hone their innovation skills through training, he also acknowledges that a few common qualities exist among those who have already embraced innovation in their lives and workplaces. Below we explore six common qualities that effective innovators share.

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12 communication skills that will advance your career

Communication is the fire that fuels the workplace engine. It is difficult to overstate just how important communication can be to a successful organization.

Case-in-point: A recent survey of 400 companies conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed that, on average, each company lost $62.4 million per year due to inadequate communication.

“In an era when Artificial Intelligence and other digital technologies are changing the way organizations operate, communication skills will become even more vital to strengthening relationships and promoting collaboration and adaptability,” says Carl Zangerl, faculty director for the communication and human resource management programs within Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies.

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How to develop an internal communication strategy

Companies in the U.S. spent nearly $200 billion on marketing in 2019, putting immense resources towards developing strategies to communicate with potential customers and crafting and distributing the perfect messages. Few spend the same resources on considering how to best communicate with their employees—and it’s costing them.

About 70 percent of employees in the U.S. feel disengaged at work, and fewer than 30 percent believe in the brand that employs them, according to Gallup. This leads people to quit and seek out more fulfilling work, and Glassdoor reports that companies spend an average of $4,000 on recruiting, hiring, and onboarding each replacement. By helping employees feel more connected to their companies through thoughtful internal communication, organizations can create an open, collaborative culture that drives both retention and productivity.

Dr. Ed Powers

“It’s about building relationships and understanding not only what the organization is trying to accomplish, but also what will motivate employees,” says Ed Powers, a professor of practice who oversees the Public and Media Relations concentration within the Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication at Northeastern University.

Here’s why an internal communications strategy is vital for any workplace and how you can create one that addresses your company’s goals.

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How to improve cross-cultural communication in the workplace

It’s no secret that effective communication is central to the success of any organization, regardless of industry. But in order to truly understand what it takes to communicate effectively, you must first understand the different cultural factors that influence the way people interact with one another.

Our world is more interconnected than ever before, a fact that has given rise to many changes in the ways that businesses and organizations operate. Workplaces are more diverse, remote teams are scattered across the country or around the world, and businesses that once sold products to a single demographic might now sell to a global market. All of these factors have converged to make cross-cultural communication a vital part of organizational success.

Here’s a look at why cross-cultural communication is important in the workplace, and the steps you can take to overcome cultural barriers and improve communication within your organization.

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Collaborative leadership: What it is and why it’s important

As the professional world continues to develop and change, the way executives within organizations manage their teams has needed to evolve with it.

In the past, leaders often worked in silos, handling only the tasks that fell directly under their domain. Today, however, managers are leaning on collaborative leadership methods as a means of embracing innovation and meeting their organization’s unique goals.

Read on to learn what collaborative leadership means, what trends are making it so essential, and how you can embrace this method in your workplace today.

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