Article Title

New Normal: The Role of Internal Communications in Remote Workplace

It has been nearly two years since the COVID-19 hit Myanmar. Due to the global pandemic, many businesses have to operate virtually. Although some offices have resumed their regular operation, most employees have remained in a remote working environment. And the role of internal communications has become even more crucial than ever before.

Thant Htoo Naing graduated from the 5th cohort of the Parami Leadership Program (PLP) in mid-2019 and joined Coca-Cola Pinya Beverages Myanmar Company Ltd in the same year. In this Q&A session, Thant Htoo Naing talks about his work experience in the communications field and shares tips for effective communications and overcoming challenges at the remote workplace. 

Tell us more about what you do at your company? 

As an Internal Communications Officer, I am mainly working in developing and implementing a solid internal communications plan across the company's public domains. In terms of employee engagement, I am responsible for planning events, speaker series, and panel talks to reinforce and aid all management changes and culture initiatives in partnership with the people team and other functions. Previously, I have managed Coca-Cola's ambassador program, co-organized and assisted in external communications-related events and activities.

You have recently been promoted to a new position as Communications Executive; what are you most looking forward to in your new role?

This new role is significant to me and brings me many learning opportunities as I will be working in internal communications and external communications. Although I previously worked for internal communication at the company, I sometimes assisted with external communications whenever I had opportunities, so I am already quite familiar with work. Before this, we only published newsletters for company employees in Myanmar. As our company is planning to do more external communications like issuing a newsletter for the public in the future, I will also be taking part in this. Moreover, I am looking forward to more professional development and career advancement opportunities in this role. 

What are your communication strategies for communicating with internal stakeholders when working remotely? 

Apart from email, we also use other channels such as Workplace, Viber, and Yammer platforms to communicate with our associates to increase awareness and strengthen employees' knowledge of the system. We update activities and relevant updates through these channels to create a work environment that engages and inspires the associates to grow to their fullest potential. For example, when the company is launching something new or celebrating important events, we have arranged engaging activities like quiz sessions and organizing fun challenges to get employees involved in activities. 

“When dealing with many people, developing effective communications is vital. Effective communications include knowing your target audience, preferences and using the right channels to get the message across.” 

Given the situations in Myanmar, what are the internal communication challenges you faced at work, and how did you overcome them? 

Since the start of the COVID-19, most of our communications strategies have changed from physical activities to virtual versions. Aiming to keep all employees well informed about the company updates, we decided to publish bi-weekly newsletters instead of quarterly. We have frequently organized employee engagement activities such as town halls, well-being talks, knowledge sharing sessions, talk series, etc.

There have been many challenges during these difficult times, especially when engaging and communicating with employees effectively. We have over 1000 employees across Myanmar. To share information with all employees across the organization, we use different communications channels, including Email, Viber, Yammer, or contact their respective departments' focal. 

Our CEO said that "Every challenge comes with opportunities." When COVID-19 first hit Myanmar last year, we moved all the physical activities to virtual, which we had never done before, but we have learned a lot from these changes. For example, organizing a companywide Thadingyut virtual stage show, nobody in our team has done this before, but we tried our best and learned as we went. We also executed an internal donation drive with the theme 'make a difference this Thadingyut and contributed to a youth development center.

"I also hold a belief that “Everything happens for the better.When changes occur, I try to look at the bright side to make the best of the given situation. I try to overcome challenges by developing a growth mindset and looking at things differently."

What essential concepts of liberal arts education from the PLP classes have you applied in your daily life and workplace? 

  • A growth mindset: Whenever challenges arise, I try to look at them in different dimensions. And, it is the same thing when analyzing information. And this helps me to have open-minded, no bias communication and enhance my problem-solving and analytical skills.
  • Embracing diverse perspectives: The experience of studying together with classmates from different backgrounds at Parami has helped me to embrace diversity and different opinions.
  • Eagerness to learn and not hesitate to ask questions: I was pretty shy to ask questions before joining Parami. However, after a while, seeing my classmate who was active and eager to learn has helped me realize that it's good to ask questions because it can help me to learn things better. And I have applied this concept in my career too.
  • Effective time management: Time management is another practice that I have developed from the PLP. Like, I still remember the whiteboard that our teacher at Parami used to draw a study planner for us. Having an organized schedule helps reduce stress and become productive in their study and work.

What would be your top suggestion or tip for young people seeking employment during these difficult times?

Having a good attitude and EQ is vital. It is good to have or possess a specific skill set required by the field you want to pursue your career, but having a good mindset is also essential for a working environment. 

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