In This Together: Sharing Our COVID-19 Learnings

March 16, 2020

Guiding Marketing Principles

Editor's Note: Enjoy this special encore post, which was one of our readers' favorites so far in 2020. 

As a communications and marketing professional for over two decades, I’ve seen my fair share of crises. The COVID-19 crisis is unlike any before, in terms of the pace, the global intricacies, and the very real personal and professional implications of every decision made. 

It’s likely not a surprise that we — at LinkedIn — believe in the power of navigating the COVID-19 issue together with our networks and communities. People coming together physically is how the virus we’re fighting spreads, and coming together virtually is one of the ways we’ll beat it. Beating it isn’t just stemming the disease’s spread, it’s taking care of our loved ones and peers, those in need and on the front lines, our businesses and our economy.

Many of our customers have asked us to share how LinkedIn has approached managing this crisis, and in the spirit of sharing any information that might be useful to others, here’s what we’re doing, what we’ve learned, and how we’re thinking about the path ahead. 

Executive Cycles Required

At the onset, we spent several long sessions together as an executive team that ended up being a critical investment in codifying how we would make decisions and manage the situation in the coming days and weeks. That first meeting turned into three daily executive standup meetings. We met at 10am, 3pm and 8:30pm every day and included our regional Managing Directors to be sure a global perspective informed our decisions. As we’ve built more processes, we’ve been able to move to a single daily stand up, adding others as needed. Every stand up includes a check in on our employees and on each other, as this is a human issue first. Having complete alignment across our leadership team and every function at the company has proven invaluable.

Codifying Guiding Principles

Very quickly we realized the importance of having a framework for every decision we were making. Repeatedly, we go back to these principles when we’re managing a new and challenging situation:

  • Protect our workforce: Solve for both the physical and mental well-being of our workforce, while supporting our broader global community.
  • Start all decision-making with the facts
  • Partner with our industry peers and learn from one another: Numerous peers have helped and we have the benefit of being a part of Microsoft and having access to their experts.
  • Ensure business continuity: Support our members and customers and minimize disruption to our day-to-day business operations and performance.

Establishing a Global IMT

Every one of our regions and offices has an Incident Management Team (IMT). Local IMT’s include a representative from HR, legal, communications, facilities, security, and the country or office leader. They’re trained and empowered to mobilize to manage local issues. The APAC IMT, for example, managed the situation for our offices in China and did an incredible job, keeping our headquarters in the U.S. updated. 

As the virus spread to more countries, we had more local IMTs making decisions. We quickly felt the challenge of managing the different details and having consistency in our decision making. We had never needed a Global IMT, but spun one up immediately. We also made sure the people who would be running the Global IMT for the duration of the COVID-19 issue were fully dedicated and their full time jobs were backfilled. The Global IMT is now responsible for maintaining a running list of all our offices, current status and impacts, and local health guidelines. They also play point on coordinating with the local IMTs, experts and local health officials. They join every executive stand up as the source of truth for us.

Creating a Consistent Language

The Global IMT has helped us create definitions and frameworks for each of our locations. We’ve developed a Green, Yellow and Red status for each office, with clear definitions. This enables us to be consistent in how we communicate with our workforce and how we manage our workplaces.

Supporting Our People 

This is our first priority. As we’ve moved to most of our workforce working from home, we’ve had to manage supporting employees who don’t have the right set ups to work remotely, parents with kids who will be home, employees with visa challenges, and more. We also joined Microsoft in guaranteeing we’ll pay our hourly workers who support our facilities whether they work or not. And we recognize that mental well being is a very real issue. We’ve extended our mental health support services globally and set up virtual mindfulness situations. This will be our ongoing focus in all we do.

Communicating Often and Transparently

We don’t know any other way, but a direct and consistent drumbeat of communications has proven particularly important and our employees have been incredibly grateful. We’ve learned that in these times of uncertainty, our teams really want clarity and direction, and we’ve opted to over-communicate to maintain trust. 

Arming Our Managers

A critical key to taking care of our workforce, our members and our customers has been ensuring our managers have the information they need to help manage through a very challenging time. We’ve held regional manager Q&A sessions, with hundreds of managers attending each one, and are moving those to a regular weekly cadence. 

Given we’re likely in this new normal for some time, as we look ahead, we’re focused on:

Coming together as a company

Our culture is, and will be our north star during this crisis. It’s manifested itself in so many ways, from an employee in Dublin hosting a virtual concert for our team in Milan who have already been working from home for a number of weeks, to a virtual town hall for our Asian Alliance employee resource group as some are encountering xenophobia during this time. 

Ensuring business continuity

While the distractions are real, supporting our members and customers is one of the most important things we can do right now.

Moving forward virtually

Next week, we’ll do our first all virtual company all hands for 16,000 employees. We’ve also onboarded our first class of new hires and our Talent team has moved all interviewing virtual. We’ve made a number of LinkedIn Learning courses focused on working virtually available for free to everyone. We’ve also shared how to sell virtually and will continue to share anything we think can help.

Building in contingency

It’s clear we won’t have a break from this soon and the teams who have been working around the clock need help and support. We’re quickly working to ensure we have the right infrastructure in place to support a fully remote workforce and support plans for all the key functions and people leading the work and the business.

Mobilizing employees to help

We believe our platform can play a unique role in supporting professionals everywhere during this period and we’re accelerating the work every we can do to help coach others.

While the challenges and hours managing this situation are significant, what we learn will benefit our companies for years to come. With that said, more than anything, we hope the moves being made around the globe will quickly stem the spread of the disease to save lives and help those suffering economically find relief. If you have anything you’ve seen work well in your organizations that will benefit us all, please share — we’ll get through this together.

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