While many infrastructure projects fall into the ‘essential business’ category, business leaders within this sector should consider how their current approach to employee and external communications will help shape what comes next when the immediate crisis passes.

Infrastructure-oriented stimulus spending has been a tool in the federal government’s recession-recovery toolbox for decades, most recently in 2009. The Trump administration says a significant investment in infrastructure should be part of a future coronavirus relief package. An infrastructure stimulus bill, if passed, is not expected until later this year -- giving engineering, design and construction firms time to ensure they’re short-listed for public projects. Here are three things leaders can do now:

  1. Update case studies: Round up recent project experience into clear, compelling case studies to showcase innovative solutions and technical expertise. These can be distributed via owned channels like the company website, social channels or email to clients and prospects. Prioritize signature projects that help make your firm stand apart.
  2. Engage trade media: Engineering, design and construction marketing leaders should continue working to build and maintain relationships with trade media reporters, providing perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on infrastructure projects, when appropriate, so that these relationships can be leveraged when the normal course of business resumes.
  3. Thought leadership: The appetite for quality content from technical/professional journals and infrastructure publications remains strong. While many conferences reaching infrastructure professionals have been canceled, others either are still on the calendar for later this year or will be held as virtual events. Now is the perfect time to assess your best projects and mine them for insights and best practices to share through white papers, speaking opportunities and panel presentations.

Second, employee communications in a time of uncertainty is more important than ever. While office employees in engineering, design and construction mostly are working from home, in some cities and states, supervisors, contractors and other job-site staff are still showing up. To safeguard the bond of trust and ensure employees work safely, productively and with health in mind, they need to know the steps firms are taking to keep them safe, which may include social distancing on the job site, banning non-essential visitors, use of masks and other PPE, staggered shifts and ensuring employees and contractors don't congregate during breaks.  

Leading design, engineering and construction firms should consider three things when it comes to employee communications:

  1. Be thoughtful: Show employees you care by expressing empathy and concern for well-being in your messages. Although in-person meetings are out for now, look for ways to ensure two-way communication that allows employees to ask questions and share how they’re feeling. Listen attentively, aim for authenticity and transparency, and be clear that you may not have all the answers.
  2. Be proactive: Tell employees up-front what you’re doing to keep them safe and how business leaders are taking steps to weather the storm. Encourage client-facing staff to maintain close contact with clients and prospects. As you receive additional information, make a commitment to share what you know, when possible.
  3. Be clear and consistent: Maintain clear and consistent communication across all channels to ensure employees are hearing the same messages from all leaders at all times, and are clear on the company’s direction and the important roles they play.

For some infrastructure firms, COVID-19 has led to a shift away from business-as-usual, providing an opportunity for a fresh look at brand positioning, marketing communications strategy and the role of employee communications in attracting, retaining and engaging world-class engineering, design and construction management talent. Reach out to me at kbrown@linhartpr.com if we can help.