Leading your team in an uncertain market

As 2023 marches on, corporate affairs and communications professionals are already looking at the year ahead with an understandable sense of apprehension: “What next?”

We are battle-bruised. Having already shouldered the challenges of 2020, when COVID-19 thrust our professions into the corporate spotlight, 2021 brought little respite: Ongoing restrictions still hampered stakeholder engagement, and the rewards for sterling pandemic work were often increased workloads and heightened expectations. Unsurprisingly, many began to talk of burnout. Last year, offices slowly began refilling and business travel edged back towards pre-pandemic levels, but the rebooting of the corporate machine simply presented its own challenges, as a recent article in Harvard Business Review identified: “In 2022, business leaders faced an increasingly unpredictable environment, with evolving return-to-office policies, higher employee turnover, and burned-out employees (more than ever before, in fact).”

We are not out of the woods yet, though. And that means 2023 will contain a very specific make-or-break challenge for corporate affairs and communications leaders, because their team members, already fatigued, now likely face difficult messaging and cost constraints amid a looming economic downturn. In a competitive talent landscape, how leadership responds to that could determine whether the company is seen as an employer of choice – or whether colleague motivation simply collapses after years of unprecedented pressure.

One of the strongest ways to turn the narrative is by actively promoting and supporting your team’s professional growth via learning. And now is the critical moment for it, for three reasons.

First, because challenging environments are always the best times to develop people, as LinkedIn’s VP talent development, Linda Cai, argues: “The responsibility of learning has always been to help organisations navigate uncertainty and chaos in the world.”

Second, because you need to position your function as one that recognises the sacrifices people have made over the last three years, showing it now actively wants to reward them with enhanced professional capabilities.

And third, because it simply makes strategic sense, as Emily Brown, Training Manager at AP Advance, argues: “Organisations need to cement the on-the-job growth in corporate affairs and communications in recent years with a step change in structured, professional competencies. It’s not just a tremendous opportunity, it’s a necessity in order not to waste all the gains made.”

It’s why AP Advance is looking at two key areas of focus in 2023:

 1. Providing professional assessments to your team
Using tools such as Hogan, professional assessments help identify future areas of development for colleagues and leaders, while also re-energising depleted teams by pinpointing points of synergy and connection between individuals. Crucially, Hogan can also identify the personal characteristics of effective leaders in the midst of highly pressurised situations – allowing organisations to pinpoint where succession planning

2. Providing specific upskilling opportunities to help employees meet evolving organisational needs.
So much professional development was put on hold during the pandemic that talent is now itching for learning and growth: Team members accepted the necessary limitations of the Covid-19 era, but they now want the reward for weathering it, and recognition of how much they grew professionally during that period. These upskilling opportunities can be delivered in-house or virtual, to entire teams or one-to-one, as regular program of ongoing development or as one-off skills boosts. Our professional trainers have decades of experience coaching communications/corporate affairs departments all around the world.

Our functions need not just generic skills, but proven development programs for strategic communications, content creation, sustainability communications, social media, data and analytics, ESG standards, government lobbying, and much more – and 2023 is the year our industry is demanding it.

Andrews Partnership are the reputation experts, with offices in Hong Kong and Singapore working across Asia, as the leading specialist corporate affairs, communications and investor relations executive search firm. We excel at understanding each organisation's unique challenges and appointing the right talent, who make meaningful business impact.