SSDM had an opportunity to interview Tony Sapienza, Head of Communications North America for ZF, the third-largest automotive tier-one manufacturer, to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has altered their communications efforts. ZF has a global workforce of 148,000 in 240 locations in 14 countries.
From full speed ahead to a full stop in one day
Tony shared how the COVID-19 pandemic completely caught them off guard. “This all happened so quickly. No company was prepared for this.” ZF was moving full speed ahead with its 2020 communications strategies, with much of its effort focused on participation in nearly 30 trade show events. Thankfully, its biggest efforts, for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), had occurred in January of 2020. All other events are either canceled or are in limbo.
“The KPIs that our marketing team would typically be tracking have all been thrown out. During this time, we are having to view our marketing through different lenses.”
Focus shift from external to internal communications
“Our entire 2020 marketing communications plans have been turned upside down,” states Sapienza. “Our efforts are now 100% focused on how we as an organization can safeguard our employees’ return to the workforce. And we are preparing for a new marketing reality, which we foresee being in force for the remainder of this year.”
The marketing communications team within ZF is working tirelessly to prepare its management team and plant managers for the return of its employees. Tony shared how ZF’s teams are providing coaching to the management team regarding the types of conversations to have with employees; conversations ranging from how to maintain a safe working environment, to easing employee tensions and concerns, and beyond.
“Our employees need to know that we have their best interest in mind, safety is first and that we are a team working together.”
A Whole New World When Production Resumes
For ZF, communication goes well beyond having new practices in place to ensure a safe workplace. The company is developing various forms of visual communication to be used throughout all its facilities, to be a constant reminder of the new norm.
“With a situation like this, we are evaluating all corners of the workplace and looking for opportunities to leverage the ‘extra’ time we may now have. One example of looking for the positive can be found with our sales teams, who are typically very busy. Why not take the opportunity to provide additional training to them so they have an even stronger knowledge base of our broad and complex product line? In times like this, we need to make our employees feel valued and as productive as possible, and offering ways for them to come out of this stronger fits that bill.”