Dean Acosta: Communications is the connecting thread

Dean Acosta is the Senior Vice President & Chief Communications Officer at Lockheed Martin.


In the early days of the pandemic, nearly every company and organization on the planet had to do a quick pivot to remote work. At Lockheed Martin, we went from a 6% virtual workforce to 70% – almost overnight. It tested our IT platforms, our processes and our relationships.

And just as quickly, we adapted. The pandemic accelerated trends and technology that were already evolving to support a more flexible work life. We learned how to collaborate over Zoom, reach our customers and stakeholders in new ways, and laugh at the occasional interruption from a child or barking dog.

More than a year later, with vaccines pointing toward the end of the pandemic, we’re at a turning point. We have discovered the many benefits of working from home, but we also miss in-office interaction. Striking the right balance between the two as we move forward is a unique challenge – and opportunity. It’s pretty amazing when you think of it: we are designing a new world of work.

As communications leaders, we have an important role to play in what some are calling the new and better normal. Communications is the connecting thread between human resources, IT and other corporate functions through any major culture change – and this one is epic. Lockheed Martin is intentionally shaping the future of work for our 114,000 global employees through an initiative called LMForward. It draws on resources, skills and wisdom from across the enterprise, and offers flexible schedules, a variety of work and collaboration environments, and training for managers.

Here are some things our Communications team is keeping top of mind:

Don’t hesitate to over-communicate. Whether they’re at home, in person or hybrid, employees need information to make this shift successfully. It’s our job to provide it as well as to equip leaders with the talking points and tools to cascade announcements to every level. It’s important to establish spokespeople, platforms and a cadence early so that employees know where and when to find the latest information.

Ask for feedback. Quality communications go both ways, and employees deserve a voice. Using pulse surveys, online comments and virtual meetings, we always ask, “What can we be doing better?” In my experience, the answers will inevitably include something we didn’t think about. At Lockheed Martin, feedback from employees has helped shape our schedule options and new benefit offerings in important ways.

Emphasize your mission and values. Even with staggered schedules and remote working, teams need to come together around our company’s purpose. They need to know that what they’re doing is important to our mission, how it aligns to our values, and that our company is committed to them and their communities. Even during the height of the pandemic, our employees never missed a beat for our customers. At every opportunity, we praise that dedication, and articulate for our teams why the work they do matters.

To borrow from legendary NASA flight director Gene Kranz, failure to evolve is not an option. (Hopefully, Gene doesn’t mind me “evolving” his famous quote.) Employees will seek out companies that offer the flexible options that help them perform at their best at work and at home. Those companies that get this right will win the competition for the very best talent and ultimately unlock innovation.

As communicators, we can enable this new – and I believe better – way of working. We can be those dot connectors between corporate teams, decision-makers and stakeholders, and individual employees and our larger mission. Shaping the future of work and ensuring its success – that’s a great opportunity we can all get behind.


This piece was first published by Dean Acosta on LinkedIn.

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