Anywhere you are right now, these are uncertain times for all of us. COVID-19 has disrupted everyday life for billions of people and we don’t really know what’s going to happen next. It’s pretty easy to get anxious!
In a situation like this one, employees are looking to leaders of their organizations for guidance on what they should do, for reassurance, how they should feel or respond to such crises and for assurance that the business has strength and continuity going forward.
As a leader, you might not have all the answers yet. That’s fine; but being open now, more than ever, and fostering two-way communication with your people is critical.
When you have a two-way dialogue with your employees, you can understand the tone and temperature throughout your organisation at that exact moment — and it means that you will be better placed to take effective action and gather actionable data.
In return, you can reassure your people that you are taking steps to support them and establish much-needed trust during uncertainty.
Here are some of the things we’ve learned that may give you steer toward the right decision regarding employee comms in a time of company crisis!
Every person is looking at their mobile devices more often than ever, so there’s a chance they’ve already learned the latest developments from news sources.
Which means they may be misinformed, false information runs rife in and throughout periods of crisis
Employees need to understand what the news means, or if it is true or nuanced within the company’s remit: How may it impact work, product offerings, service agreements?
Every company needs to deliver a steady stream of messages that show that they’re actually thinking through how best to cope with the situation while keeping an eye on the news. People want to know the organization they work for doesn’t have its head in the sand!
It’s essential that people feel their company is on top of things because it gives them faith and confidence that their leaders are thinking about them as well as customers. After all, the customer experience begins with the employee experience.
Being clear on the company facts are important, misinformation may require tight management and external insights may be anecdotal, there’s tonnes of factors affecting and influencing internal crises, which is why it’s important to get out ahead or respond with the company facts. Being clear with teams what the company can or cannot convey right now and reassure employees that you will keep them informed on every development as it is released
If internal gossip begins building, attend to it quickly with these individuals in a video Q&A or seminar session, record the session and ensure that full clarity on the facts remains strong
What’s crucial right now, is that senior leadership needs to be talking to employees.
We’re not talking about corporate messaging per se, as people like to hear something human, something real; the need to feel the top management is there with them, united together to face such a crisis. It may sound trivial, but think how reassuring it can be to hear the right words at the right time, coming from a leader you trust.
And it’s not just talking, either! Leaders also need to be listening. There must be a two-way conversation: when people are anxious, they especially want to be heard and offered the opportunity to ask questions. Have you thought about giving them a place where to deliver feedback?
If you’re a team manager within a people function, you’re going to want to call on your own leadership hierarchy and if needed advise them to be visible and contribute to regularly to internal media content, leveraging regional leaders and global C-suite transparently via human on brand messaging allows for the wider workforce to be assured that there’s many hands on the wheel.
Ensuring the mode of messaging is relatable and humble will often work in favour toward collective reassurance also. To that end, ensure that livestreams have the ability for employees to ask questions and have concerns attended to in front of large spectatorship
Create leadership crisis roles, offence, hold and defence each with messaging focal points and modes of content delivery. Having a consistent rhythm flexibly attending to the landscape and across multiple internal content channels ensures that messaging is frequent and meets corporate objectives and the information requirements of a worried workforce.
Try not to rely on a couple of emails with a link to a private video with a CEO address, if COVID has taught us anything it’s that multi-channel two way messaging with a fully deputised leadership team demonstrates a clear example of strong company structure, and therefore, culture
Pick your players, pick their role, align with channel 👍
It can be a scary time but structure will really help guide you through it
Prepare to Act Fast!
Does your company have a news team? A community management department? or wider HR roles? If you know something is on the horizon, be sure to form your response team to be the vanguard across your internal comms channels
In a 24-7 news cycle, your company needs to be (nearly) as quick as social and digital news.
Maybe your company has been slow so far in sharing messages related to Coronavirus. Perhaps it was because your organization wanted to have a better understanding of the severity of the outbreak. Well, this is what everyone is talking about, thinking about, and worried about right now. That’s just the reality. Don’t wait!
The COVID-19 pandemic teaches professionals and global businesses a lot, and probably even more in reflection. The one thing we’ve noticed is the number of us all that were blindsided by this event, too few protocols were in place and agility to react fell by the wayside.
Within a world of the new-normal, always being ready to react and respond to crises with open, clear, and transparent internal communication is what our employees require – and now expect.
And in a time of unprecedented fear and disruption, it’s one aspect we can control, navigate and succeed within if we plan ahead with the right channels and the right comms strategies 🚀