While many companies naturally direct their energies outward during a crisis, more HR professionals and executives are coming to realize that communicating quickly, often and well with internal stakeholders is equally important, if not more so. Indeed, in an age when every employee can serve as a de facto spokesperson, executing effective internal communications can help ensure worker safety, minimize damage to your brand, return your workforce to productivity and build trust among employees. Cheril Clarke, founder of PhenomenalWriting.com, has written an entire post on how Employers Can Play a Positive Role in Employee Mental Health. Here blog resonates and here are some highlights to share in your next team meeting.
Stay true to your mission
It’s in hard times that you, and your business, will show your true colors. When someone is there for you in a really tough situation, there’s a degree of loyalty and appreciation built that you can’t buy. In other words, there’s now an emotional tie between employees and employer: it’s not just all about the numbers.
What’s the spirit of your company? What are the values you’re going to stick with no matter the cost? Of course, all small and medium-sized businesses may not have the financial runway to offer something like multinational corporations can, but the question still remains, how can you show your humanness and be genuinely helpful right now?
Use the right tone
While the tone of your communications should align with your brand and voice, it needs to fit the context. If your brand voice is casual and breezy, you might need to take on a more serious tone when it comes to communications pertaining to COVID-19. This doesn’t mean changing your brand voice entirely but adjusting it to match the subject matter. It’s important to take on a compassionate tone in times of crisis.
Express emotional support and humaneness. Use a calm tone and let your authenticity shine through. Let employees know that we’re all in this together and that they are your top priority. Use your communications, whether it’s by email, website or social media, to align with employee concerns, how you will support them through a crisis and that you appreciate their support as well. Be positive, thoughtful and constructive.
According to recent guidance from consultancy Deloitte, the most important players in your communications plan are front-line managers. Employees expect accurate, authoritative, and transparent information. “Trying to conceal risk can potentially create more,” the report stated. Leaders should outline communication plans and make sure that managers know what to expect and understand and define their role.
Provide timely updates
You don’t need to tweet every five minutes or hold daily press conferences. But you should be visible on all platforms and mediums in which you normally participate. If you aren’t, others will fill the void. “Frequent communication that assures staffers that the company for which they work cares about their well-being can go a long way in reducing anxiety,” Cheril says. This also means that communicators must have the tools to do their jobs. Be sure there is a clear chain of command and everyone within the organization knows and abides by it. Make sure you have a clear process for your stakeholders and media to contact you and receive prompt responses.
Offer support to your internal teams
Prepare statements/intranet news for employees and regularly pass on information to them. Reference the U.S. CDC section aimed at employers with guidelines on preparing your company for an outbreak of the virus. Educate employees about the virus, including how it is spread and what they can do to protect themselves and others around them. Provide information on what preventative measures work. Communicate on a regular basis with employees to let them know of any ongoing developments and what the company is doing to handle COVID-19. Truthful communication will build trust, while lack of information or disinformation will result in mistrust.
As COVID-19 (coronavirus) spreads exponentially across the globe and throughout the United States, employees are yearning for information. They’re living with uncertainty. Employers need to be agile and responsive. Communication just became significantly more important.