Everybody reacts differently in times of uncertainty and worry. This includes the workplace. As an employer, it's essential to have structures and routines in place before the unexpected happens and to communicate in a way that instills a sense of security and confidence among employees. Having a structure in place will help your organization stand firm during any difficult period.
If all your focus is on how the situation affects service to customers, or how the company may appear in the media, you risk forgetting your most important stakeholders: your employees. While steering the organization through a difficult period is a team effort, HR plays a crucial role.
Below are five communication tips during times of crisis:
1. Assemble a Crisis Team
During troubled times, secure leadership and clear information is needed. Assemble a small group of key people from management, HR and your communications team with clear routines for decision-making and communication.
To avoid contradictory messages from individuals, make sure everyone in the organization knows early on that all communications concerning any crisis will be communicated by the assigned group.
2. Communicate Regularly
In the absence of credible information, speculation and rumors spread quickly in the workplace and on social media. Set up reoccurring meetings and communications around the same time each day, so that employees know when they can expect updates.
Even if there is nothing new to report, it’s important to communicate that there are, in fact, no new updates.
Keep each update brief so that employees are not overloaded with information and instead they can absorb important information.
Keep in mind timing: if the office needs to close and employees are required to work from home, this information needs to go out before “early-bird” employees arrive at the office.
If employees need to work remotely for extended periods, be sure to read our five tips for communicating with employees working from home.
3. Use Multiple Channels
Evaluate your current communication set-up to ensure that important updates can, in fact, reach all employees, especially if you need to communicate to employees who are not based in the office. Make sure that all employees receive updates at the same time and have the same access to information whether they are in an office or in a factory.
Think beyond e-mail and intranet and adopt a “mobile first" approach. One study reveals that the average person picks up their mobile phones 58 times a day. Therefore, if you offer an app to your employees, you have the ability to communicate important messages via push notifications.
4. Personalize It with Video
Video is a simple, effective and personal way of communicating to anyone with a smartphone. Have your CEO or someone else in a management or leadership position record a short video message that can be distributed digitally to all employees.
Don’t worry about creating professional production, the most important thing is to keep a calm and personal tone that makes employees feel that management is working to resolve the situation as best as possible, and that no employees are forgotten.
5. Don't Forget to Evaluate
After the storm has passed, it's understandable that you want to get things back on track right away. However, take the time to reflect on what worked well and what could have been done better. Were you able to reach all employees efficiently or are new tools needed? Ask employees and managers about their experience. Use any insights to update your crisis management plans and trainings. After all, these should be living documents.
Want to read more tips and learn more about the importance of effective communication? Download our whitepaper, An Employer’s Guide to Effective Communication.