Unlike many high-stakes communications moments, COVID-19 has set up internal communicators for a marathon, not a sprint. The uncertainty of when employees can return to the workplace changes how we engaged with employees in the past and companies need to reset how, when, and why they talk to their teams to help them feel informed. Morale is a crucial ingredient in a company’s culture and a direct reflection of how the leaders of the organization communicate with staff.
So, as we all settle into our ‘everything-from-home’ April, what are the pillars to a sustainable and impactful internal commutations strategy?
Balance frequency and regularity with relevancy.
How your employees receive information about their teams or others has significantly shifted. It’s not just in-person town halls moving virtual, but there are also no more conversations around the coffee machine. With the blending of professional and personal lives created by a work-from-home culture, employees need information delivered frequently and consistently. Establish a communications rhythm, such as a set day and time for a message from your CEO when employees can expect to be updated. Also, if you don’t already, have some type of intranet, internal wiki, or create an information hub, where employees can quickly read and access available resources. Don’t leave your employees guessing or searching for answers elsewhere.
COMMUNICATION GOES BOTH WAYS
Transparent, honest and two-way communication holds true, even in the face of an unprecedented pandemic.
Especially during this period of unknowns, transparency is a key component of maintaining trust. Host open discussions with your teams and invite questions. It’s important that employees be given a way to have their concerns answered, and that those answers be shared broadly. Communicate any upcoming changes and show employees how they’re involved in decisions. Even small updates matter, particularly during a crisis. WFH conditions are not always pretty – if you’re dealing with kids chasing each other in the living room and jockeying for internet bandwidth with your spouse, share that too. Employees want to know you’re dealing with the same challenges they are.
EXECUTIVES NEED TO PRESENT
Employees need to hear a clear plan of action from the executive team.
Current Gallup tracking shows that only 39% of U.S. employees strongly agree that their employer has communicated a clear plan of action in response to COVID-19. Your executive team is not only the face of the brand to external audiences, they also need to be your internal storytellers. Especially during this time of transition to remote work, the staff will look to leadership for reassurance, empathy, and guidance. An article in Chief Executive recently suggested leaders should think like reporters and provide constituents the who-what-when-where-why, so they don’t fill in the blanks themselves with rumors. More information from executives demonstrates concern, builds trust in leadership and provides more opportunities for managers to be known.