The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown businesses into deeply unsettling levels of uncertainty. Many are still unsure if, how, and when they will be able to begin to operate normally, and what long-term effect that will have.
But have you been keeping up the communications with your staff?
Have you been in touch?
Answered their questions?
Have you made sure they know exactly what’s going on in the organisation?
Many companies fall foul of poor or badly-executed internal communications, but what you say, how you say it and when is very important for a happy, secure, loyal and confident workforce.
We’ve seen it before, where rumours start, they’re not stopped or little white lies creep in to try and stall for time – all bad tactics!
The truth, delivered confidently and clearly, with further support are always the best basics – even if the truth isn’t what anyone really wants.
For staff who may have seen their roles change, are working from home, or are furloughed, it’s a tense waiting game for news about the security of their jobs.
With ambiguity abound, it can be tempting to limit internal updates until you can offer reassurance with concrete, decisive information.
No news isn’t always good news with internal communications – keeping quiet could have the opposite effect, fuelling further anxiety among your team.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to keep the lines of conversation and communication open with your employees.
Here are our top tips on how and what to communicate to staff to help them feel reassured and involved:
Nobody expects you to have all the answers
You’re the boss. You’re used to making informed decisions and taking action. But your staff understand that this is unknown territory and there are no clear-cut solutions yet. So rather than focusing on trying to give them answers, concentrate on keeping them informed. Be honest and open. Share the dilemmas you’re facing and the options you’re considering – it could be, ‘The government has advised we can reopen but first we need to work on how we can adapt our premises to allow for social distancing – these are our ideas’. Better still, ask for their input.
Never be afraid to say you don’t know something. Never make it up on the spot – explain that you don’t know but will find out.
Address the most pressing concerns
It’s an uncertain time, so you might not be sure what the future holds but employees’ main worries are likely to be around pay, benefits and potential redundancies. Keep them regularly updated on company performance and how you’re planning to mitigate any downturns. Allow them to share their fears, show that you understand them and explain how you’re trying to address things.
It’s good to talk
Resist the urge to only communicate news via email. If your team are all at home, they could be feeling not only increasingly disconnected but unheard too. Group or one-to-one video chats or phone calls are more personal and could elicit more honest and open responses. Taking the time to make contact will also help staff feel valued and important.
We’re all in this together…
…so demonstrate that to your team! Share your frustrations with them – whether that’s trying to work while being a teacher to your children at the same time, having to share a home office with your partner, or constantly being interrupted by your attention-seeking cat, you’ll come across as human and empathetic, in the same boat as they are and therefore, more approachable.
Offer further support
As always, staff wellbeing is a top priority. As well as potential job insecurities, the stresses of life in lockdown such as the practicalities of working from home, looking after children, caring for loved ones, or loneliness could be taking a toll on the mental and physical welfare of staff. Allow them to share any difficulties confidentially and if your business is not able to provide the necessary support directly, ensure you are able to connect them with an appropriate third party where possible.
Don’t overdo it!
It’s one thing to be kept in the know and quite another to receive daily emails and phone calls updating on every tiny development. Ask staff how often they would like to hear from you while also making yourself available should they have any questions in the meantime.
Overall, give yourself a break! None of us has experienced this situation before – you might not get it right all the time but the most important thing is to try to be honest with your team and always be open to listening to their views.
If you’d like more help and advice on communicating during a crisis, or internal comms in general, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org