11 June 2020
Even in times of normal operation, effective communications are an absolutely essential component of a successful business. Now that we are in the midst of a global pandemic, under lockdown and experiencing such uncertainty, effective communications are paramount. Fortunately, we live in a world of technology and connectivity; sharing information and keeping employees in the loop needn’t be out of reach.
What was at first something of a novelty, home-working has slowly drifted into a routine which many are finding difficult. Many workers will be feeling the strain of isolation, a lack of social interaction, the pressure to balance families and work, and in many cases temporarily-reduced salaries. This is not to mention the stresses of not knowing what the future holds – there is much still unknown. Employees need to hear about the company’s overall response strategy and health, as well as what the short and long-term future looks like for them.
When considering your lockdown communication strategy these are the factors that should be at the top of your priorities:
Communicate professionally and personally
As well as needing to be kept abreast of the day-to-day, week-to-week operations of the business, employees will want to know about the overall health of the organisation. How are you reacting at a business level and what is the long-term strategy? This will no doubt change as the weeks pass by, and employees will want to be kept up to date. They will also want to know how this pertains to them as a workforce – what are you doing to ensure their jobs and futures?
At a personal level each employee will have concerns about their individual circumstances, and you should make efforts to communicate to every employee as to their situation. This type of communication may be best delivered via line management.
Make sure that communications are regular
By updating your workforce regularly and consistently you can give confidence that you are working on solutions and your response. Employees need reassurance and part of that is knowing that you are communicating with them regularly. Weekly newsletters or a conference call to outline the updates and changes that week are a good way to be consistent.
Regular does not mean every day however. If you can, attempt to consolidate information via one or two channels – try not to bombard your employees with endless email traffic.
Don’t always use the same channel or delivery method
While it is important to communicate consistently, it is always as good idea to mix up the delivery method to ensure that your communications remain engaging. Consider filming your message one week, rather than writing another long email. Or try a group video chat to talk over some issues and invite participation from your team.
Openness is key
Nobody has all the answers. Week by week the situation changes at a National and Global level. There is no pressure to have the right answer every time – it’s okay not to know certain things. The important thing is to be open and transparent in your communications with employees. Where there aren’t answers today, pledge to seek out answers for next time, most employees will understand that with so many moving parts it is reasonable to ask for time
Communication should be a two-way street. As well as needing to be informed, your employees will want to be heard. They will doubtlessly have concerns and questions, and you need to be open to hearing them. As mentioned, you don’t need to have the answers right away, but you should at least be providing the space for your employees to air their concerns.
This might be done via a weekly web-call or confidentially via email. Larger organisations might consider canvassing employee opinion via surveys which would also allow for anonymous feedback for those employees who do not wish to speak out publicly.
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