Keeping in touch with your employees is of paramount importance at this uncertain time. Use our top tips to ensure you're communicating with your employees effectively.
Listening and responding. Now more than ever, the most important part of communication is listening. Do everything you can to gauge your people’s concerns, questions and opinions so you can feed them into organisational decision-making and reflect them in what you communicate back.
Be honest about what you don’t know. There’s always a temptation to try and provide people with certainty and reassurance. This comes from a good place, but in such an uncertain situation it is much better to say ‘here are the questions we don’t have an answer to yet’ than say nothing or say more than you can really commit to.
Frequency. One way you can provide some stability is by committing to communicating frequently and at predictable times. Even if you don’t have much new to say, using a weekly video or email to update staff on the current position will help to reinforce understanding.
Visible leadership. Visibility and the more that communication is delivered by organisation’s leaders, the better. Many CEOs and other business leaders are sharing weekly blogs or vlogs and leading online events. To help inform this, they need to understand the mood of the organisation (see point 1).
Prioritise well-being. Whether your people are frontline key workers, office workers now based at home, or are furloughed for the time being they are all confronting new challenges to their well-being. Communicating openly about these is an important part of legitimising them and ensuring that people seek help when they need it. And sharing information about how the organisation supports employees helps them to know what help is available.
Optimise digital channels quickly. Some organisations were already very mature in terms of their use of digital channels for communication, but many are on a steep curve. If this is you, beware the risk of channel overload and help your people by creating a simple list of the tools available, what each one is good for, and some broad guidelines around use. This should be done with a view to facilitating an environment where everyone can communicate effectively, rather than the enforcement of strict rules to limit people.
Humanity and empathy. In difficult times like these, we want to feel close to other people and in touch with our own (and other people’s) humanity. Even the most difficult messages can delivered in a way that reflects this – by being honest with people, by giving time, by being willing to engage, and by seeking to understand. We must remember that people are experiencing fear, loss and anxiety. Being kind in our outlook is the very least that should be expected of us.
Set clear expectations around communicating with furloughed staff. There are limitations around how you can communicate with furloughed staff, but that does not mean the best option is to simply not do it. Work with managers or the key contacts of furloughed workers to build a network of two-way communication with these people. Base this on their needs and preferences first and foremost.
Community. Building on point 7, with social distancing a fact of life for the time being, people will be missing the side of work that is about community and relationships. Try to find ways to maintain or replicate these – an occasional quiz, team fundraising challenge or virtual coffee will do many people a lot of good.
Pace over perfection. In all but the most sensitive communications, it is better to be communicating in a way that is timely and has gaps in information than polishing every message. Be honest with people that this is what you’re doing and they’ll generally understand and appreciate it.
With thanks to IOIC for these top tips.