Don’t Wait: How Internal Communications Professionals Can Prepare for the Next Crisis
Last updated on November 16, 2022 at 03:42 pm
The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over yet. But, hopefully, you are out of crisis mode and pandemic comms are now part of your regular safety updates. Unfortunately, as IC professionals, we know there will be other crises. Whether it’s a global crisis or something local to our company—such as layoffs, CEO changes, or economic impacts—we have to be ready. That means not waiting until we think the time is “right” to implement new tools, train managers on communication, or initiate stronger collaboration cross-functionally. The time to show your employees how important they are to your organization is now. That’s why we’re sharing our top five tips to prepare your crisis communication plan.
Ask your frontline managers what they need to be better crisis communicators.
Your employees will look to their direct managers first, and your managers want to support them with accurate and timely information. So, find out:
- What format do your managers want to receive communication?
- Which day of the week is best for weekly updates?
- What time of day is best for daily updates?
Even if you have a good sense of the answers, your managers will appreciate being asked for their preferences and even more that you listen and make adjustments.
Once you have their input, make sure you’re taking all the right steps to help them communicate effectively. Our guide to frontline manager communication can help.
Conduct a start, stop, and continue evaluation.
Look back at what you’ve done since the pandemic started. Look at any other crises your organization weathered these past few years. And honestly evaluate the effectiveness of each crisis communication plan.
- What should you start doing based on employee feedback and the current state of the business?
- Is there anything you should stop doing because it was not effective and your employees will expect a pivot in strategy?
- What do you need to continue doing because it’s what your employees both want and need right now?
A Stop, Start, Continue Analysis will help you stay agile and flexible in your strategy and maintain focus on the employee experience.
Regularly communicate employee feedback and engagement levels with executive leadership.
Any decisions that are happening in the boardroom should have employee voices represented. Ensure that leaders know what employees want and need from the organization so that decisions can be made with full awareness of the employee experience.
During any crisis, your executive team is going to set the tone and the example for the whole company. If they are able to show employees that they understand how they are feeling and what they need, you are more likely to assuage any fears or concerns.
And make sure that those leaders are able to reach your deskless workforce as well. We recommend using video as a tactic since the leadership team can’t always travel to all your facilities to deliver updates. Watch this short video for our top tips on creating executive leadership videos.
Be transparent, genuine, and empathetic in your crisis communication.
People are upset, anxious, overwhelmed, and (insert pretty much any other adjective here) during a crisis. Employees want to know that the company has some level of understanding of these emotions and their impact on performance and engagement.
This doesn’t mean completely dropping expectations for productivity, customer service, or upholding safety standards. But it does mean communicating those expectations in a way that makes employees feel important and essential to the business’s success, the experience of their customers or patients, and their peers. It means saying to your employees, “it’s ok to not be ok and we’re here to help however we can.”
Don’t wait to plan crisis communication.
Although times of uncertainty and crisis might not seem like the best time to conduct your internal comms audit, adopt a new tool, or make a change. It’s exactly the right time. When the pandemic began, you likely discovered many gaps in your strategy or crisis communication plan that you didn’t know existed.
- Were you able to reach everyone?
- Were you able to engage furloughed/remote workers?
- How did you manage the morale of frontline employees who felt more sacrificial than essential?
- What support did they need that you couldn’t provide?
Most likely, there were gaps in your strategy or your ability to reach all your people. That’s exactly why now is the time to act.
Internal communicators are some of the most resilient and adaptable professionals I know. You know how to make an impact through communication. You have the power to activate your employees with your content. As long as you clearly define the action you are aiming to initiate because of your words, you will deliver what your employees want and need during the next crisis.
If you need help reaching your frontline employees, we can help.
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