Every company, no matter the industry, deals with difficult problems and issues each day. Crisis comes in different intensities and during the last year, we have been faced with a pandemic at the high end of that which has tested all of our skills and resources.
We have had to learn that communicating with employees during a crisis needs to be done with honesty, consistency and compassion, to alleviate fears and concerns. All communication should be executed from the “inside out” and employees should be communicated to first and foremost, followed then by outside audiences.
Communicating with employees during a crisis should be done with extreme frequency. Communicate broadly, repeatedly, and through multiple means, if information is shared only once (or through one medium), you cannot be sure that everyone has received it – or if they did, that they understood it.
Take the extra time to review information with your team, to repeat the information to help it sink in, and to reinforce the key points of your information with additional context or guidance. If in doubt, err on the side of over-communicating and sounding redundant, rather than under-communicating and running the risk of people not hearing or understanding your message.
Deliver essential information in a quick, clear, and transparent manner to create trust and honesty. Focus on essential information and embrace brevity. Share what you know when you know it. Also, be honest – this is not the time to equivocate and fall back on corporate speak. Employees will appreciate an honest view and understand that not all questions can be answered at this stage, but as an employer you will keep them updated and informed as the ever changing conditions arise.
Reassurance of fears for safety are of utmost importance. Everyone will be dealing with various situations and many will have a different set of circumstance to deal with which will reflect on their overall views. When you actively listen to your employees, you pay attention to the facts, feelings, and values they are expressing. By starting with understanding, you can get the whole message and help others feel heard. As a employer your job isn’t always to solve problems but sometimes to just sit back and listen. Also, be prepared to deal with conflict and negative emotions – people deal with crisis situations differently, so be patient and listen.
Uncertainty, elevated stress and anxiety can often prompt tunnel vision, in which people focus only on the present rather than toward the future. When information is unavailable or inconsistent, and when people feel unsure about what they know there is an increased human desire for transparency, guidance, and to try and make sense of what has happened. When communicating as an employer, emphasis what is going well and your vision and plans for the future to secure the company and its staff. This will show confidence and a recognition of fears for job security.
For further information on communicating with employees during a crisis, please contact us here.