For businesses globally, adjusting workplaces to function amid the COVID-19 outbreak has been a polar plunge: stressful, shocking to the system, and generally objectionable. However, one way companies are weathering the frigid market is by having a great crisis communication plan.
Especially in the US, with the continual extension of social distancing guidelines, now is the perfect time for you and your company to take a hard look at your internal crisis communication strategy. To function well, there are a few key issues that any great crisis communication plan needs to address.
Set Employee Expectations
Right off the bat, a great crisis communication plan sets company-wide expectations for employees. Though you may not have all the answers, let your team know how this crisis scenario is going to affect their work lives directly. They’re going to want to understand how their job description, hours, work environment, and more will be changing in light of the pandemic. This important first step will help you set the tone for changes to come.
Setting employee expectations is crucial if you’ve decided that the best plan of action is to start laying off or furloughing staff members. Sanjay Sathe, writing for Entrepreneur, points out that it’s important to maintain team morale for employees who remain after layoffs. Doing so may help with employee productivity, and bring a sense of normalcy back to the workplace.
Maintain Some Normalcy
The easiest way to avoid diving into cold water is by building bridges. When you’re faced with workplace modifications in light of a crisis, try to build those bridges between new and existing frameworks. Practice communicating a sense of structure and routine amid change. This will help your employees successfully transition to a new workflow.
Maintaining normalcy can also be fun for you and your staff. If Fridays are “bring your pet to work” day in your office, instead you might have “bring your pet to video meetings.” Find new ways to celebrate workplace traditions to boost enthusiasm.
Consider Your Secondary Audiences
Along with reassuring your employees, make sure you consider anyone else who might need some reassurance. Your customers, stockholders, partners, and/or board members all might need just as much attention. Amy George, writing for Inc., makes the point that you need to treat a crisis like a breaking news story.
Down the road, you’ll be glad that you kept everyone in the loop on company decisions. In this way, you can mediate the effects of any crisis by turning it into an opportunity to build transparency and trust among your people.
Make Every Email Count
As you consider all your audience members, also come up with a game plan as to how and how frequently you’re going to communicate with them. In cases where the crisis you face is universal—as it is now—know that it is likely your employees’ and customers’ inboxes are already overflowing. If you’re going to send out an email, it has to be worthwhile.
Also consider the point that the more emails, text alerts, letters, or other messages you send, the more your communication will start to look like spam. Especially on the customer’s end, they’ll be quick to trash your messages if you flood their inbox with updates.
Learn to Lead Digitally
If you or your team members are working remotely, you’ll have far fewer opportunities to interact with your employees face-to-face. That’s why part of becoming a great crisis communicator is tailoring your leadership style to work online. Being a great digital communicator will help you reinforce your role as an administrator and mentor.
Eric McNulty and Leonard Marcus, with the Harvard Business Review, point out that great crisis leaders take a holistic view of the situation, seek order rather than control, and keep in mind the human factors. Amid the current pandemic, your job as a crisis leader is going to be more difficult by the fact that you’ll likely have to lead from behind a computer screen. Be very conscious of how the way you communicate with staff and customers will come across without any in-person cues.
Keep Everybody Involved
Above all, the best crisis communication keeps everybody on the same page. With employees and customers stuck at home, it’s all too easy for any business’s two most important groups of people to grow distant and unresponsive. You need to be able to communicate in a targeted and engaging way, inviting everybody to remain involved.
Remember, in the years to come, a prominent question you’ll face from customers and potential hires is this: what you did to help your company through the COVID-19 outbreak? Leading with great crisis communication is one key way you’re making an investment in your business’s future right now.
When dealing with dynamic crises, you need a scheduling partner as adaptable as your crisis communication plan. As always, StaffFoxTM is here to help. Reach out to our customer success team for schedule consultation.