By Todd SommersCrisis-focused organisations must not forget about their people.
Business conditions under COVID-19 continue to evolve rapidly. With more attention focused on business continuity, it’s easy to forget about internal communications. While employees, partners and customers understand you won’t have all the answers, it’s important to show you’re thinking about them.
The new twist in today’s environment, compared with previous crises, was the rapid transition to WFH for most workers. Your organisation’s stakeholders are isolated, distracted and stressed.
This situation will test many companies’ cultures, missions and values as employees lose the kinetic energy the physical office generates. Employers need to provide immediate, frequent and ongoing communications from leadership, and the existing content distribution strategy deserves re-examination as stand-ups and company meetings get cancelled and email volume increases.
As we move from the immediate shock of our current situation, consider communications in the longer-term period of isolation and the eventual return to a new normal. Each chapter of this story needs a fresh approach.
Here are steps to consider as the story evolves:
- Do your people see and hear regularly from your leadership? And do your leaders communicate in different channels? You might suddenly need a microsite, YouTube channel or digital company meeting. Or, you might need executives to create content on their smartphones where quick edits can add polish.
- Do you focus your communications on the human element that addresses your employees’ emotions and realities? In a time crunch, talking points might get cut and pasted from one communication to another, but this is something you’d never do in person without context. Keep your humanity front and centre.
- Are there ways to turn previous office customs into virtual experiences? Recognising birthdays, marking work anniversaries and brainstorms should not stop because your workforce is distributed. In the near-term, Zoom and other virtual services can help. Even after-work drinks have gone virtual.
- Do you survey your stakeholder community with quick pulse surveys and deeper assessments to get a better understanding of their emotional well-being and professional needs? Don’t assume you know what employees think because there’s no playbook here, and everyone experiences this individually at home. There might be something easy you can do for working parents who now home-school or for individuals who live alone and face severe isolation.
- Are you planning communications for the new normal? It may be weeks from now, but employees will want assurances it’s safe. The patches built to address today’s issues might need to shift again.
- Do your people managers have the tools and skills to manage a remote team? Compared with face-to-face meetings, a lot can get lost in email. Make sure your team has the support they need to communicate with employees and help them through this situation.
J.W. Marriott said, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers and your business will take care of itself.” The hospitality legend knew who had the biggest impact on his organisation – the people on the front lines.
In this difficult situation, take some time out of your day to care for them.
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Todd is a senior vice president at Allison+Partners, where he leads a team of integrated marketers and brings together multi-disciplinary campaign elements to create compelling programs for clients.