The current times probably defy all crisis communication handbooks. We have been trained to look at crisis as one ‘unforeseen situation’, which is segregated into various stages to manage them. But a crisis of the current magnitude has been beyond any organisations long-term plans. And this has definitely changed the way we list down our target audiences and focused markets too. Which means that the stakeholders to speak to, for any communication professional, are constantly evolving.
If you think It’s challenging to staying connected with external audiences, imagine how difficult it is to now stay connected with the internal audiences, who are now working remotely, from various locations. The task to engage, communicate and motivate internal audiences has never been this grim. With mounting issues of pay-cuts, lower morale, anxiety about the future and overall depressing environment, staying connected with your team, your employees have never been so imperative.
Apart from continuing the dialogue with media, so as to inform what the organisation is planning, communication teams need to get innovative with internal communication practices as well, especially with next to no budgets in sight.
Share all information inside-out. For most of the businesses its important to share key information pieces and next plans with the target media. So, just ensure to share the same messaging internally, before you take it external. This definitely goes back to the crisis rulebook, of always keeping your employees informed about what the company plans to do to tackle difficult times. At all times, keep employees informed about the approach and the external messaging, when it comes to communication. This helps in long-term support of the employees, who appreciate being informed, even during tough times.
Understand the internal stakeholders, better. Engaging with employees who are working-from-home has its distinctive set of challenges, versus just engaging with an employee who is working remotely. The list of internal stakeholders is now witnessing a change, because of the inclusion of innumerable locations. And the fact that home and family responsibilities overlap over work schedules, unknowingly. Take some time to understand if those employees are residing alone or with families, do they share their daily chores with other family members or manage it alone, or their families are far away managing a living all by themselves. Sometimes these facts can help better your communication style with the team members, be flexible to their schedule and importantly empathise with them. These simple changes could help result in a better outcome to engage and motivate team members.
Go back to the basics, when deciding the communication approach. Internal communications approach is often to support other teams in sharing information at the right time, with the right people. But this could also be a great time, to take a step back and relook at the simple questions that help us define the approach. Who should receive this news? Who is the best sender? What’s the bottom-line message? How might the message be interpreted? Is feedback necessary? What’s the best channel? How should you time and sequence this message?
How we worked last year, versus how we will be working next year, is definitely going to be a new environment. Hence, it’s a good time to evaluate fresh techniques to stay connected.
Rethink the internal communication platforms. Organisations often choose different types of tools and platforms to keep engaging with employees. But the current times need to press a refresh button on all those tools. Its imperative to choose from the various tools – Newsletters, Emailers, Intranet, Videos, Podcasts, E-magazines, Townhalls – the ones that would need lesser time and still be impactful in communicating the messages. Also, keep in mind the frequency of the messaging. Sharing information is key, but not flooding inboxes during already stressful times.
Maybe doing your quarterly or monthly survey is not a good idea now. Internal surveys have always helped get a pulse of what our employees are thinking. But now is not the time to get them to share their anxious thoughts, especially when they will only be fearful of what’s instore. Also, the surveys will not really yield any ‘call-to-action’. You would be living under a rock, if you need a survey to understand that your employees are terrified of what will the future unfold. So why add unnecessary pressure by getting them to say this in words.
Empower them for any change in future. With the planet going in a lockdown mode, all of us are unbelievably worried about what the future holds for us. This too shall pass, yes, but not without some tough decisions. Hence, its always good to share proactively than keep your employees thinking and worrying. The leadership teams need to prepare themselves for tough questions, such as – What’s new? Why change? What does it mean for me? How will I know I’m doing okay? What kind of support can I count on? Understanding this will help share appropriate responses with employees and thus empowering them with a better future.
‘Natural Pandemic’ or ‘Unforseen crisis’ or ‘Difficult Times’ – when situations like these have no definite closure or are endless like the current one, there is no better strategy to deal with the outcome. But one can make the process enriching by communicating as often and as much as possible. In a time, when we all have gone back to essentials, don’t give up on engaging and motivating your employees, probably its crucial today, more than ever.
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