By Andie Burjek
May. 8, 2020
The usual employee communication strategy goes out the door when a company faces a crisis. Special circumstances like natural disasters, workplace shootings and pandemics put employers in a challenging situation. The future is uncertain, people are constantly learning new facts and messaging has to be carefully crafted.
Meanwhile, emotions may be high while people deal with the aftermath of a potentially traumatic event, and employers must be able to communicate messages carefully and empathetically. Added to this challenge, distance may be an issue. Disease outbreaks, hurricanes and snowstorms may leave a workforce separated from each other, either working remotely or unable to work at all.
It’s important for organizations to develop a crisis communication plan. Within that plan include details that relate to specific crises. Technology will be a key part of these strategies, especially when there’s a possibility that employees and managers won’t be in the same office for an unknown amount of time.
Here are some tips on how to utilize technology in a crisis communication strategy.
Communicate the organization’s response:
Whatever the crisis, employees want to know what is going on with their jobs and updates on the company. If a company closes temporarily due to a disaster, for example, people want to know when it will open again. Are their jobs safe? Is the employer taking proper health and safety precautions as they reopen the workspace? Are employees’ concerns and questions being addressed or ignored?
While managers may not have all the facts, they can set up weekly calls or send ongoing communication that gives employees whatever information is available. That way, people don’t feel out of the loop and know that their concerns are being considered and addressed by management.
A mobile communication solution is especially valuable since employees can access the information they want whenever and wherever on their own device.
Share only trustworthy sources and facts:
In times of crisis, misinformation and myths can be spread just as easily as facts, as crises like the COVID-19 pandemic and mass shootings show. Coronavirus myths include that antibiotics kill the virus and that only older people and people with chronic conditions are at risk. Mass shootings myths include that people with a mental illness are more likely to commit acts of violence (they’re actually much more likely to be victims of violence).
The important lesson for employers here is that rather than relying on the opinions of random people online — even if they seem credible — they should rely on basic facts from the experts.
As managers regularly communicate with employees as part of their crisis management strategy, they shouldn’t further spread misinformation.
Just sharing facts won’t show empathy for the anxiety, trauma or other negative emotions employees may feel during a crisis. Compassion and a sense of understanding can go a long way to easing employees’ fears.
This is also an area managers can practice. They don’t have to go in blindly when they want to show a human, vulnerable, empathetic side to employees. Practice could be role-playing with someone else and analyzing what responses worked. Or it could mean researching how to communicate with people who have been through a crisis and practicing how to say it genuinely to another person.
In the case where managers and employees are separated, managers can show their team members on a personal level as well via their company’s mobile chat tool. It could be as simple as asking someone how they’re doing or communicating to them that management cares about their well-being. Just be sure it is genuine.
Don’t ghost employees:
Even though employers have enough on their plate when dealing with the aftermath of a crisis, they shouldn’t neglect their employees , who often are hailed as an organization’s “most valuable asset.” Ignoring the impact of the crisis on these people won’t reflect well on the manager or the organization.
It can be easy to keep in touch with employees and keep the lines of communication open with the right tech tools. Workforce.com software has a mobile chat function that allows managers to communicate with employees, whether it’s to share important information with them or just to reach out and show empathy for their situation.
Tools like this exist and can make managers’ crisis management responsibilities more effortless and streamlined. Utilize the latest communication technology in your crisis communication strategy.
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