- Posted by Megan Paquin
- On March 16, 2020
- communications, coronavirus, crisis communications
Over the last week, the United States saw a rapid increase in office closures amidst calls to “flatten the curve.”
Business leaders across all industries made the difficult decision to transition their workforce online – taking an important step as the situation around COVID-19 continues to evolve. In order to ensure a truly seamless transition, employers need to double-down on communication to ensure their workforce remains both healthy and productive.
As we take our next steps into this new reality, here are four key employee relations considerations.
- Create a dedicated crisis team. And, if you have one – consider who might need to be added. If human resources didn’t have a seat at the table before, be sure to extend an invitation. Consider including members of the front-line on the team as well. Research shows employees trust their coworkers most and immediate supervisors second. Get their input on the state of the workplace, and carefully consider that feedback as you implement a remote workforce strategy.
- Keep communications simple. Now’s not the time to introduce new policies or procedures. Instead, offer flexibility and resources to help employees assimilate to their new normal. Parents, for example, may not be as productive on conference calls. Instead, distribute a template for written reports that can be submitted in lieu of call attendance. Focus on serving your employees, and they will serve your clients and customers well in return.
- Remember: every employee is a potential spokesperson. Last week, I asked a vendor about their contingency plan. I was told the company employs more than 200,000 people worldwide and not one confirmed case of COVID-19. Read: there is no plan. And, as we start to see the first class-action lawsuits emerge in this crisis, business leaders need to consider how employees’ actions can help – or cause harm. Position your employee communications as if they will become public and remember to communicate consistently across all channels – from in-person meetings and internal emails to media interviews.
- Rebuild and reinforce culture. Like consumers, employees derive trust from emotion – not from competence. And, it can be hard to replicate your company’s care when your workforce is remote. Take time to connect with employees face-to-face by replacing emails with video messages, allow employees to submit their questions or favorite work-from-home playlists to share with others, or match donations your employees make to local charities on the front lines of the community.
A dedicated workforce is the competitive advantage many companies, especially professional services firms, need in crisis. Positioning employees at the forefront of your crisis management plan will continue to ensure your company remains healthy and focused. When your employees feel knowledgeable and cared for, they pay it forward to your clients and customers. And, that’s good for the bottom line.
Megan Paquin is vice president at Poston Communications, based in Orlando.