10 tips for communicating with employees during a crisis
- Published: Wednesday, March 25, 2020
These suggestions are provided to assist you, but in sharing them, we recognize that each business and situation is unique. We encourage you to consider each principle and apply as you believe best fits your business situation and your relationship with your employees.
1. Communicate even more during a crisis
- Communication is always important, and in times of crisis, in particular with employees who may be working remotely, communication becomes even more important.
- Your employees may not come to you seeking information. Be pro-active.
- As in real estate with location, in crisis – Communicate, communicate, communicate!
- If possible, face-to-face communication is best, especially if you need to deliver bad news. Remember though, health safety comes first. Given concerns regarding the coronavirus, you should use social distancing for face-to-face meetings (both one-on-one and group).
- When the tone of your message is important, if you cannot meet face-to-face, then consider Skype, Zoom, Facetime, or phone.
2. Have honest conversations with employees
- Be honest and truthful.
- Be straightforward. Employees who may be affected appreciate frankness and honesty. This also puts them in the best position to prepare and manage their finances.
- Don’t candy-coat the situation or beat around the bush.
- Be as positive as you believe appropriate, but also recognize that honesty about current and anticipated challenges is best.
- Don't reassure when you don’t believe it is appropriate.
3. Be open and transparent; provide as much information as possible
- Employees will have a desire to understand as much as possible about how their lives may be affected.
- Share the information that you have regarding your business to the extent possible.
- If you have concerns about sharing specific information, share information in more general terms.
4. Be compassionate, empathetic, courteous and considerate
- Just because you need to be frank, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exhibit all of these characteristics in your communications.
- Both compassion and empathy are noted as leadership skills by numerous sources. Now is an important time to demonstrate professionalism to the highest degree.
- Treat your employees as you would want to be treated.
5. Be prepared to respond to questions
- Prior to speaking with employees, be thoughtful about the questions you anticipate.
- If you have answers ready that meet the above criteria (honesty, the openness of information), share those answers. If you don’t know the answer but think providing one is important, consider your response. You can tell your employees you will share that information as soon as you have it or when you expect to have an answer.
6. Acknowledge uncertainty
- You don’t, and can’t, know everything regarding the current situation or what may occur next. This is particularly important for the current coronavirus situation, which is rapidly evolving.
- You might also share information on the steps you are taking to address uncertainty, in particular when it relates to their employment or your business.
7. Consider if you need to appoint a lead person in your business for communication
- Depending on the size of the business, you may wish to assign a lead individual to assist (or manage) communications.
- Whether you decide to assign someone may depend on the size of your business or the scope and scale of other things that require your attention.
- Consider whether you want to always have at least a minimal role. One approach is for you to share higher-level information and have a delegate convey more routine information. This shows your continued involvement and dedication to the future vitality of your business
8. Inform your employees about your communication plan
- Planned communications can go a long way in easing concerns among employees.
- Tell your employees, how often, when and how you will maintain communication with them.
- At least weekly communication is advised.
- Because the coronavirus is a rapidly changing situation, inform your employees if you believe there is a need to change how and when you will communicate.
- Tell your employees the type of information they can expect to hear when you communicate.
- Inform them how you will respond to their questions. For example, do you want to allow them to submit questions to you via email or a suggestion box that you will then respond to during a weekly update?
9. Use technology to keep in touch with employees
- If you physically close your facility or have employees work remotely (e.g., virtually from home or another location) use technology to stay in touch.
- Plan regular conference calls or Zoom sessions.
10. Consider other stakeholders/audiences with whom you should communicate
- Do you have other stakeholders (lenders, retirees, part-time employees, etc.) with whom you need to maintain communication?
- Is your business located in a small town? Are there individuals in the community that need to know what is going on with your business or may be able to provide assistance?