There’s no question businesses of every size have suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic. As businesses that have been closed or working fully remote begin to re-open, and as employees re-enter the workplace, there’s a number of things to consider – particularly when it comes to communicating with employees.
Leaders need to put an equal or greater emphasis on internal communications as they do on external – making it a key priority to keep their employees top-of-mind in the weeks and months to come. Your employees are your lifeline – especially in a time like now when we’re emerging from a global pandemic.
While you consider your internal communications strategies for the coming months, here are some best practices we’ve been following at Franco and recommending to our clients:
Create a mix of informative and inspirational content.
At Franco, we started an internal ‘Staying Inspired’ channel in Microsoft TEAMS – a place where we share – you guessed it – things that are keeping us inspired. The channel allows for fun and non-work-related conversation between co-workers, which we would typically have in the office. Maintaining your usual office culture, as well as communicating often with important information, will keep your team inspired and demonstrate that your company values remain in place even when it’s not “business as usual” in the office.
Address their issues, not just yours.
As employees work to find their place amid a new reality, they want to know how new company policies and procedures are going to affect them. Be proactive in addressing any questions they might have – and be sure to address those questions consistently and respectfully.
Let people SEE you.
A short video is an authentic way to connect with your employees while working remote or even when back in the office – particularly if your team is spread across several locations. Video generates a deeper connection that allows your employees to hear your tone and see the emotion in your face – a connection that’s difficult to create via email. Utilizing video is the perfect way to convey leadership, empathy and inspiration in a genuine way.
It’s OK to express your disappointment with the world’s current situation. In fact, I encourage you to share your thoughts and concerns because it makes you relatable. One of the worst things leaders can do is not address the difficult time everyone is facing encourage employees to “power through” to save the business. Make sure when communicating with employees that your message is honest and genuine – and your words and corresponding actions show you truly care about your employees.
Stick with it.
Even as everyday life appears to slowly return to a sense of normalcy, your employees still need to hear from you. Make sure you aren’t leaving them in the dark as business begins to pick up. Great internal communications shouldn’t only happen during a crisis.
While it’s understandable company leaders might want to focus on external audiences to boost sales and emerge from this period of economic distress, it’s important to remember that your employees play a vital role in customer and client satisfaction. If leaders prioritize their employees and internal stakeholders, they’ll be armed with the information and tools they need to better serve the organization’s external audiences. Great leaders will keep their employees in that “first priority” position, and winning organizations will fund and measure the internal communications function with the commitment it deserves.
It’s hard to imagine what the next phase will look like, and it will surely vary across all industries. While we crave normalcy, the reality is our world won’t automatically revert to what it looked like in early March. Make sure your resources, processes and priorities are in place now so you and your employees are ready to take on whatever the future holds.
Tina Kozak is a PRSA member and President at Franco. Franco is a sponsor of PRSA Detroit. Kozak is one of the region’s leading crisis communications strategists, and works alongside many Michigan business leaders to help prevent and manage a wide variety of reputation-impacting issues.