Open, clear, concise communication is integral to the smooth functioning of an organization at the best of times, but never more so than during times of change and uncertainty. And yet, a 2016 study showed that fewer than half of organizations have a crisis internal communication strategy, or felt that they have the capabilities and processes they would need to meet a crisis situation. The coronavirus pandemic is undoubtedly seeing many organizations undergo something of a trial-by-fire when it comes to crisis communications, especially given the speed at which many people began working remotely.
What is Crisis Communication?
Crisis communication is the art of navigating rapid change and unplanned evolving situations. Having a strategy and the tools in place to achieve this is critical to:
- Keep your organization on track
- Empower teams to work together
- Engage and motivate employees
During times of change, it is crucial to be able to provide employees with the information they need to make the right decisions and take appropriate action. Ideally, a crisis communication strategy should be planned in advance of any departure, crisis or unexpected situation to ensure seamless communication throughout your organization. This will help employees feel empowered to act instead of feeling uneasy and unsure.
For optimal crisis communications; organization leadership, internal communications teams, and PR teams should use employee communication tools to share updates and important information during an executive departure, adverse external change or any type of crisis.
The Importance of Open Communication Channels During Change
During times of unexpected change, some organizations focus more on outward communications. We’ve all received countless emails from organizations telling us how they’re handling coronavirus. However, communicating quickly and frequently internally is equally - if not more - important.
Effective internal communications during a crisis can help keep employees safe, build trust among employees, and help staff return to working productively as soon as possible. Not only will access to information enable your employees to make better decisions and take appropriate action in the wake of a crisis, it can also help minimize damage to your brand image.
Reduce confusion and anxiety and build trust among employees
If there is a lack of urgent communications internally, employees become confused about what’s happening and may not know where to turn for answers. They start messaging their coworkers, trying to get a sense of what’s going on and sharing what they’ve heard. Without communication from leadership, anxiety builds among a workforce, leading to feelings of insecurity. Clear crisis communications avoid this, making employees feel valued, engaged and part of the team. When it is time to get back to work, this is how you want your workforce to feel.
Reduce the spread of misinformation
By avoiding the development of and spread of rumours in a vacuum of official information you can help minimize damage to your brand image during a crisis. Keeping employees informed allows them to be better (formal or informal) spokespeople for your organization. Your sales and customer care teams will be in close communication with clients and customers in the wake of a crisis. And with social media, every employee has a potential audience, and if you are not communicating with them, they may be spreading the wrong message.
Return to productivity as soon as possible
Instead of letting employees spend their time speculating about the impact that the crisis will have on their jobs, explain clearly how their jobs may change and outline what is expected of them immediately and in the future. This will empower them to make the necessary decisions and take the necessary actions to help run your business smoothly through the crisis.
When it Comes to Change Communications, Timing is Key
When a big change such as an executive departure occurs, you need to be ready to communicate fast. There is nothing worse for employees than to hear about a large company impact regarding their organization from outside sources. Make sure to be transparent with your employees and keep them updated and informed, and as a result, you’ll have more trusting, loyal, invested employees helping you work through change.
Don’t wait for them to ask
You don’t want to wait for your employees to make assumptions about how the change can or will impact the business. Instead, you want the information to come from the organization. Provide all the facts you can, and try to anticipate any questions that will come up. Providing transparent and open urgent communication during a change or a crisis is one of the best ways to get employees on your side and reinforce their trust.
Share the same information at the same time
Anyone who is impacted by the change should get the same information at the same time. This may vary depending on your organization (and the type of change) but in general it’s best to avoid giving different information to different departments and teams. You need to share the same internal communications with everyone at once to avoid giving different employees different understandings of the situation, or make anyone feel less important than their colleague. Keeping messaging consistent across the board helps everyone to think and act like owners of the organization.
Speed is important, but so is accuracy
In the rush to get information out it can be easy to overlook the importance of accuracy. However, you need to make sure not to share any information you can’t verify, as this will obviously have an adverse effect on employee trust. Share what you do know and acknowledge that you are working on getting answers to the things you don’t yet know. If all you know is that an unexpected situation has occurred, it’s still better to get that information out to your employees. You can continue to update them as the situation develops.
In many ways, good enough communication is better than none at all! Speed and the accuracy of information are paramount but too often teams get held up worrying about messaging, grammar, team inputs and visuals etc. It's more important to get information out to fill the vacuum. That vacuum leads to misinformation - The aim is to communicate quickly, succinctly, and often. Your team will overlook a typo or two. Tools like IntranetPro also let you go back in quickly, to update on the fly!
A Communications Platform Makes Crisis Communication Easy
When you can’t gather everyone together for an announcement it can be hard to facilitate communications with your team in a timely way that captures the urgency of your message. This is why Codesigned has launched an internal communications platform to support enterprise companies during crisis. Based on Codesigned's award-winning Microsoft SharePoint Enterprise Intranet, IntranetPro is a crisis and urgent communications platform that can be deployed in days. It is designed to enable organizations to effectively communicate with their workforce, regardless of where staff are physically located.
Providing a single dashboard for all updates
Instead of checking their email or messages for something they’ve missed, employees will know exactly where to go for all the most up-to-date information. IntranetPro is a platform to broadcast and store crucial information. Easy drag-and-drop content authoring makes publishing updates quick and easy, and intuitive search makes finding them a snap. You can also publish urgent alerts to keep your organization abreast of the latest updates.
Cultivating employee engagement across a remote workforce
When your workforce is remote - whether for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic or not, it can be difficult for them to feel connected to one another. That is something remote coworkers can really miss during times of change. The IntranetPro platform includes social capabilities so employees can like and comment on news updates, as well as seeing each other’s likes and comments. This allows them to feel more socially connected despite the distance between them.
Leadership and senior employees often receive a large amount of comments and likes supporting their posts when they communicate early, humanly, and often. Employees are looking to provide support, so it’s important to give them the vehicle to do so.
Supporting employees during a crisis / supporting remote employees
Especially if you’re not used to a remote workforce, you may be struggling with how to support your employees through this time. Making the updates and information employees need easy to find is key, because it allows employees to get answers to their questions quickly and easily. That’s why IntranetPro contains 'quick links' for convenient access to information & tools that employees regularly use.
Great Communication is Key To Weathering a Storm
In times of adversity, whether it’s a business crisis like a product recall or executive departure, or a viral pandemic, how you communicate with your employees can be the difference between a successful response, and one that falls flat. Employees are essential for ensuring a positive outcome throughout a quandary, so you need to make internal communications a top priority.