Opening my laptop on the kitchen table, it’s hard to imagine that a few weeks ago my colleagues and I were commuting into the office on public transport, having face-to-face meetings and walking within two metres’ distance of one another.
It’s fair to say that the coronavirus pandemic has stunned the world into submission and, as a result, presents many of us with circumstances that challenge how we work.
In such uncertain times, we need – more than ever – clear, timely and consistent communications from our employer. Internal communicators play a central role in this, working with key stakeholders to cascade messages throughout the business, to navigate from chaos to calm.
Here are 10 tips for maximising internal communications in times of crisis:
1. Respond quickly and clearly
In a crisis, time is of the essence. Don’t allow your employees to ruminate and think the worst – keep them informed with a single source of truth, so that you can squash any fears, doubts or rumours before they have a chance to brew.
2. Don’t overcomplicate
As with all internal communications, less is more. By sifting the hype and streamlining your comms, you will stand out in the crowd. The sweet spot is keeping your employees informed whilst giving them room to absorb and process what you’re telling them.
3. Lead by example
If leaders and managers can champion the ‘new normal’, employees are much more likely to follow suit. Managers are vital in keeping teams motivated during challenging times; brief this group early on so messaging is consistent and joined up throughout your organisation.
4. Provide the tools
Make life easy for your employees by providing them with a clear set of key messages to use when speaking to clients, partners or stakeholders. If everyone in the company is singing from the same hymn sheet, it instils confidence in a somewhat unknown climate.
5. Keep calm and communicate on
Although humans are remarkably resilient, in times of crisis, emotions are high and sensitivity is key. Be aware that employees are looking to their managers and leaders for reassurance, so sometimes even an update to say “the situation has not changed” is better than keeping schtum.
6. Put yourself in your employees’ shoes
A key principle of internal comms is remembering you are speaking to individual people, each with their own concerns and unique circumstances. Find a way to address this and deal with their anxieties, even if they don’t necessarily pertain to you – tailor your messaging for specific groups, so it feels personal and relevant for everyone.
7. Field questions
Introduce a dedicated channel, such as a new email address or IM group, to allow employees to ask questions and voice their concerns. Over time, these questions can be collated into an FAQ document to demystify the unknown and allow rapid reassurance on the more common concerns.
8. Take an agile approach
In times of crisis, you need to be adaptable and move quickly. This might mean communicating an updated policy or a new channel to enable employees to do their job and to allow the business to run effectively. Work with your stakeholders to explain the rationale for change whilst embracing open communication, and you’ll keep employees on side.
9. Stay connected
In times of crisis, we can feel isolated and alone; in times of COVID-19, many of us are isolated and alone. If working remotely, make sure your team remains connected by setting up a daily video call to make up for those lost ‘water cooler moments’. Taking 15 minutes to talk about the delightfully mundane will brighten everyone’s day and preserve a sense of much-needed comradery.
10. Where possible, maintain business as usual
In times of flux, it’s important to uphold some sort of normality. At Ruder Finn, we have a weekly Friday wrap-up in the office, where we discuss our wins of the week and shout-out colleagues for a job well done. If coronavirus thinks it’s going to stop that, it’s got another thing coming. We now have virtual wrap-up, via video conference, with the added element of optional fancy dress! It’s all about the little things…
If you would like to talk to us about your communications strategy, in times of crisis or otherwise, drop us a line at InternalComms@RuderFinn.co.uk. We’d love to hear from you.