Fresh eyes

Five tips for handling internal communications during the coronavirus crisis

Simon Turner Freshfield Managing Director

Written by Simon Turner,
Chief Executive & Group Client Director at Freshfield

Organisations across the world will have crisis communications plans in place but few will have had a plan to deal with the impact of coronavirus COVID-19.

It’s a human crisis with a severe impact on businesses and the lifeblood of our economy – our people.

Strong employee communications has never been as important as in these unprecedented times.

Here are top five tips to getting it right.

 1. Communicate frequently

Get into a routine of communicating regularly with your staff. They need to trust that your leaders are ‘on it’ and staying on it.

Your internal communications should include, but not limited to:

  • Your concerns and commitments
  • Updated policies with an emphasis on business continuity. This puts people at ease
  • Client / customer messages regarding your continuity plan
  • Updates on temporary changes and business impact
  • Positive messages

Don’t avoid communicating about risks and challenges facing the company. This includes decisions to furlough workers and other key changes. Keeping your team well informed will help educate them as to why these decisions have been made. Reference the fact that most companies in the world are facing the same challenges and this is not unique to your organisation.

2. Talk human. Be human.

Employees will be anxious on so many levels. They are worried about the health risks, concerned about the economic impact and their livelihoods, adjusting to working from home and they may feel isolated. Those with children will also be juggling child care and home schooling. It’s a stressful time.

Leaders and managers need to communicate as humans as well as decision makers. Adopting a cold, corporate voice could make it worse.

Adopt a clear but warm tone in your communications. Choose the channel that suit your team(s). And if need be, speak one to one with those members who may have concerns.

An employee’s worry will be unique to them. Understand their concerns and keep talking. Make yourself and your team leaders available to talk at all times.

3. Be a cheer leader

Be positive. Leaders need to be cheer leaders in these times to keep spirits high. Remind your team(s) that this is temporary. Keep adopting a positive tone of voice.

Show appreciation during what are difficult times.

Use technology to have that digital break out. And if you have a regular Friday after-work team trip to the local, replicate this online with a Zoom + Drinks hour.

4. Keep calm

Before you press the send button, read your emails back to yourself. Be wary of your tone of voice. If you sound panicked, this sentiment will cascade down to the rest of your team. Communicate with poise as it will make a huge difference.

5. Don’t be an expert on everything

Not even the top medical experts and government officials have the answers about COVID-19 (yet) so consider bringing in an expert if you are unsure. it could be questions on IT, health, employment law or dates on when things will return to normal. Refer to official advice or a specialist if necessary.

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