By Steve Campbell, Chief Human Resources Officer
COVID-19 is a dynamic and rapidly-evolving situation that can present quite a few challenges when it comes to your communication strategy. Here are a few more tips to help you craft and distribute messages that will impact and resonate with your employees.
Lead by Example
The sudden changes brought about by COVID-19 have impacted employees of every industry and at every level. Employees look to your leadership team for direction and reassurance – especially now – so it is crucial that your company leaders are seen and heard from throughout this period. While stressful, this is also an opportunity to demonstrate your organization’s commitment to caring for your workforce.
Consider taking on a more personal or compassionate tone in your internal communications than may have been standard prior to the pandemic. Additionally, encourage every member of your leadership team to openly participate in any company-wide initiatives or activities your HR team drives during this time. Visible and frequent participation from department and team leaders will encourage employees to follow suit.
Acknowledging the shared human element of this experience is another key part of ensuring your messages feel sincere. Leaders can demonstrate strength and compassion by recognizing what we are all grappling with right now – including more vulnerable topics such as stress, non-ideal workspaces, and the humor (and sometimes frustration) of kids and pets interrupting conference calls.
And with everything happening so fast, text updates on a screen may not be enough to connect with your employees. Don’t overlook the impact that videos can have on your workforce. Keep in mind, the videos you share do not have to have a high production value or take long to create.
Creating an impactful video can be as easy as having you, your CEO, or another member of your leadership team share an update while in “selfie mode” on a smartphone. These informal videos are an informative and engaging way for employees to better connect with your leadership, and can resonate in a way that goes far beyond an email or website update.
Explore Your Options
It’s important to maintain usual channels of communication with your employees as much as possible during this time. If your company normally held in-person “town hall” updates on a regular basis, consider continuing to hold these sessions virtually over an online meeting platform like Skype or Zoom.
If this is your first time holding a virtual town hall, perform a test run with your team to check your audio, video, and technical settings ahead of time. And if possible, encourage your employees to participate and ask questions via chat or audio functions – just as they would during an in-person meeting. If you choose to hold a question and answer session at any point, take some time to anticipate employees’ questions so you can mindfully address them as they arise.
Consider holding multiple live sessions throughout the day to allow for different schedules, or record the session for those who are unable to attend live. Your employees will appreciate these efforts to adjust to the new normal and maintain an open dialogue with you and your team, even while at home.
Many businesses are also grappling with the immense difficulty of implementing compensation and workforce reductions during this time, including furloughs and layoffs. Take a clear and compassionate approach to these announcements, and be ready to provide your employees with the information they need to take next steps regarding their benefits and unemployment assistance options.
While there is nothing that can make these announcements easier, there are solutions to make things a little less stressful for you and your participants. Make sure you are supported by a reliable COBRA and direct billing partner that is capable of managing the unusually high number of cases you may be dealing with during this time. The right partner will help your employees and their families feel more secure and less frustrated as they transition from your workforce, and will help relieve much of the stress and risk facing your HR team.
The uncertainty of a global pandemic is a challenge unlike any we in the HR community have seen before – but it is also an opportunity to let your compassion, culture, and talent shine through.
Right now, your team can make a world of difference to your employees and their families – even through something as simple as a quick email or video. This is a difficult time, but also one where the strength and dedication of those in HR is most needed and valued. From one HR professional to another, thank you for all you are doing to care for those around you. We will get through this, together – and emerge stronger than ever.