Internal Communications in a Crisis: 5 Tips to Put Internal Communications at the Heart of the Response
As the world we know continues to be thrown into disarray, internal communications as a function has never been more important.
Many office-based employees are now working remotely and many businesses face rapid, unprecedented change in the face of the current crisis. During this period, there are some key things that internal communications leaders can do to play a leading role in supporting the business and team.
1. Communicate clearly and regularly.
Although it sounds obvious, now is the time to cut through the noise and deliver regular, informative updates to employees in key areas that impact them. A good starting point is to consider updates covering the following points:
- How has COVID-19 impacted the business? How many people are working from home, for instance? Are jobs at risk? The key thing here is that employees are kept informed about areas that may impact them or their teams and that key decisions that may impact them are communicated quickly, clearly and thoroughly.
- What has changed? There may be systems or process changes that people need to know about in order for them to do their jobs in this new environment. People need to know about these developments and be kept informed of anything else that may impact their work.
- Who is impacted? Which roles or teams have been impacted and what is the business doing to ensure business continuity in the midst of these changes?
- What is the organisation doing to support the team? Are there resources available to teams so that they can find out more and get the support that they need?
2. Lead from the front.
Now is a good time for the leadership team to consider new ways of getting their message across, in a way that leads their teams through this crisis with empathy. There are some simple tools that may support leaders with their communications, including the use of video recordings, podcasts and blog posts that may be more attention-grabbing than just another email. This is a great time for internal communications leaders to trial new communication channels with teams to keep people informed and energised. It’s also a great opportunity for leaders to connect meaningfully with teams by delivering communications that are un-scripted and empathetic.
3. Grow internal communications capability internally.
With so many employees and teams working from home, traditional forms of communication such as team huddles and 1 to 1 meetings have had to be replaced with technology-enabled replacements such as Hangouts, Skype calls and Zoom meetings. This may feel very strange and be a learning curve for a lot of teams and people managers, so take this time to share tips and guidelines on how to stay connected through the crisis. Scheduling a team catch-up remotely every morning and evening is a great way to bookmark the beginning and end of each workday with remote teams as well as regular 1:1 meetings with people to check in with them and make sure they’re ok.
4. Balance the message.
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread around the world, the humanitarian crisis has been accompanied by immense social and economic disruption. The news can be overwhelming, particularly when it is coupled with the growing uncertainty of the impact on peoples’ lives. Where possible, it’s important to balance the messaging internally. There have been great examples of organisations around the world repurposing their products and services to support their communities. Now is the time to come together as a team to explore ways in which the business can support the community, helping employees to rally together in the process by finding ways for them to make a real difference. It’s also an important time to be transparent about available internal resources that may support staff. These may include online resources that may be available publicly or internal resources that people may find helpful at this time, such as wellness and health advice or tips from others within the business on how they are dealing with uncertainty and change.
5. Don’t forget that communication is 2-way.
It’s really important to enable 2-way communication at this time. Not only is it important to get feedback on what people want to know more about, but it’s a vital way for people to connect with the organisation and feel that they are being seen and supported through this crisis. Consider creating a dedicated email address, instant messaging chat group or other online space for people to post their comments and queries, and encourage people managers to communicate regularly with their teams. This will allow internal communications to flow throughout the organisation, rather than receiving news from the top-down.
So, as we enter into a period of increased uncertainty, we believe that Internal communications leaders have the opportunity to play a key strategic role in guiding and shaping the internal pulse of the organisation.
In summary, our 5 key points to support you though this crisis are;
- Communicate clearly and regularly.
- Lead from the front.
- Grow internal communications capability internally.
- Balance the message.
- Don’t forget that communication is 2-way.