Communicating with employees in times of crisis can feel a lot like playing a fantastically awful game of charades, in a dark room, with noise-cancelling headphones, a pair of really thick mittens and a set of totally superfluous nose plugs in the mix.
In short - it’s got all the makings of A Series of Unfortunate Events: Corporate Edition written all over it.
Fortunately, it does not have to be this way. Top South African employers like these, and exceptional international workplaces like these, have found ways to stay connected with their teams throughout the trials and tribulations volleyed their way during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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There are a few very important things we can learn from these employee engagement superstars. These include:
1. Reconsider your communication channels
If your team has to adapt to a new way of working in response to a crisis, the first thing you need to do is reconsider your communication channels. Remote teams, for instance, require streamlined collaboration tools far more than in-office colleagues who have the benefit of being able to pop around to each other’s desks or call a quick, informal meeting in the canteen at the drop of a hat.
Systems you may need to consider include video conferencing, cloud storage, file collaboration, and time tracking. Business-focussed chat, recognition platforms, feedback surveys and remote onboarding will also need to be considered.
2. Keep your finger on the pulse
While you don’t want to overwhelm your team with constant communication while they are adapting to strenuous circumstances, keeping track of sentiment is vital. Pulse surveys are a great way to do so. Once a day, fire off a quick mobile-based survey that employees can complete on the fly, and use the data to adapt your crisis approach if need be.
3. Lead with clarity
Be sure that management stakeholders are all on the same page before disseminating any information to the rest of the team. Don’t leave any space for misinformation or rumours - be quick to respond to any emerging developments, but speak from the same mouth when you do so.
4. Go big on empathy
Even if you don’t have all the answers, the best thing you can do is to put the safety and wellbeing of your employees first. Your team will remember how you made them feel during tough times, and if they can honestly say that you had their best interests at heart from the word go, it will do wonders for eNPS and employee retention in the long run.
5. Focus on performance positives
While employees may not always be able to reach 100% productivity levels during times of crisis, the need for recognition of the things they do achieve cannot be overstressed. By focussing on performance positives in alignment with your business goals, you can help your team to stay on track even when it feels like the sky is falling.
For instance, sending out a quick message to thank a team member for staying nimble with regard to their work schedule even though they had to work from home without any childcare, support can mean the world to an overwrought parent. Follow that up with a tailored reward, e.g. the services of an online tutor for their child for an hour or two, and you’ve got the recipe for supercharged engagement down pat.
Speaking of which, we’d like to invite you to take a look at our SaaS-based employee recognition and reward platform here - there’s no easier way to reward your team, and we’ll give you a FREE trial to try it on for size.
6. Centralise your employee resources
Make it as easy as possible for your team to access any information they may need about their medical aid, benefits, support systems, etc. at times of crisis. If you can, and your HR resources allow, it would be fantastic if a personnel member could walk each employee through the benefits they could draw by means of corporate support one-on-one.
7. Take the time to learn from your experience
Once the dust settles, and things are back to something resembling normal, take the time to solidify the learnings your business gleaned from the experience. Ask for employee feedback and conduct after-the-fact interviews to learn which actions were received well, and which actions did not quite hit the mark.
By gathering data on employee experience during the crisis period, you can gather valuable information on strategies that are likely to work again in future. Because as much as we would like to bank on the fact that things are going to be nice and quiet for a while now, there's just no telling when the next upheaval might be, and from which direction it might come. I.e. be ready to grow with the flow.
There you have it - seven tips from seasoned HR pros that will help you to communicate effectively with employees in times of crisis. Check back soon for more helpful advice and awesome industry resources.
In the meantime, remember to subscribe to our YouTube channel for great video content that gets straight to the point on topics like workplace engagement, the power of recognition, and getting to grips with communicating with employees for optimal business results.