7 Tips for Taking a People-Centric Approach to Communicating with Your Employees in Times of Distress
By: Justin Black
In my last post, I explored the question: What is it that people need at work to remain productive and successful during times of distress? In it, I also discussed the value and critical importance of ongoing feedback and action taking, especially in uncertain times.
What’s different about how you communicate with employees during periods of uncertainty? The answer is more straightforward than you think. Your people’s needs change, so your feedback and communications must adapt. During challenging times, people want to be reassured that their organization and leaders are prioritizing their safety and needs. This heightens the importance of timely, fact-based, and candid communications about what’s happening and the impact it might have. Conversely, people want to express concerns and exert control where possible to mitigate feelings of uncertainty. This is an opportunity for organizations to demonstrate people-centricity in a big way—designing policies truly centered on the needs of people at work.
At Glint, we approach the world of work with a people-centric philosophy—essentially that organizations win or lose based on the strength of their employees’ happiness and success. While there are many articles circulating to help your organization think about business continuity planning, risk prevention, and more, let’s explore seven ways that you can take a people-centric approach to employee communication, especially in times of distress.
1. Put individual safety and security first
In times of uncertainty, we often see that whether employees believe that leaders care about their well-being has a bigger impact on engagement than usual. Employees don’t expect leaders to have all of the answers, but they do want to believe that their well-being is important to leaders as the leaders make decisions on behalf of the organization. Some more tangible ways you can do this: encourage remote work and be flexible with sick time to help people address personal situations and stay healthy, while preventing the spread of illness to other team members. In practice, this may mean giving vulnerable populations, such as people with known health issues, paid vacation days.
2. Get leadership out front with consistent messaging
Leaders can provide clarity, build confidence, and steady the organization in times of uncertainty. Support leaders with fact-based information from reputable health sources, such as The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, a thoughtful plan, and crisp points to convey a sense of control and competence.
3. Keep communication channels open
Create well-coordinated internal and external communication plans with clear expectations for action. Share timely facts, actions to take, and changing work requirements (e.g. reporting into work, new schedules, adjustments to travel policies, etc.). Describe how different communication channels should be used, and give people opportunities, such as an employee engagement pulse survey, to provide input on the effectiveness of the organization’s strategy and actions.
4. Conversations are key
A pulse survey is merely an input to the most important activity in the feedback and communication process: conversations. Conversations are even more important in times of uncertainty. Support managers with fact-based information and centralized resources so they can have meaningful conversations and maximum flexibility to address personal challenges. Enable managers to share their learnings and get their questions answered.
5. Centralize communications and resources
Summarize policies and instructions in one place, and include information about healthcare coverage, benefits (e.g. backup childcare), Employee Assistance Program services (EAP), time-off information, travel treatment, etc.
6. Make it easy to work
Would considering remote-work options help alleviate some of the distress? Support your teams with the right tools to adapt to any change in the environment. This could include reallocating funds to laptops, investing in virtual meeting tools, expressing new meeting norms, etc. There are many resources available for helping employees shift to remote work and helping remote teams work effectively. LinkedIn Learning has also unlocked free courses to support employees through this time.
7. Learn from this experience and prepare for next time
Use employee feedback as one input to assess the effectiveness of your organization’s response. The future will inevitably bring additional challenges. As you navigate the immediate challenge, conduct after-action reviews to determine what worked well and what needs to change for next time.
Your organization is unique, so tailor your approach to suit your people’s needs. Whatever your approach, remember to put people at the center. This is our opportunity to show up for employees with actions that demonstrate that we recognize their critical role in organizational success.
As always, I want to know what’s going on for you and your organization. You can continue the conversation with me on LinkedIn.