During the lockdown, to maintain engagements with team members and business continuity there is a very clear and obvious need to communicate effectively. Many analysts will be debating the long-term societal impact, but there are some immediate challenges that businesses need to be aware, not least the impact on both the commercial and mental health of team members.
The challenges are vast and will change the way we all operate for years to come. The moral obligation you have to your teams goes without saying, but the consequence of poor or little interaction can be commercially limiting too.
Through forced remote working and lack of contact, there is a risk that team members can quickly become isolated in projects and contracts, lose trust you’ve built in your organisation, feel anxious and uncertain and, ultimately, become less productive to your business.
The rules of engagement, in essence, with your teams are no different now, except the priority has changed. Morale building and self-awareness need to be at the top of the agenda when engaging with team members during this crisis. People need to interact more ‘socially’ than ever before.
The payback will be significant.
Not only will engagement in your business and brand be maintained, but team members will hit the ground running when they return. There will be less of a need to reacclimatise, team members will be in touch and on-board already.
This continued engagement during times of crisis will bring people closer together and will add another dimension to the loyalty matrix.
Crucially, this will aid better mental health and wellbeing which can only be more beneficial from both a sickness and productivity perspective.
In our business, we are working incredibly hard to ensure that people do not feel out of touch. Whether its conference calls every week with different groups, or through our pre-existing internal comms mechanisms, we are doing our utmost to keep talking to our teams.
Right now, our audiences are vast. These range from chefs still working, chefs on furlough, development chefs working from home. This is just our culinary teams. For us, it’s important that no group is left unspoken to on some level. Zoom has also become an integral part of all of our daily lives.
We are fortunate that our teams have historically also bought-in to our comms channels such as Yapster, or Yammer. At the last count, we had nearly 80% of our team members using these in our business. These numbers are great to celebrate during the good times, but are absolutely crucial to us when times are tough too.
During this period, organisations really need to put their own needs second. It will benefit them in the long-run but it’s really important to understand their employees will be feeling a range of emotions so any communications need to be about them, not you the company.
It is also important that communications need to come from a wide range of people, and the mode it takes will be very different. Not only does a CEO need to talk to their teams directly to ensure that they are being listened to, but marketing/comms, HR and direct line managers all have their own specific roles to play.
During the COVID-19 crisis, we haven’t just spoken to our teams about our operations; we’ve also offered insight and information on government announcements as they are being made, via our Yapster app. Our teams want to know how Govt policy is impacting their lives. Whilst we won’t have all the immediate answers, experts from our business have been able to offer some insight. We have also organised webinars on maintaining mental wellbeing hosted by Vanessa King from Action for Happiness.
This period will change the way we work forever, however, whatever the future workplace looks like, the need to communicate better with your teams become a growing need and could give companies a competitive edge.
Five top tips when communicating with employees during a difficult time.
· Ensure your comms are timely and proactive – don’t take days to respond to queries and make sure you are providing updates on individual and societal changes as soon as you are able to. Leaders need to check in regularly with team members, whether that’s one-to-one or departmentally. Be proactive and on the front foot as much as possible. It instils trust and confidence.
· Always be open and listen – transparency and honesty is vital to ensure trust is maintained. Teams need to know the reality of any given situation, even if you don’t have all the answers. Businesses and business leaders need to be as approachable as possible by opening up all channels of communication and make sure that team members have access to whoever they feel they need to speak to, be it their line manager, HR, or the CEO. Businesses need to operate with increased compassion during these times.
· Segment your communications – you need to get the right information to the right people i.e. messages to furloughed teams are different to operations or support office teams. These need to be carefully considered.
· Used tried and test comms channels – now isn’t the time to develop and trial a new comms channel. Most organisations will have platforms they already use to communicate so strengthen these if needed.
· Be clear – there is already much confusion and complexity around so much that is happening in wider society. Use straightforward language wherever and whenever you can.