It is no secret that very few companies take the time to properly invest in a strategic approach to their internal communications.
In Northern Ireland in particular it is very common to find that many businesses will have quietly grown to upwards of 300 employees before they realise that they don’t have the mechanisms by which to contact them all in a systematic way at times of great success or, as has been the case most recently, at times of crisis.
If there were any gaps in your internal communications before the escalation of the coronavirus situation it is likely that these will now be obvious for everyone to see, potentially leaving your employees facing unnecessary stress, perhaps resentful of what will be deemed poor management and seeking guidance on what their next steps should be.
Of course there are the horror stories which cause even more fear, demonstrating that poor internal communications has the power to destroy your reputation externally as well. You may have seen the hotel chain in Scotland who recently sent out a letter evicting employees from their accommodation and told them that their employment had been terminated with immediate effect with the particularly detached and unfeeling line “your services are no longer required”.
Unsurprisingly this letter made its way on to social media in quick order and led to a public backlash. The company in question then blamed it on an ‘administrative error’ but it is unlikely that this explanation will undo the damage caused to their reputation in the court of public opinion.
For many companies, the panic of this new situation will have caused a state of paralysis and often that leads to silence. But this is not the time for silence.
So what does a successful strategy look like right now?
- It is a series of well-timed communications which keep your employees informed with clear ‘do this’ and ‘don’t do this’ information. Where possible the tone is reassuring and provides guidance around planning for the future or facing additional restrictions.
- A good business which recognises the importance of its employees will also take this as an opportunity to thank them for efforts which have been made to date, particularly where swift adjustments have had to be made to allow businesses to work remotely.
- These communications consider the wider impact of restrictions on their employees day to day lives, recognising that they could face additional responsibilities through childcare or emotional burdens with not being able to see friends, family and vulnerable relatives. Employers should offer support where possible.
- If difficult decisions need to be made – such as redundancies, reduction in hours or unpaid leave for example – a business should be as open as you can be about this, providing support where possible, presenting temporary measures and outlining government packages with clarity to remove additional stress.
- If your internal communications are clear and measured then even when leaked into the public domain, as they have been for several companies over this past few weeks, they will help present the best picture of your organisation.
- If your business is continuing with as close to a business as usual approach while working remotely, I recommend that you look into technological solutions such as Workplace by Facebook, Yammer, Slack or Microsoft Teams if you haven’t already. These can help to keep everyone in your employment connected even while they are apart. WhatsApp is a very effective tool for smaller teams. Some companies are even running remote video conferencing Friday lunches together to share new ideas – an excellent way to boost morale.
- Assign an owner to your internal communications now. Ensure that they are taking the lead on making sure your employees are being communicated with at the right time, with the right messaging and on the right platform.
This is a time to galvanize and motivate your teams, to bring them together and to realise that any downtime needs to be used wisely to upskill, to learn and to come back even stronger when the world returns to normal. Your internal communications will be critical to making sure that this happens.
If you would like to discuss how you can build an effective internal communications strategy please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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