These last four months of the coronavirus pandemic have required the most resilience, the fastest period of change and the highest need for communication with our teams that we have ever seen.
Many of our teams have experienced furlough, restructuring, redundancy, part-time working, salary reductions, isolation, no childcare… things we could have never predicted back in February.
Our challenge as business leaders is to help our teams come to terms with all of that, and even more, to help them remain motivated and engaged with our business vision. It is a challenge.
If your communication ideas well has run dry here are some tips to help you reinforce your business culture, create an inclusive remote environment, motivate your teams, sustain momentum and allay employee anxieties:
1. Manage your communications proactively
In the same way that your marketing team put together a plan to engage with and win over prospective clients, use their expertise to put together a plan to communicate with and engage your team members, particularly those who are still working remotely. There are clearly different groups of people to keep up to date at the moment: those already back on site, those working from home and those on furlough. Each group needs to be able to hear and engage with your messages, so a comms grid may help. What worked well at the start of lockdown or remote working probably feels like old hat by now, so refreshing the way you communicate is important.
2. Give a full picture, and be as transparent as you can, whilst remaining optimistic.
People Director, James Lloyd explains: use clear, simple financial facts and figures that illustrate the impact of Covid 19 on your business. If you offer an opinion or view – particularly when looking ahead – explain why you have come to that view and where you have got that information from that backs it (as tempting as it is, this is not the time for speculation). Use some wider context if you can, talk about how the wider economy is fairing and what is happening in your industry. Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t have all the answers – few of us do.
3. Treat people like adults: our team members aren’t children
It is tempting to want to protect our team from bad news, and there is definitely a balance between over sharing and saying enough. Your team don’t want to hear that one week they may be made redundant and the next week everything is fine again. But they do want to hear the reality of the situation and the potential impact it could have on the business, and therefore on the future of their employment or careers.
4. Share the successes
Whether the business is flying or retracting, sharing some stories and something to celebrate is really needed. Whether it is within the team and personal, or about the business outlook, winning new clients, client success stories, or problems you have solved that make people’s lives easier, it is all good news to share that will increase morale and optimism.
5. Face up to anxiety
“Leaders need to address their employees’ fear, anxiety and vulnerability head-on. Even if it’s not clear what course of action will be taken longer term, acknowledgement is key, and leaders should seek to include employees on the journey from early on. Avoid sugar coating information, instead aim to build togetherness and trust as key drivers of engagement.” Explains Felicity Allen, from communications agency, Something Big. “Businesses that develop and execute deliberate, thoughtful, honest and regular internal communications during this time will undoubtedly reduce employee fear and anxiety, and better maintain focus on business goals and productivity levels. In short, recover faster.”
6. Support Line Managers
Hopefully, as the CEO you are taking the time to communicate regularly across all channels and all the team, whether onsite, WFH or furloughed. Where your messages become real is when they are discussed between a Line Manager, and their team members. They can endorse and support your message or undermine and confuse it. Let’s avoid the sticky situation the government got into with local mayors in the UK through lockdown, and ensure that our managers have the opportunity to ask questions, engage with the content and the business message, and are aligned with us.
As a business leader you may be relishing the challenge of the previous four months, or you may be completely exhausted! Both can become a reason to stop communicating, but the dividends of communicating well–on morale, productivity and engagement are huge. Now, more than ever, our internal communications can be a competitive advantage, and set us up well to survive the pandemic and build resilient businesses for future growth.
Whatever you do, make sure you keep communicating to your team in a way that works for you and for them. For practical help on how to implement all of this please do get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0203 239 3307.