When faced with uncertainty, crisis or anxiety, communication becomes ever more important. Surprisingly this is when many businesses stop communicating, fearing that they may say the wrong thing or that there is nothing that seems reliable enough or right to share. If you’re not actively communicating with your people, they’ll still be getting a message loud and clear – but not one you necessarily want them to hear.
Your people need to hear from you
The ‘message’ received could be interpreted as a host of things; your colleagues may think you don’t care, or that you don’t know what you’re doing. Perhaps they think that you’re not even thinking about them. If you’re lucky, some may consider that you’re busy dealing with the crisis and that you’re planning the way forward. Either way, they want and need to hear from you.
During times of crisis – especially during the Covid-19 pandemic when colleagues are away from normal working environments and remote from each other, whilst fearful of job security, overwhelmed by the changes in daily life, perhaps juggling home schooling of children and/or the needs of shielding parents – through the simple act of communication you can remove some anxieties.
As senior leaders react to the event (be it bad press, security breaches, natural disasters, terror or health threats and the impact on the business and its operations), commitment to the all-consuming detail takes hold. There is one meeting after another, proposals are documented, papers are written, SMEs consulted and the day is full of the topic of the moment. Somehow a sense that ‘everyone knows’ or ‘it’s all we’re talking about’ builds. Unfortunately, outside of the top leaders, it can be very quiet and a sense of being forgotten takes hold.
Communication needn’t be difficult
Of course you don’t want to make false promises, and you won’t have all the answers, but what happened to the adage that ‘the most important asset is our people’? All it takes is calm, reassuring words – simply checking in and explaining that you are working on plans and you’ll be in touch with more detail to follow, shows that you have considered what it’s like to be in their shoes. Swift sharing of initial holding statements followed by succinct, regular contact, even when you think you’ve got nothing to say, speaks volumes.
The message is that you’ve thought about your people during a tricky time. By demonstrating integrity and consistency in your communication, you build trust, earn respect and appreciation. People pay this back with loyalty and hard work – going the extra mile when needed.
Key Points for Communicating in Crises:
- Don’t be distant - keep in touch
- Communicate early and often
- Communicate with empathy – be genuine
- If you can make early decisions that will alleviate worries, do
- Use multiple channels to increase reach
- Repeat key themes and messages
- Provide a route to channel questions from your people.