Updated April 8, 2023
Introduction to Crisis
There are many forms of crises that are indiscriminate and could occur to any company, large or small, irrespective of geography. These can be accidental, legal, or financial. Therefore, a sound managerial or organizational need is required with superb communication skills to tackle internal and external stakeholders.
For a long time, businesses have focused on developing tailored techniques for communicating with external partners in times of crisis. But at the same time, there is a growing need to handle the employee, which so many organizations have not done perfectly; some gaps exist in communicating with them in the event of crises. Therefore, before discussing the utmost requirements to work on internal communication,, we must first understand crises in detail.
Before the crisis strikes, the business must have a proper organizational structure and process to tackle employee communication when crises happen effectively. And all these calls for building well-planned routines to allocate responsibilities, coach employees, and set up instruments that can effortlessly facilitate vertical (bottom-up and top-down) and horizontal employee communication. Also, a company-wide internal communication program for crises must be held to tap some benefits of regular planning, execution, and assessment. The exemplary implementation of the communication plan will help protect and even increase the company’s image and competitiveness. Furthermore, internal and external stakeholders should be properly communicated to combat corporate gossip, false information, and untracked accusation. Those who ignore employee communication will surely suffer from noted economic harm because of a lack of faith, low self-esteem, and the consequent failure of precious assets, expert, and committed employees.
Internal communication managers must increase the frequency of employee communications as employees have a keen need to get updated and must, in turn, respond with honest feedback. These should reach the senior management that would need to interact and sometimes praise the employees for their support on the management in times of contingency. These employees would support the management objectives actively and readily represent the company outside. It should not be such that some negative crisis-linked external news that was not known earlier would come to the employees, for the employees would feel confused, leading to deter the good crisis reaction and revival. Therefore, internal communication must first be communicated to the employees before any external communication.
So, the below-mentioned questions should be considered when a crisis happens:
What is the intended result of the communication? (i.e., purpose)
What will be corresponded? (i.e., communication)
Who will start the communication? (i.e., correspondent)
Which targeted employees (and management) should be communicated to? (i.e., receiver)
What is the medium of communication, and where will it take place? (i.e., channel and venue)
When would the communication happen? (i.e., moment)
The rest of the two questions must be taken care of in times of crisis and as part of the post-crisis assessment and crisis vigilance planning.
Was the communication goal met? (i.e., evaluation)
How can we perform well? (i.e., effectiveness)
How to Support Employees during Crisis
You might, of course, face certain unexpected conditions that you cannot be prepared well in advance to combat. But as is common in handling every unseen case, your new communication and template should be tailored properly to address this. Familiarize yourself with the company’s earlier communication strategies used in times of crisis. You should also know how the employee communications were handled and what kind of questions did they ask that time.
In crises, all the company sites, corporate hierarchies, business levels, and departments are engaged in step-by-step development, performance, and assessment. In addition, there must be proper integration of external and internal communication to tackle the crisis, and the issue management system has to be executed. All these crisis-management systems need resources of which a comparatively tiny yet significantly important fraction should be used to ensure the proper employee communication is conveyed. And you cannot be certain that there would be no crisis since it is part of the company’s life cycle. It can occur to any organization even if the company is well prepared. Therefore, any organization’s existence depends on the right amount of crisis preparedness. Given crisis preparedness, the following checklists to tackle any situation should be taken into consideration:
Can your internal communication team connect to their email and shared group network drives? Are they able to send messages even when they are away from the workplace?
Are all the important mobile numbers saved in their mobile phones? Are they all aware of remotely updating the information?
Did you work on finalizing the conference call number for the cross-functional team?
You should always keep a hard copy of all the access codes so that you can easily find the required information when your system is down.
As per your company protocols, use the flash drives.
Communication Messages on How to Support Employees during Crisis
Some communication messages are built to attend depending on the above questionnaire on how to Support Employees during Crisis.
The first ideal step to creating a communication plan is to develop the key messages and steer the remaining plan. The managers must communicate this plan to convey the same to their subordinates.
The messages must be clear and simple to understand. And constantly, these messages are to be sent. The main messages would include the additional messages’ pitch, perspective, and permanence.
The messages that would go to the external stakeholders, such as the media, consumers, corporate partners, societies, investors, and the government, should be joined together.
Proper Crisis Management
Proper Crisis Management
When a crisis occurs, all the employees should be communicated immediately. In addition, several things must be required in times of crisis. So, proper crisis management is always good for yielding effective results.
All the right people must be contacted (within an hour the crisis happens) irrespective of the location
Ensure the people in demand must come to the place of crisis.
No such human error should be mentioned in the communication.
Some next moves should be indicated.
Think about the Future Actions and Guide Employees
William Bridges, of Managing Transitions in 2003, says some companies fail in times of crisis as they too much concentrate on the essential organizational change management rather than working on inculcating belief and confidence in employees and mentally preparing them to accept the transition. As a crisis happens and people are not properly led to adjust to the transition, the chairs are reorganized, he thinks. In times of crisis, companies often zero on keeping employees engaged in doing things in a new way, but in reality, they should prevent the employees from doing as per the old ways. To him, commencing relies on endings. But the issue is people don’t accept endings.
There are three main stages in times of crisis:
Finishing – Releasing the way they every time used to do things.
Neutral Phase or ‘Time meanwhile’ – This is the phase when the new system is not implemented, and the old ways also do not exist.
The Start – When people have finally adopted the new ways
Bridges advised some crucial communications to be adopted to face the crisis internally: (How to Support Employees during Crisis)
Know what people lose and their reactions so you can start planning your next move.
Explain to employees why the change is required, and ask them to take ownership. Maybe they can directly converse with the unhappy customers to have hands-on of the problem. Highlight the level of aches because of crisis to the employees so they will be more persuaded to stop using the old ways.
Be specific while informing the issues of employees and what exactly you need them to begin instead. Behavioral skills like ‘consumer centric’ or ‘attaining cross-functional are insufficient. It would help if you made them believe what they can do differently with their expertise.
The employees must understand the transition process that,, in a way,, help them accept the challenges of the crisis.
If the information is sensitive, you will always have the right not to disclose it, but you need to tell the employees the reasons rather than keeping them speculating.
The CEO should present his honest views in Town Hall meetings, put himself in their shoes, provide information, reassure them from their viewpoints, and address their questions.
Post Town Hall Meetings, written messages in the form of a newsletter, company circular, intranet announcements, email from the CEO’s desk, and sometimes, posters with crisp content must reach employees. Sometimes the corporate languages are ineffective; in such cases, they give a personal touch to the announcements and recognize emotions. The open forum works best in this regard.
Negative news should be communicated to the employees, like layoffs, meager increments, minuscule bonuses, and a limited budget. The senior management must use apt grounds and corporate circumstances for this.
Online global employee surveys to know the employees’ take of the whole incident soon after the formal communication is made is very effective.
Some more tips are required to accustom the employees to welcome the beginning: (How to Support Employees during Crisis)
Give a clear image of the goals that you are targeting, and state the motto behind setting these goals. This would help employees understand why they must devote their energy to realize them.
Set clarity in detail and practical terms on what the organization’s future would look like. How would the employees find the work schedule?
Emphasize the bit-by-bit structure to establish the new beginning.
Give a chance to each person to contribute, so all can have some inward satisfaction on saving their company.
The Target Audience
The senior management should consider the target audience, e.g., forefront employees, line managers, or senior managers. Does it require separate information for each group of people? For example, suppose the lead employees are not online; where would they find the information? What kind of channels will you use to convey your message? On the other hand, if you depend on the vanguard employees, are you sending everything they would require? What additional information would they need?
Employees and other internal stakeholders must easily find the communication. For that, one has to think about the right communication channels. Below are some channels that act as the conduit of messages in times of crisis. But, first, take a few channels depending on the accessibility.
Visible sections on the intranet home page
Special IVRS to help employees get the appropriate communication relating to crisis
Hotline arrangement to address all employee questions
Regular posting in the bulletin or company dashboard
Internet site access through a defined password
Daily updates through emails
Guarantee Message Reliability and Real-time Communication
A well-planned internal and external communication in times of crisis rests on the consistency of the message transmitted. The company aims to release consistent messages to its employees based on the ‘One Shout Policy.’ All the competent employees are interconnected with the senior management and other internal partners and get updated with the recent developments on the crisis events. Based on these, they can well be the company spokespersons. ‘One-Shout-Policy’ is very authentic in that everyone will be on the same page regarding information. There is a usual inclination among the employees to talk about hectic, work-related facts with members of family, friends, and colleagues, and they might pass judgment on the company’s policy to tackle the crisis. And sometimes, dissatisfied with the scarcity of good information and growing alarms about job security, an employee might disclose the internal facts to the news media. An analytical journalist in this time might hook such disgruntled employees and create amusing and marketable news. Therefore, the onus of senior management is to ensure the employee concerns must be aptly taken care of on time.
Employee Response by Way of Two-way Communication Process on How to Support Employees during Crisis
Crisis communication is not to telecast but to ensure the communication lines are open and that both-way communication channels are there. Intelligent management always relies on both-way communication wherein employees are invited face-to-face or through the the intranet to present their views on the crisis doctrines. Not only should the senior management arrange for the same, but also take notice of it and use it in important decision-making, thereby giving employees a chance to get emotionally engaged with the company. Following are some ways whereby senior management would ensure how the employee feedback will be considered.
Employee response is a nice way to determine whether the message reached the anticipated employees and brought about needed behavior.
Through employee feedback, one can be certain about their anticipations, sensitivities, and views. At the same time, the senior management can easily track what kind of information the employees might have received from the external stakeholders.
Lastly, employee response could explore a new area of handling crises.
Specific Operational Issues and Proper Employee and Manager Communication
Below is an operational area that is severely affected because of the crisis. Corresponding to each case, some desired communications are released for employees and their managers.
Keep an Eye on Conversations
This is always a good way to keep track of what employees exchange on internal and external social media platforms. If the employees ask repeated questions, assure yourself that something must be missing in the communication messages. Fix this soon.
If there is no positive news, send the real news for transparency. There has to be honesty in the the workforce. Then only all of them work towards a common goal, but without trust, this can never be possible. Trust brings accuracy to the business relationship.
Reviewing (How to Support Employees during Crisis)
Post-crisis, the management must review how things worked for the company’s advantage, external stakeholders, and employees. What could be done better, and how could it be performed next time to avoid possible losses? A folder must be created to document every important message sent out to employees. This case study will be helpful next time unforeseen calamities occur.
Conclusion – How to Support Employees during Crisis
In this article, we have seen how to support employees during crisis. In cases where management does not have enough theoretical and practical experience and crisis management knowledge, it should hire a crisis management expert with sound expertise to handle the crisis in companies and liaise with the employees for their on-time engagement. His crisis readiness should be able to recover the organization soon. Since the focus is employee communication and connecting other stakeholder dots outside, we must ensure the internal crisis communication should be performed sans any gap in between. No employee should suffer from inadequate information and fear of losing the job. Otherwise, this could be news that might amuse others but could deteriorate the company’s image.
When senior management starts giving due importance to crisis preparedness and promptly endorses the idea of facing challenges, this would reap the advantage of reducing the crisis-resulted damages and transforming unprecedented changes into practical benefits. In all these, effective employee communication is decisive in supplying the the required strength to fight back.
This is a guide to How to Support Employees during Crisis. Here we discuss the introduction and learned on how to support employees during crisis. You may also look at the following articles to learn more –