Communicate, listen, communicate, act, communicate, ‘repeat’

It is rare to see an upheaval to our everyday lives on the scale of the current COVID-19 outbreak, and many organisations are now finding themselves in uncharted waters. In times like these, it is more important than ever for organisations to communicate clearly and effectively with their employees. As the situation changes and develops rapidly, maintaining good communications with the workforce can be very challenging, but there are opportunities for organisations to monitor and develop their communication methods in order to keep things running as smoothly as possible.

Making sure communication channels are open is important for sharing information about the developing situation. Keeping employees in the loop not only helps plans and policies to be implemented more quickly and easily, but also goes towards alleviating the isolation and helplessness that a lack of communication can create in these situations. Communication between leadership and middle management is important for ensuring that all decisions are in line with overall policy and best practice. It’s useful if employees can find all the information they need in one place, instead of having to hunt through their email inbox or the organisation’s website. This reduces confusion over the organisation’s response, and means that people are less likely to miss important details or updates.

In situations where events are unfolding and plans change at short notice, it is much harder to deliver consistent advice and communicate a clear strategy. It is important to be up-front, open and honest about the uncertainty that the organisation faces. Putting up a false facade of certainty is likely to backfire, as employees will later lose confidence in decision-making when plans change. Being honest about the uncertainty and challenges the organisation is facing helps maintain employees’ patience and understanding. Management and leadership teams may have to make some tough decisions, and these should be based on reliable guidelines from reputable sources. Assuring your employees that these decisions are in line with the best up-to-date advice will increase understanding and trust in the new measures.

Even at the best of times, effective organisations must show their employees that they care about their health, safety and well-being. During a time of crisis, working practices should be evaluated, with steps taken to ensure employees’ health and safety. Communication is once again key, as keeping people informed about these precautions will help to reassure them that the organisation is listening to their concerns and has their best interests at heart. Many organisations are currently implementing remote working for many more employees than usual, but they should remember that employees may need help and support through this change. They may have issues with accessing work systems, or finding the right working environment or technological resources at home. People may also struggle to cope with the increased isolation, or find communication strained between them and the organisation as a whole. Monitoring, advice and support procedures can make sure that the process is as smooth as possible, and that issues are dealt with as they arise.

As well as organisations keeping their employees informed, it is equally important that employees can communicate effectively in the other direction. When they feel their health and safety are at risk, employees are more concerned than ever that their voices are being heard. Take the time to respond properly to employees’ queries, concerns and suggestions, as engaging them in conversation can help in assessing the mood of the organisation at a disruptive time. It may be useful to run a short employee survey specifically focusing on how employees are coping with the situation, as well as new working practices. The findings could be used to improve communication methods and to tailor the response to events based on what works and what doesn’t. The process of seeking out employees’ views will also reassure them that the organisation is listening to them and taking their concerns seriously.

The Survey Initiative is an award winning organisation with over 25 years of experience in the field of employee research. If you would like to know more about how we can help your organisation with any employee research matter or would be interested in a FREE Employee Engagement Consultation, then email us at (we are all working from home, so email is best right now!)