5 Steps to Effective HR Communication in a Crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic is a disruption unlike any we have seen in modern times. As human beings, we look to history to guide us in how we respond to certain situations, but COVID-19 is unprecedented and that brings an entirely new set of challenges.
As a Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) looking after more than 2,000 employees, I had to adapt quickly to this crisis. I kept myself informed and took protective actions including eliminating non-essential travel (taken March 6th) and closing our physical offices (taken March 19th). In addition to helping ensure the physical health of our employees and the customers with whom they interact, as CHRO I also need to consider the mental and emotional well-being of our employees – and for that, communication is key.
Here are five steps HR professionals should take in crises like COVID-19:
Start from the inside-out
It can be tempting for companies to jump right to communicating to external audiences – issuing a press release, sending an email to customers, and/or posting an update on the company website. Make no mistake these are important, but if they’re your first step you’ve skipped the most important in the process, which is starting with your own employees.
Think about your audience
Successful communication require putting yourself in the audience’s shoes. It can be easy to default to sales-focused language; but during times of crisis you must remember employees’ primary concerns will be the health and welfare of themselves and their families.
They are worried about striking a balance between work and home responsibilities, which for many these days includes juggling educating kids at home. They’re also worried about the impact of the pandemic on your business and, crucially, their jobs. Respectful communications are open and transparent, and they address the core concerns of your audience.
Communicate clearly and often
One email or call is not enough, even if you chock every piece of information you have into them. Your employees need to hear from you often to ensure they feel you’re keeping them top-of-mind.
Your messages must be clear and aligned to the concerns you know your employees face. If it feels like you are over-communicating, you’re most likely striking the right level of communication. Keeping your employees focused and productive means constantly reassuring them that you’re doing your job and looking out for, and adapting your processes to, their human needs.
At Precisely, both our CEO Josh Rogers and I each communicate once per week to all employees, with additional touchpoints from our Corporate Communications team.
Lean on the experts
If your organization has a Corporate Communications function, ensure these leaders are participating in your key meetings about the pandemic.
Communications professionals can help ensure your messages are communicated clearly, concisely, and consistently; many of them have crisis communications experience. Even if you don’t have a Corporate Comms function, lean on your best writers to ensure you are getting your message across.
Leverage video technology
At this point, most companies are using video conferencing tools to provide employees an opportunity to connect face to face while isolated at home. Many people are now even using these same tools in their personal lives, connecting with friends for virtual happy hours.
Video communication is a great way to keep your employees connected and collaborating, but there are other technologies that let you use video to communicate with your employees during this crisis.
One such way is through simple video engagement tools. At Precisely we are using our own product, the EngageOne Video platform, to create videos that educate our employees about protecting themselves and staying productive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As someone who isn’t always the most adept at using new technology, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it has become to create video communications that are personalized, interactive, and instantaneous.