B2E and Coronavirus: The Covid-19 emergency requires companies to make an extra effort to communicate effectively with their employees in order to ensure continuity of production with maximum safety for everyone. How to do this? Kick start your communication with these 7 best practices.
In other blog posts we’ve talked about the importance of building clear and effective communications with employees. Just as it is essential to put the customer at the center of your external communication, it is necessary to center your communications around employees to make sure they feel important and involved. In both cases, the result is to increase your business and make your company more competitive.
However, having a good communication strategy with your employees is important not only in normal circumstances but also in delicate crisis situations like the one that companies around the world are currently experiencing.
Covid-19 doesn’t have to separate us
Since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus pandemic, nations around the world have reacted by asking citizens to stay at home and, at the same time, many production activities have lessened or stopped altogether. In countries like Italy, many employees have not only seen their companies closed down, albeit temporarily, they have also found themselves in a state of deep uncertainty regarding their jobs.
Although the situation is complex and there are many different factors in play, companies still have an important role to play.
Now more than ever, it’s essential for companies to build a clear, direct, and effective communication relationship with their employees, in order to strengthen their sense of belonging and to ensure greater resilience of their business, which will necessarily have to adapt to a new way of working and whose success will depend largely on each employee. After all, each company functions as a real community. Think of the disastrous effects that confusion or the spread of fake news have on the functioning of an organization.
The same happens within a company when you can’t communicate effectively with your employees in the most delicate situations. Having an effective communication plan is no small detail; on the contrary, it will make the difference in successfully facing this crisis.
B2E and Coronavirus: 7 tips
According to recent research by Gallup, only 13% of employees surveyed said that company directors were able to communicate effectively in an emergency situation. Conversely, 87% said they were uncertain and confused (gallup.com).
This statistic is impressive. It’s also in this environment that B2E communication must play a critical role for any company.
As a result, every manager must feel called to contribute, also because, in addition to avoiding the virus itself, the only thing worse, perhaps, is miscommunication, which can lead people to behave often counterproductively.
In order to build an effective communication strategy you need to be clear about the steps you want to follow. Obviously every company is a case in itself, but there are some good practices that can apply to everyone, especially now.
1. It’s all a matter of time
The first thing you have to take into account is time. In a business crisis, acting quickly now is crucial, as fears and doubts arise immediately and a prolonged silence over time risks becoming a panic.
For this reason, the company needs to open a channel of communication with its employees as soon as possible and immediately give clear and unambiguous messages to the workforce. This is also a way to make your presence felt among your employees.
Of course, acting quickly does not mean acting hastily. The first few moments are crucial and, therefore, you must avoid any possible mistakes. Therefore, it is useful to establish a strategy beforehand and then to move quickly accordingly, without allowing yourself too many delays, as it will be difficult to make up for lost time.
Time is also an important variable in another sense. In times of crisis like this, it is important to give your employees a sense of normality: to make them understand that the situation is serious but under control and that your organization continues to function despite the stress that it’s under. A simple and effective way to convey such a feeling is to ensure regularity of information, in terms of both timing and channels.
Establishing a regular time and day on which you communicate news and decisions to your employees helps bring a sense of normality to the situation and greatly reduces the sense of insecurity, as everyone can look forward to regular communication, at a specific date and time, dedicated to discussing the current situation.
2. The importance of the first line
As Deloitte mentioned in a recent report, in crisis situations, even exceptional ones like the current moment, the role of front-line managers is fundamental (deloitte.com). They are the immediate point of reference for employees, their direct interlocutors and as such must be prepared.
This means, first and foremost, consistency in the tone used. The attitude when communicating with employees must be clear and unambiguous, so that the message can be easily understood. In the same way, it is important to be proactive in the relationship with individuals: ask for their feedback often, encourage them to share their thoughts, impressions, even objections.
Being decisive and consistent, in fact, does not mean giving up comparison, on the contrary. Being open to dialogue, even dealing with complicated issues, is useful to gain the trust of your employees.
3. Be concrete
According to a recent study, only 39% of U.S. employees said that their employer has clearly communicated the company’s operational plan to deal with the COVID-19 (gallup.com). As a result, it is not surprising that only half of the same employees surveyed said they were well prepared to do their job in times of crisis.
Instead, it is important that the workforce knows exactly what to do, when, and how. Hence, the need to make employees feel safe and secure by reaching out with concrete messages and clear instructions.
In this sense, it’s essential to accurately identify the most important information that employees need and want to know; companies must know what to communicate and what to leave out. In the same way, transparency is fundamental: problems and critical issues must be put on the table without alarm, but also without unjustifiably minimizing them.
That is why it is a good idea to keep motivational statements without concrete and relevant content to a minimum. In cases like this, it is much better to be honest and realistic, so it will be easier to maintain a lasting relationship of trust with employees.
4. A communication plan must be visible
Once a communication strategy has been outlined and the messages have been established, it is necessary to make them clear and tangible. What do my employees need? What is the best way to communicate with them to meet their needs? These are just some of the questions to ask yourself in order to effectively implement a good communication strategy.
For example, a newsletter that contains both relevant company information, as well as recent developments at the national, state or local level, may be useful for employees. Alternatively, you could use the company intranet to disseminate communications and provide instructions useful to ensuring the safe performance of responsibilities during this time.
Likewise, it is important to ensure that communication is not one way.
Establish a specific hotline for employees, use an email account to collect frequently asked questions, use anonymous surveys to understand what employees think and how they are feeling. These are just some of the ways you can collect valuable input to help make your communications truly relevant; you could also transform them into useful content such as an FAQ that you could provide as a resource online.
5. Communicating to be useful
At a time like this, corporate communication, especially internal communication, must focus on providing useful and accurate information to employees to ensure business continuity as safely as possible.
However, companies are also called upon to play a social role in these delicate phases; therefore, it may be useful to include specific indications within communications about the symptoms that may occur and the preventive measures to be taken.
Such behavior is appreciated not only because it puts people back at the center of the company’s activities (fundamental when talking about the customer experience and the communication plan), but also because it improves the reputation of the company, which now more than ever must show itself to be receptive and present itself as an active part of the social fabric within which it is inserted.
In this case too, authority is everything. The information that is disseminated must be clear, reliable, and verified.
In this sense, the World Health Organization is an excellent source: it often publishes guidelines on how to manage the Covid-19 emergency in a working environment, and it provides daily bulletins and constantly updates its Q&A section on the virus and prevention. Monitoring this content and then reporting them in a clear and understandable way helps reassure employees.
6. Remember the resources available
Just above it was said that one’s communication plan must be concrete and visible. One way to make sure your communication plan is concrete and visible is also to remind all your employees of the tools at their disposal.
This should not be limited to only the public services available, but also includes resources regarding medical expenses or child care and the various employment support measures that the company has decided to activate. You can also add any company-specific information or events such as courses, webinars, digital events, but also telemedicine or emotional support services.
It is important that all these initiatives are communicated promptly and that they are presented as a manifestation of the company’s proactivity in protecting employees.
7. Not only what but also how: personalized videos
The way you choose to communicate with employees is fundamental. There are many channels through which you can communicate with your employees and each one is suitable for a specific function.
For example, you can set up a toll-free number to give everyone the opportunity to ask questions and receive immediate answers; you can create dedicated micro-sites to publish updates and useful information in real time. Another alternative is email, which is useful for reaching employees directly with targeted and even personalized messages, depending on the team in which they work or the tasks they have to perform.
Personalization is one of the ways to make a channel like email, which often risks being ignored or overwhelmed with too many messages, more effective. Alternatively, communications of this type can be made even more interesting by inserting graphics or images that reinforce the text, or even better, by using videos. After all, using videos makes it easier to enjoy the message, which is all the more appealing if the video used is also personalized.
Combining personalization and video content brings together two of the main digital trends of the moment, thus obtaining an extraordinarily effective communication tool.
Evidence of this effectiveness is shown by a very interesting case study with the Italian postal service, Poste Italiane, with Doxee. To reach its employees in an original and engaging way, Poste Italiane worked with Doxee to create a personalized video that directly addressed each of its employees. Within the video, employees could choose different navigation options to explore the benefits section.
In this way, thanks to Doxee’s personalized videos, each recipient found himself within a unique experience where he was the protagonist who was fully involved in building the content according to their needs and requirements, all with just a few clicks.
Tools like these, by their very nature, can be very useful to communicate in a moment like this: simple, clear, involving. These are necessary elements for making an important message relevant.