Failure to communicate with employees during a crisis quickly leads to confusion, misunderstandings, rumors, assumptions, and people worried about losing their jobs.
With COVID-19 causing a global crisis, every company in every industry is impacted — some worse than others.
Many businesses have found themselves forced into working remotely, with no knowledge of what they need or how to do it effectively, and little time to prepare.
During a crisis, business leaders can focus too much on communicating with the media to protect their brand’s reputation, and not enough time keeping employees up to date and making sure they know what to expect.
“Nearly 30% of crisis professionals believe that employees are the most overlooked stakeholders when their organization is dealing with a crisis.” - Deloitte
When you don’t keep your employees informed, they seek out information on their own, which leads to misunderstandings and rumors getting started because the information they found was not accurate.
Don’t let this happen within your organization.
Keep reading to learn what tech you need to make communicating with your employees remotely a breeze. We’ll even give you some tips from our experts here at Bench Builders to help you create a communication plan and stop the spread of misinformation before it starts.
What Tech Do You Need?
Communicating remotely can involve a variety of modes. You can send text message alerts, host virtual meetings, or use live chat to communicate one-on-one and relay information within your entire organization.
The processes you implement and what tech you choose depends on what your employees will respond to best.
“Communicating effectively with employees really needs to be tailored to the individual. Some are fine with a text each day to check-in. Others need interaction, and using a video method with them will be more effective and keep them connected. Knowing your employees will help you figure out how to best communicate with them. Or better yet, ask them what works and make it a top priority to stay in touch and keep them connected.”
- Rhonda Beard, Bench Builders
Let’s go over some options so you can make a better decision about what tech is right for your company and your staff.
One of the fastest forms of communication is text messaging. Virtually everyone now has a mobile device, and they keep a close eye on it.
Companies like EZ Texting make it simple to send real-time alerts to employees, which is excellent for communicating time-sensitive information during a crisis.
“I needed a quick and reliable solution that would allow me to communicate time-sensitive information. I love the fact that EZ Texting’s messages are sent instantly without any delays.” - Graeme Cox
Keep your employees informed and stop the spread of misinformation by sending daily, weekly, or bi-weekly updates throughout the crisis.
Virtual Meeting Software
Hosting virtual meetings doesn’t have to be a challenge. With the right software and equipment, you can get started pretty quickly.
The most used and talked about virtual meeting solution at the time of this article is Zoom. Zoom has a free version you can use to test out how it works and communicate with clients and a small team.
The free version of Zoom gives you unlimited time for two people, but they cut you off after 40 minutes if you have a meeting with three or more participants.
Companies seeking to upgrade and unlock more features can do so affordably. The Pro version starts at $14.99/month/host, and the highest tier (Enterprise) is $19.99/month/host.
Zoom’s pricing is subject to change, so make sure you visit their pricing page for the most up to date information.
Webex’s free version used to be more restrictive than Zoom’s, but since COVID-19, they’ve changed their free version to be more competitive. For example, you aren’t restricted to the 40-minute meeting cap with three or more participants.
Microsoft Teams is the most expensive option because it’s more than just a virtual meeting software; it’s an all-in-one collaboration tool.
For companies looking to allow their teams to work remotely long-term, it’s worth looking into, but Zoom or Webex is the best choice when all you want to do is host virtual meetings.
As far as what equipment you will need, as a host, you’ll need a microphone at a minimum. Sharing your screen without a webcam is sufficient for perhaps a training Webex, it just depends on how you want the meeting to go.
Otherwise, for something like a remote meeting, you’ll need to use a webcam, so the participants can see you as you talk.
Your employees don’t necessarily have to use a mic or webcam either. They can join in and communicate with you in real-time thanks to the live chat feature all three of these software providers include.
Communication overload is something you want to avoid. Bombarding your staff with a bunch of text messages whenever you need to relay information gets overwhelming fast.
Slack makes it easier for you to keep communication lines open without employees receiving notifications that drive them crazy.
Create a workspace for free and invite your coworkers to join. You can customize different channels for things like announcements, meetings, or a “water cooler” chat room where employees can speak freely to one another.
You’ll even be able to send private messages to each member of your organization. A larger company seeking more features can upgrade. To do this, you’ll need to pay a monthly fee. Slack's lowest-paid tier is $6.67 a month per user.
Get the most accurate pricing information by visiting the pricing page on Slack’s website.
3 Tips for Communicating with Employees During a Crisis
Now that you know how to communicate with your staff let’s take a look at some tips to help you figure out what you’re going to say.
Tip #1: Be Transparent & Tell the Truth
The worst thing you could do as a company during a crisis is to downplay the situation or try to hide the facts.
Transparency is vital for keeping your employees calm, and they must know they can trust your leadership during this challenging time.
When employees feel that you’ve lied to them, you’ll lose respect as a leader, and you could end up with an even worse situation on your hands — especially if they air their grievances to the media.
Tip #2: Act Fast & Have a Plan
As a leader, as soon as a crisis starts, you need to quickly develop a plan for moving forward and handling the situation.
Don’t wait and put things off in the hopes the situation will improve before you have to take action — be preemptive.
Your staff expects you to have all the answers, and even if you don’t, you should have a plan in place for finding those answers, and you need to relay that plan to your staff.
Tip #3: Develop a Communication Plan
Ideally, you would develop a communication plan before a crisis occurs, but many businesses have found themselves without one, and they’re scrambling to maintain communications with their staff.
“A crisis communication plan is a set of guidelines used to prepare a business for an emergency or unexpected event. These plans include steps to take when a crisis first emerges, how to communicate with the public, and how to prevent the issue from occurring again.” - HubSpot
Your communication plan should include:
- Who the point of contact is for each department of your organization.
- How you plan to communicate — texts, virtual meetings, live chat, etc. — and how often.
- Answers to questions employees are likely to have, such as “What happened?” “How will our jobs be affected?” or “What do we do if a journalist wants to talk to us?”
- Fact sheets with all the crucial facts and guidelines about the crisis.
- What your company plans to say to the media.
Get the Help You Need Now
Managing a crisis like COVID-19 can be challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone.
Our business experts at Bench Builders are helping our clients plan for the short-term and the long-term during these trying times, and we’re confident we can help you too.
Our team can help you with more than just crisis management. We can help you make sure your company survives the COVID-19 crisis and thrives when the economy bounces back.
Some of the services you can take advantage of are:
Don’t let your company fall behind because you’re too busy trying to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Let us help.
Contact us today to find out what your next steps should be.
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