Top tips for communicating in a crisis

A good leader would know that communication during a crisis is critical. They communicate with urgency, transparency, and empathy, it helps people adjust to the constantly changing conditions crises bring.

A tone of urgency encourages people to make quick decisions to mitigate harm.

Transparency builds trust in leaders and conveys respect for employees.

Showing empathy and conveying a compelling message of hope can foster resilience.

Following research by Harvard Business Review, five core qualities for leaders communicating to their people during a crisis we identified

  1. Communicate frequently.

Most leaders need to communicate to staff far more often than they think is necessary. Frequent communication reduces fear and uncertainty and ensures that employees have heard the message. Be aware that different people may need to hear messages in different ways and through different channels.

At a time when so many people are experiencing bad news and negative consequences largely not of their own doing, leaders need to remember to find the bright spots and highlight them. They similarly can offset bad news by reminding people of times when they faced challenges in the past and the organisation came out on top

How organisational leaders communicate can make or break employee commitment.

  1. Provide safe channels for giving feedback.

Employees must be able to express their concerns to leaders without fear of retribution and know that the information they share will not be shared to others without consent.

Leaders must communicate the channels available to employees offer feedback and should emphasise how much they care about hearing from employees at all levels.

Having a variety of options is important because individual employees may view the safety of a given channel differently based on such factors as their relationship with their managers, whether they view HR as supportive, and their views of the responsiveness of anonymous formal channels.

Finally, leaders must periodically report what they are hearing from this feedback. Sharing careful summaries of the questions, concerns, and follow-up actions will increase trust in leadership at this critical time — trust that is likely to continue after the crisis subsides.

  1. Help employees work at home effectively.

Employees who feel they have what they need to remain productive and successful while working remotely are more likely to be satisfied with their organisation’s overall response.

If the organisation wants to maintain productivity, it may be worth investing in work-from-home equipment for the employee to enable them to be as productive as they can possibly be.

Given the challenges associated with Zoom fatigue, managers may want to mix things up a bit and use telephone calls occasionally rather than video meetings when connecting for one-on-one or small group discussions with people who know each other already.

  1. Address concerns about job security.

Understandably, people are worried about their jobs. Keeping this in mind, leaders should reassure team members that their employment is secure when this is indeed the case. When it is not, employees appreciate knowing all they can as soon as possible so they can plan accordingly and the company can provide appropriate support to assist the employee in the transition.

  1. Provide a plan for the future.

This one is undoubtedly related to employees’ worries about their own jobs. Given the extraordinary crisis we’re now enduring, it’s hardly surprising that many people are anxious about their own organisation’s future and look to leaders for cues. Therefore, when communicating, emphasise what is going well for the organisation and the positive outlook and strategic plans for the future.

Through these times of change, be sure to recognise employees who have gone the extra mile to drive business results or help colleagues; it can have a positive ripple effect.

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