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Communicating in a crisis

Communicating in a crisis

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HR and benefits departments are faced with an unprecedented communications challenge: protecting the health and welfare of your people in the face of a rapidly evolving pandemic.

To ensure business continuity and minimise disruption, you need to keep employees informed and engaged. As companies limit hours, or implement alternative work schedules and telecommuting options, this challenge is likely to grow.

Here are the principles we often to start with when communicating in uncertain times:

  • Establish and adapt your communications plan during a rapidly evolving situation
  • Develop proactive, positive, and sensitive communications
  • Effectively distribute information to managers and employees throughout your organisation
  • Keep teams connected with practical tips
  • Leverage tools to enable two-way communication and fast response

Regular and ongoing communication across the workforce is key. The use of video conferencing will help, but companies should look to optimise the use of a variety of media. We’re seeing clients use a combination of:

  • Pop-up websites – flexible for short-term or ongoing use. Stand-alone or link from existing sites. Integrate survey, texting, video, podcast and other social features. See real-time analytics to shape your strategy
  • Existing intranet and portal customisation – update existing sites quickly to convey urgent messages, as well as suggestions and wellbeing guidance
  • Texting – reach employees instantly, and direct them to more information and where there are urgent alerts
  • Virtual townhalls and check-ins – keep connected across the organisation, both in large groups and small teams, even if there’s not much to communicate. One client has started virtual breakfast meetings; another has Friday afternoon virtual drinks
  • Podcasts – deliver your own 21st century fireside chats from people within – and even outside – your organisation
  • Digital brochures, magazines and newsletters – provide important information in an easy-to-use format
  • External publication – consider reinforcing employee communications and commitments publicly and with external stakeholders. At Buck, for instance, we sent CEO letters to all clients explaining our policies for Buck staff.

Finally, in all communications and updates, organisations are often reminding people about the support offered through the organisation. Wellbeing is paramount in these times and you should consider signposting frequently:

  • Physical support, such as:
    • COVID-19 testing, treatment support
    • Health advocacy hotlines
    • Virtual GP services
    • Prevention and safeguards
    • Holistic wellness resources
  • Mental support, such as:
    • EAP counselling
    • Childcare resources
    • Employee groups
    • Resilience and mindfulness coping tools
    • Connection to community resources
  • Financial support, such as:
    • Fitness for duty, quarantines
    • Paid or unpaid leave policies, backup care, furloughs, reductions in force, ongoing benefits
    • Financial education
    • Emergency funds

There’s a lot to consider, so here’s a summary of the key points we recommend you address:

  • Ensure you have an assigned team and resources to regularly meet, plan and publish information and co-ordinate an overall communication strategy
  • Review and use an array of communication media to avoid the risk of channel fatigue (e.g. emails). Get creative in how people can get information and interact with others
  • Ensure that you are promoting all the services and benefits your organisation offers to support people’s physical, mental and financial wellbeing

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