Crisis Strikes - Engage & Communicate
Many of our brilliant members are sharing their insight during COVID-19. We are sharing out their wisdom through the Chamber Blog to help our members during this difficult time.
This blog post is authored by Thomas Lopez who is the founder of Economiworks. We are proud to have Economiworks as one of our Chamber members.
Crisis Strikes - Engage & Communicate
Still in the midst of the pandemic, we continue to embark into unprecedented territory and each day we gain new information and have new questions. While federal, state, and local governments have firmed up their initial guidelines for navigating through the crisis (e.g., self isolation, social distancing, office closures) as well as passed legislation to support businesses and workers through this crisis, a great unknown still exists - when will this end?
Fortunately, we know that few things in life last forever, even if the impacts of this extraordinary event linger. Thus, how we treat our customers, employees, and business partners during this time, is extremely important, as what we do now can have ripples for some time to come.
While there are no companies that are being afforded a luxury during this time, this is your reminder to take care of your employees. They will be the resources to push you through this crisis and be there to help you rebuild after this crisis.
Why Does This Matter
Of course, much of the focus has been placed on connecting with customers by ensuring they know you are still open for business and to ensure timely delivery of products and services. Similarly, business leaders have focused on communicating with business partners to minimize supply chain disruptions and to help develop alternative business solutions as onsite operations are shut down.
These parts of the equations are no doubt essential for a business to stay afloat during this crisis. However, in the intense focus to keep business operations running and customers coming "in the door," it may be easy to forget to communicate and engage effectively with employees - the essential ingredient to taking the supplies from your suppliers to make them into products and services that your customers can receive.
During this time, then let's remember to keep employees informed and engaged. They are reading the news, their lives are being upended, and they are concerned about the future of their families, of their health and well-being, and of their jobs!
Tell Me More
If you are successfully partnering with your suppliers and customers, you are surely communicating with your employees. Great!
How effective is your communication with your employees? Are you just passing out directives to them? If your business is closing its office space, seeing a dramatic dip in customers, or losing suppliers, or shut down, you're employees may be experiencing a feeling of uncertainty. While they may be as devoted as the band on the sinking Titanic, you owe it to your employees to be open and honest, provide them timely and relevant information, and to repeat your messaging which should be reinforced and delivered with authenticity and empathy.
Let's discuss these in more detail.
Open & Honest
Your employees can read the headlines, are following events on social media, hearing their friends and family discuss this pandemic, and are seeing the effects of this crisis on your business. It is important that you are upfront with them. If layoffs, furloughs, or pay cuts, are imminent, it is important to be honest to employees about these prospects. Even if you don’t know the answers, hiding from your employees and especially lying to them, is not an effective means for engaging your team. It is perfectly acceptable to tell them that you do not yet know the full impact of this crisis and you will let them know as soon as you have more information.
When you do have information to provide employees, it is important that you get that to them as soon as quickly as possible. While surely you are trying to manage your business and do not want to spook your employees into making haste moves, the reality is that they have decisions to make during this crisis as well. Withholding information from your employees will not stand up well once this crisis is over.
So much is being thrown at all of us, thus, it is important as leaders to distill down some of the noise in the flood of information. Employees should receive information about the protocol for continuing operations, disruptions or modifications to supplier channels, adjustments to service offerings, as well as personal information. Personal and relevant information includes updates about pay adjustments, benefits information (e.g., healthcare policies, remote work options, paid leave programs) and performance expectations for supporting the business, particularly with social distancing ordinances in place.
Repeat & Repeat
While the convenient approach to communicating out to employees can be to send email communications, this should not be the only medium of communications. Yes, this is appropriate for sharing updated guidelines or news, but this should be complemented by other modes of communication including text, phone or video call, and under normal circumstances, in person. To make a communication complete, the recipient of the message must receive it, interpret it, and act on it. Without this piece of the communication equation, the sender should not assume a message has been received. Thus, it is important that leaders, especially in this time of crisis, connect with a personal touch, via text or phone or video call.
Authentic & Empathetic
Different from open and honest, authenticity and empathy apply to the tone and feeling of communications. No doubt, this is a stressful time, especially if your business is on the brink of collapse because of this crisis. We must realize though that we are all in this together. This pandemic much like a natural disaster is no one's fault. It is with your employees that your business will stay operational and in a position to be viable on the other side of this. In this regard, business leaders can be firm in their communications, but they must be underlined with core messaging that "we're a team that can pull through this crisis together, and we cannot due this without you." While these words do not need to be expressed explicitly, each business leader must find their unique way to express this gratitude during this crisis.
Further, leaders must understand that this is unique period in time, so they must engage in a two-way dialogue with their team members, where both parties are speaking and listening to each other. With schools closing or possibly loved ones becoming ill with this virus, employers need to support their employees. This could be as simple as listening to their concerns, but also could be about being creative with work options or making the hard choice to give them time off to tend to their personal matters, even when you need them most.
As we noted, this crisis will not last forever. While many businesses are being impacted, many will survive through this. Rather than your team be sour about how you (mis)treated them during this crisis, you would much better off if they were thanking you for your support and leadership. Yes, working with customers and suppliers during this unprecedented situation is critical, but don't forget about engaging and communicating with your most important business assets - your employees!
Thomas J. Lopez is the founder of EconomiWorks and has over 15 years of experience promoting talent strategies that allow companies to attract, retain, and develop their most valuable resources - their people. With EconomiWorks, Thomas aims to connect business leaders and people with opportunities that will help them meet their goals.
In a busy world, with too much to do and too little resources to get it all done, Thomas hopes to have EconomiWorks help bring order to chaos for those business leaders who need additional resources by connecting them with freelance talent who are ready to step in and help an organization meet their goals. Find out more about Thomas and EconomiWorks here.
EconomiWorks believes that when we work, the economy works. With industry trends such as a knowledge and skill gaps, tight labor market, and increased work demand, EconomiWorks aims to provide businesses with access to freelance professionals across a variety of fields and disciplines such as Accounting & Finance, Engineering, Human Resources, Information Technology, Marketing, among others. Alas, a way to do more with less!