Last week, 70% of all posts created through the GuavaHR internal communication platform were related to COVID-19. Crisis communication is looking for a place: the crisis situation has made companies experiment with both SMS and social media. While several large companies have built a communication team to share emergency information with employees, the HR manager is responsible for crisis communication in every fifth Estonian company, according to GuavaHR survey.
As the situation requiring special measures is not yet likely to subside, the main challenges for crisis communication staff will continue to lie in four aspects for some time:
- How often to inform employees
- How to do it
- What information to share with employees
- What platform to use for this
How often and how to share information?
“Sharing daily updates is important even when there is no new information available – it confirms what has already been communicated and shows that the company’s management is constantly thinking about these issues,” says Britt Velling, GuavaHR’s Customer Success Manager.
She emphasizes the idea shared by crisis communication expert Ilona Leib at a webinar a week ago: the line of communication must be kept open at all times. “The most important thing during a crisis is to keep your employees informed and to share information with them regularly. We recommend doing it on a daily basis,” adds Velling and encourages the use of a 3-Step Quick Brief model:
- What the company already knows and can share information about
- What the company does not know yet
- What issues is the company currently dealing with
What information to share?
The number of posts on COVID-19 have increased drastically the GuavaHR environment: from 59% of all posts two weeks ago to 70% last week. In a crisis it is undoubtedly better to share more information than to keep employees in the unknown and let them fill it with information themselves: the amount of information alone does not cause panic, the content of the message also matters. “We believe that these statistics also show that, during a crisis, the need for a functioning, fast, measurable and inclusive communication channel is particularly strong,” adds Velling.
Velling recommends that company managers contact employees at all costs. “In GuavaHR, 80% of managers have already virtually spoken to their employees and shared their crisis-related messages. According to our statistics, managers’ appeals are the most important for employees: they are read the most, they are the most commented on, and most of the employees are ready to open up a phone application or a web browser for them,” she confirms.
But what to do with information that is not urgent in today’s situation, such as the company’s development plans – should we continue to share the usual information, which may seem inappropriate to some? “Everything that gives employees a point of reference and contact with normality is worth continuing,” says Velling.
Where to share information with employees?
While text messaging and calling undoubtedly still have their place during times of crisis, the use of social media for business communication is more of a threat. “Herein lies the cause of a communication problem such as shadow communications, in other words, communication that’s hidden from the employer,” explains Velling.
“If the company’s management currently encourages its employees to communicate on social media and also sets an example by sharing information on there – on Facebook, WhatsApp – conversations between employees arise that are no longer controlled by the management. However, such conversations are in turn ideal for the emergence of misinformation: and information that is not accessible to HR or communications staff is also extremely difficult to discredit. If the company does not provide a clear internal communication channel for its employees, such hidden communication is easy to develop,” says Velling.
Another important aspect of choosing the right environment is that the availability of the information reach is measurable: this helps to prevent communication crises that unfold in parallel with the main crisis. “If the measurable medium does not reach all employees, then at least you know who has not received or read the information, and they can be notified separately by phone or message,” explains Velling.
It is recommended to select the minimum required number of channels for crisis communication and to be consistent with them. “If you use an application designed specifically for businesses, create separate groups for emergencies, hygiene requirements, colleagues working from home, but also to support the mental health of front-line employees in difficult times,” Velling cites examples of how their clients have used GuavaHR in recent weeks.
“Let people share how they cope on different fronts – at home, in production, on the road. It strengthens the team feeling, in addition, the community helps each other and in turn makes it easier for the management. ”