With how quickly the COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives, one thing is clear: we will continue to operate in flux for the foreseeable future. It is up to organizations to help their employees—and not just through providing employment or benefits, but through mutual respect and open communication. Internal communication has always been a priority for companies; however, in times of uncertainty and crisis, employees need consistent and reliable communication more than ever.
Research from Edelman indicates that 63% of employees are looking to their employers for daily briefings about the coronavirus. In the United States, 51% of respondents say they trust that their employer is well prepared, and only 43% say that they trust that the country is. This means employees rely on their employers to be transparent, consistent, and empathetic in relaying information, whether it’s good or bad.
This need for consistency and transparency requires communication professionals to be even more innovative, creative, and timely. This is not a new phenomenon, as marketing and communication are consistently evolving; however, now more than ever recipients of our messages are seeking both a trusted source and a personal connection.
Without the luxury of in-person interactions to fall back on, striking a balance between providing both informative and personable communication in a virtual format will require marketers to become comfortable with both overcommunication and rethinking their typical content topics.
Consistent Communication Instills Confidence
Under normal circumstances, employees might read a well-written message once, comprehend it, and take the requested action. But right now, we can’t expect this behavior to be the norm. Due to immense shifts in their home and work lives as a result of the pandemic, employees are under more stress than ever. They are looking for their employers to recognize and understand how anxiety-inducing this situation is.
This calls for employers to be consistent, and to lean more toward overcommunicating with their employees than not communicating enough. This means, for example, that if you have essential information for employees, send it multiple times in multiple messages. It is better for someone to receive the same message twice than to be inadvertently left out of the loop. When employees don’t feel informed, it is much easier for them to become disengaged and to feel less motivated.
For example, at FMG we are repurposing content for each internal communication channel we have: our internal forums, intranet site, monthly newsletter, monthly all-staff meetings, and all-staff emails. I also created a communication schedule that publishes four different messages from four different groups (HR, Community Impact Team, IT, and our CEO) over the course of five days each week. As we do with social media, we use a content calendar and topic theme reminders so that we support our vision for the future and don’t haphazardly replicate information.
The Encouraging Content They Need
In addition to consistent information, employees also need encouragement and inspiration. They are looking for strategies to move forward, stay positive, and not be overwhelmed by stress and worry. Injecting internal communication with fun can help to relieve employee’s stress. Sending brief messages of appreciation and support to your team can be just the boost your employees need to stay productive.
At FMG, our intranet site pulls double duty—it provides administrative and operational resources, and is also updated to feature employee accomplishments, celebrations, and accolades.
If your organization used to conduct break-room forums on the latest binge-worthy series, movies, or best-selling novels, continue to share that content and provide recommendations for how staff can decompress from the workday. Having an all-remote organization doesn’t mean you have to throw fun, culture, and team traditions out the window.
To continue our discussions on wellness tips, TV shows, favorite recipes and the like at FMG, we created an internal forum called FMG Community. FMG Community is entirely populated by employees, who share pictures of their fur or human interns (what we call pets or children), volunteer opportunities to help vulnerable populations, and work-from-home tips to boost productivity and maintain sanity.
It is true that during times of unprecedented change there are plenty of things out of our control, but internal communication is not one of them. Put you and your employees in the best position to weather any storm by communicating more often, being transparent when you do, and responding to your employees’ needs. You might not be able to predict what the future holds, but you can make the most of the present.