How to Maintain Connection in Crisis

May 06, 2020

Messaging to employees and customers during a crisis is critical but having a plan in place before the crisis hits is even more important.

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Across the country, outdated crisis communications plans are being dusted off, some for the first time. One in four companies don’t even have a crisis communications plan in place at all.  COVID-19 forced a lot of organizations to rethink how to message to both customers and employees. Now more than ever, it is important to re-evaluate (or create) your communications plan.

Here are seven steps to creating or updating your process for handling a crisis:

  1. Anticipate potential crises (or pandemics, in this case). A robust crisis communications plan should include preparations for a variety of possible disruptions, such as natural disasters, security breaches, etc. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to suddenly close their doors temporarily or permanently. For those that could continue operating, businesses had to work quickly to transition to a remote workforce, and the ability to do that quickly and effectively relied a lot on whether infrastructure and processes were already in place.

  2. Identify a crisis communications team. Knowing who to call in an emergency and being clear on who is doing what can make all the difference when minutes matter. Establish a chain of command, and create a shared document with updated contact information for each person. Tip: Make sure to identify backup people as well.

  3. Identify and train spokespeople and establish an approval process. You don’t want to wait to find out who is comfortable speaking with the media in the heat of the moment. Take time to identify your subject matter experts and hold training sessions. Outline the ideal processes and figure out who will give the final approvals on all materials.

  4. Set up notifications, monitoring systems, and channels for both internal and external communications. Leveraging Announcements in a social collaboration and engagement tool like Paylocity’s Community, is a great way to send important updates directly to employees’ mobile devices. Identify who will monitor social media, Community, PR Newswire, Google Alerts, and more.

    Groups in Community are a great way to bring people together, whether for social or productivity reasons. HR Director Rachael Sobon from CRP Industries saw increased collaboration and engagement when their family-owned automotive and industrial manufacturing company began to use Community. It also became the single source of truth for her employees to access executive messages, critical updates, and more. Rachael explains that, prior to the adoption of Community, urgent messages were delivered through a top-down cascade of phone calls, emails, and other messages to employees. Now, they post the update to Community, which triggers emails and pop-up notifications to her entire workforce on their mobile devices. “Trying to make it easy for the employees is our goal,” Rachael says. “And Paylocity certainly helps us do that.”

  5. Develop standard messaging and adjust as necessary. Have a few pre-approved messages ready to go to save you time when you need to act quickly. Prepare a few different statements for each of your various audiences, such as employees, customers and media.

  6. Communicate to your workforce transparently and often. In times of uncertainty, employees will want to hear from leadership and their direct managers. Your communications plan should include frequent and transparent messages to employees from these key individuals through a variety of channels. Multimedia content, such as podcasts and videos add authenticity and a personal touch, helping leadership connect with a remote or disjointed workforce.

    Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, no one at GT Midwest worked remotely. That all changed within the span of a week. HR Manager Amanda Kreutzer and the GT Midwest leadership team leveraged Paylocity tools to communicate and maintain connections. “My plan is to give them an update every day, whether it centers around COVID-19 or information about insurance, the company, or whatever they need to hear,” Amanda explains. Read more about how GT Midwest is using videos and Announcements on Community during the COVID-19 pandemic to share critical information and engage employees.

  7. Find ways to connect, engage, and improve team morale. Especially for a newly remote workforce, maintaining employee connections and culture may be challenging, but it’s more important than ever. Simple things such as exercise groups or sharing tips on working from home with kids can really help bring people together.

    “Communication is a really important part of how you build culture,” says TruCut’s HR Manager, Mike Lesch. TruCut’s employee base has evolved in recent years with a mix of Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers. Connecting across multiple generations can be a struggle for any organization, let alone, in times of turmoil. Lesch recently deployed Community and saw Trucut employees really come together. “This all helps reinforce the most important aspect of the TruCut culture — the idea that we are all in it together and part of a close-knit community.” Give your employees a chance to share their experiences with each other and voice how things are going for them frequently to preserve that.

These days, we’re all looking for ways to stay connected and informed. Especially during times of crisis, your business needs ways to reach employees quickly and efficiently. More and more, the modern workforce is looking for companies to be forward-thinking, especially when it comes to culture and experience. A big part of thoughtfully creating that for your employees includes being prepared for the unexpected with the when, who, where, and how.

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