Delivering Effective Employee Communications During a Crisis
In times of crisis, great leaders—and companies—emerge. Clear, consistent and frequent employee communication is vital. Don’t leave employees guessing. Don’t leave room for uncertainty. The messages you deliver set the tone for a lot more than you realize.
Communication is king
Together, we are facing an unprecedented global crisis. COVID-19 has changed every single aspect of our lives. And since this is a business blog, I’ll do my very best to focus on how it’s changing the way we work.
Communication—without a doubt—is one of the most important elements to managing a crisis. Whether you’re disseminating information, or a recipient of the information provided, how the message is delivered sets the tone for a lot more than you realize.
How you handle COVID-19, especially through employee communication, can make or break employee engagement. The actions you take as a business today, have the potential to shift your culture forever. The words your leaders speak can either reflect your company’s values or diminish them altogether.
Here’s why. Employees are scared (even if they say they aren’t!) because there is so much we don’t know. Also, they’re not just your employees. They are wives, husbands, parents, children, caregivers and maybe even patients.
As an employer, you need to do everything you can diminish uncertainty in this uncertain world. You must communicate to employees what you know, and how it impacts your business with sensitivity.
Explain what it means to every employee and outline your expectations of them. Address any changes you’re making to deadlines, compensation or policies (i.e. work from home). Give them specific calls to action. Whatever you do, do not leave them guessing.
With that said, focus on the facts related only to your business. Do not comment or speculate on what will happen in the future—leave that to the experts. Refer employees to reputable outside resources for the things not in your immediate control. For example, link to tips and information on COVID-19 from the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (if you’re in the United States).
When and how often you communicate with employees is entirely up to you. You know your business—and employees—better than anyone else. But when things are changing by the minute, overcommunicating is better than not communicating at all.
Creating a great experience
In times of crisis, great leaders—and companies—emerge. Clear, consistent and frequent employee communication is vital. To recap thus far, don’t leave employees guessing. Don’t leave room for uncertainty. Use this moment in time to solidify who you are as a company.
After you determine what you’ll communicate and how often, think about how you will communicate. Yes, the mechanics matter. My advice is to use whatever communications channel—email, messaging platform or enterprise social networking—you use every day. That’s where employees will be looking for your messages. But it’s also important to consider the overall employee experience you want to create.
So much of communication is nonverbal. Body language and facial expressions matter. They increase understanding and establish a better perspective of what the message means for the viewer. That’s exactly why video is emerging as the most effective way to communicate when you can’t meet in person.
In fact, a recent Wainhouse Research survey found 82% of those surveyed described video as an effective tool for communicating work-related information.1
Here’s a little more food for thought. With more and more people working from home right now, they might feel isolated or disconnected. Video is one way you can communicate with employees, keeping them engaged and connected. So, if you’re not already using video, it is something you should consider.
Companies like Microsoft have made it easier than ever to record, share and watch videos. It’s as easy as using your computer’s camera to record a message you can send to employees. And for today, that’s exactly what you might need to do—from your home office.
Distributing the video
Let’s go one step beyond why, when and how you should communicate. If you use video to deliver business communications or employee training, you need to consider how it might impact your network.
But this is where it gets tricky. Today, many of us are working from home. As a result, we’re probably not using the corporate network. We’re using the public internet.
When everyone is in the office—or your employees are at your place of business out of necessity—it’s a different situation altogether. High-quality video eats up a lot of bandwidth, and most corporate networks aren’t sized to handle it. The more you scale, the more your network becomes stressed.
To help paint a picture, it takes approximately 20,000 mbps of bandwidth to webcast to 10,000 people.2 Just imagine what that would do to your network (and the rest of your business applications). All of a sudden, your network has to handle 20,000 mbps extra data. Everything slows like a busy highway during rush hour.
For example, let’s talk about what’s happening at medical facilities today. The COVID-19 situation is changing by the hour. Employee communication is literally a matter of life and death. Leaders need to keep medical staff up to date. Just imagine what could happen during a shift change at a large hospital group. Everyone logs in and watches a video message from the head of infectious diseases at the same time. All of a sudden, massive amounts of data are travelling the network, slowing down access to critical systems such as electronic health records.
An enterprise content delivery network (eCDN) can minimize network congestion created by both live and on-demand video. By managing video distribution behind the firewall, you protect your business operations while delivering an uninterrupted, glitch-free experience to the people watching.
A final word
Thank you to everyone who is on the front lines caring for others and working tirelessly to stop the spread of COVAD-19. We know you’re making a sacrifice to keep us safe, and we hold you in the highest regard.
2 For this calculation, we’re assuming one video stream is equal to 2mbps.