When crisis strikes, will you be ready to communicate with all employees so you can own the internal narrative?
With the 24-hour news cycle, a story about your organization can hit the wires or social media at any moment. Do you have a strategy in place for handling crisis? Is your leadership team in the loop and supportive of the plan?
For those who don’t have a plan, here are 5 tips to be more proactive about your internal reaction to a crisis and ensure that you are prepared:
1. Have an approved plan that puts your employees first. It’s key to have a pre-approved plan in place when crisis strike to make sure you’re able to respond quickly. While the initial reaction is to try to control the narrative externally, don’t forget about your most powerful voice — your employees. They want to be in-the-know and certainly don’t want to find out through other sources like the major news networks or social media. They want to hear it from you first.
2. Loop in your leaders. Even if it’s just a few minutes before, giving your people leaders a heads up on what is about to be communicated across the organization will give them time to prepare for questions from their team, not to mention demonstrate a unified response company-wide. Take it from someone who knows — there is no worse feeling for a manager to have to answer the question of what’s going on with the response: “I don’t know, I just found out too.”
3. Give employees an internal channel to ask questions. Employees will have questions. Rather than having them ask them via places like internal social media channels, give them a channel that you can control — but make sure to be ready to monitor it and timely respond.
4. Respond quickly, yet deliberatively. Share just the right amount of information. There will be details that are confidential and that don’t need to be disclosed (especially if legal is involved and is still working to understand the facts). The most important thing is to acknowledge the situation in a timely fashion and assure your employees that you will let them know what is going on as soon as the details are known.
5. Conduct a post-crisis evaluation of the plan to learn what worked and what didn’t. Were your people leaders given enough information to effectively communicate with their direct reports? Did the information get to them quickly and efficiently? Did employees understand the impact of the crisis both on the organization as a whole, their teams and themselves personally? Did the messaging and communication align with the vision/mission/values of the company? Ask your employees these questions. Learn from the situation and adjust your plan as needed.
To summarize — employee morale and engagement are tested and at their most vulnerable during times of crisis and change. Being transparent with employees and letting them see through your actions and that of leadership are critical during tough times and will prove instrumental when it comes to dispelling rumors and maintaining employee trust. However, this requires proactivity and a solid plan to react when the crisis hits.
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