In Times of Crisis: Don’t Forget Your Frontline Workers

In Times of Crisis: Don’t Forget Your Frontline Workers

I’ve read a lot of great articles about how to prepare a crisis communications plan to respond to Covid-19. But one thing seems to be missing is the plan for preparing frontline workers.

It’s easy to tell your corporate team to work from home to keep your business running. But how will your company respond when six out of the ten people scheduled for a shift call in sick? Or when one member of the third shift of a production line gets Covid-19 and all other shift members must quarantine?

Not only do scenarios like these have major impacts on your ability to run your business, they also have a big impact on the hourly employees who only get paid if they work. Do you have a plan in place to support all your employees during these times?

Use these five tips to ensure your frontline workers are supported in your crisis comms plan.

1. Don’t wait until your organization is impacted to communicate with frontline workers. 

It’s important for your organization to address Covid-19 with employees and show that your organization has a plan. Reassure employees by providing a high-level overview to everyone. But be sure to keep communication to frontline workers relevant to them. Communicate that instructions will be delivered immediately, if locations are impacted by the illness. And remind them that the safety and health of employees is the number one priority of the leadership team. In this initial communication, you should also provide answers to FAQs and an email address or hotline that employees can email or call if they have questions and concerns. 

NOTE: Don’t create a new hotline. Try to repurpose an existing line that employees already access and prepare the call center team with talking points.

2. Review your benefits programs to determine how both hourly and salaried employees are paid during involuntary leave. 

A recent article in Harvard Business Review shared some great tips. Whether it’s kicking in short-term disability benefits or incorporating some emergency plans for impacted employees, employees will appreciate that you are taking care of them during this time.

3. Make sure frontline workers have access to information both from the organization and the experts (i.e. CDC, Local Health Department, WHO).

Communicate your plans as an organization to respond to a Covid-19 outbreak through all communication channels (email, mobile, intranet, signage, etc.). And put links to the expert sites in these same locations. Your communications team should not try to become the source of truth. Leave that to the organizations that have all the facts and can make the correct recommendations. 

NOTE: Make sure your internal and external comms are aligned, and ensure any message that goes out on an external channel is communicated internally first (or at least simultaneously). 

4. Target communication to impacted teams as much as possible. 

While you as a communicator need to know the impact to your entire organization, a manager at a retail store in Dallas doesn’t need to receive an urgent alert that the stores in Seattle are closing. It can create unnecessary panic. And it’s more likely that alerts and critical messages will be missed, when irrelevant communication is sent too often. 

5. Create a communications loop for questions and reporting illnesses and closures. 

Ensuring that there is a place for employees to go with their questions is key. Some employees may be more concerned than others and want more information. Giving these employees a means of getting answers can prevent unnecessary panic. It’s key to have a way for mid-level managers to reach executive leaders to make quick decisions about closures and communications. This includes having operational closure checklists prepared for managers to quickly and confidently execute. This will ensure the health of your employees and also save your business unnecessary costs. 

We learn something new each time we work through a crisis situation. This is why it’s incredibly important to evaluate the effectiveness of your plan after you’ve weathered the storm. Your evaluation needs to include feedback from your deskless employees to ensure your response kept them informed, supported, and safe.

For more tips on creating a crisis comms strategy, check out Amy’s blog Five Tips to Get Ahead of Crisis.

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