Why Employees Deserve Candid Communication

Learn why anticipating needs, planning ahead and expressing empathy is the key to success.

We’re roughly five months into the coronavirus pandemic, and at this point, we’ve all generally accepted we’re in this for the long haul. While conversations even a month or two ago centered around bouncing back after COVID-19, businesses are currently coming to terms (again) with how best to adapt during the health crisis.

 

Part of the evolving conversation is determining how to effectively communicate with internal audiences. Employees value openness, and business owners should examine whether their communication methods are working or falling flat.

 

Anticipate Needs

By anticipating employees’ needs, company executives will be better prepared when questions inevitably arise. A major topic currently on working parents’ minds, for example, is the upcoming school year. With many districts implementing A/B classroom schedules and virtual learning, how will parents balance work with childcare? Business owners should closely follow the rapidly evolving school environment and communicate with employees any workplace changes which might occur prior to the start of school.

 

Additionally, if executives are unaware of employees’ personal situations — whether or not employees are working parents — surveying them and asking for feedback is always a good idea. Ask about preferences, pain points, desires, etc. to determine how best to move forward.

 

The pandemic has caused the line between employees’ professional and personal lives to blur, and there’s been no exception for C-suite executives. Expressing empathy and sharing how their families are also impacted will help business leaders build trust and camaraderie among their teams. Let’s face it: we all need extra emotional support right now. Communicating with care and compassion shows companies are there for their employees.

 

Plan Ahead

With coronavirus cases increasing in nearly every state, the future of the workplace is being called into question. If employers have the ability to not make employees guess workplace priorities week-to-week, they should consider long-term messaging and options. Provide a plan for the next few months if possible, keeping in mind the holidays are looming on the horizon.

 

Businesses might even follow the example of top retailers — Walmart, Target and Best Buy, among other brands, have announced their stores will be closed on Thanksgiving Day this year. Why did companies make this announcement four months before Thanksgiving, long before their customers or employees were thinking about holiday plans? Simple: to project certainty and provide reassurance about the future.

 

Business owners aren’t expected to have all the answers, but even proactively communicating if paid time off, company handbooks and family leave policies are being reevaluated will help ease uncertainty.

 

Mix Up Communication Methods

Is it possible to overcommunicate with employees? As with most things, it depends. Examine how often and in what ways information is being shared, keeping in mind many people are on information overload and are frankly tired of hearing about COVID-19. Nothing beats good old-fashioned one-on-one communication, but when that’s not possible, getting creative with communication methods is key to survival. A barrage of lengthy Slack messages, for example, will likely turn off employees. Mix up communication by providing updates through email, the company intranet and newsletters, or even host a biweekly or monthly virtual town hall.

 

Effective communication isn’t just about employee satisfaction; people talk, and a lack of leadership is likely to negatively affect companies’ external brand reputations. Each employer must do what’s best for their team, but at the end of the day, those who communicate frequently, humanely and strategically will rise above the rest.

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