When a crisis occurs, people tend to freak out.
As a communicator, it’s your responsibility to ensure that everyone in your organization has the right information at the right time. Here are four communication techniques that will help you keep people informed and confidence high:
1. Use direct, transparent language to explain how people should proceed.
Instead of offering a vague, “Use your best judgment,” communicate with authority, using terms that can’t be misconstrued. You don’t want any gray areas with your communication.
Instead, you could say: “Please cancel all international travel. All travel, regardless of the importance of the meeting, should be canceled and meetings rescheduled as videoconference calls.”
This gives your team the authority to modify plans without worrying about upsetting a manager. You can’t leave anything up to guessing, or mass confusion will occur.
2. Share important news as quickly as possible.
At one company, an employee contracted coronavirus and didn’t take any action until the news got out to media outlets. This put the company in a bad light and put other employees at risk.
If you have bad news, share it candidly along with clear, concise language on what should be done next. You don’t want to scare everyone, but erring on the side of safety is always smart.
Quickly sharing news with your team will go a long way.
3. Set up a new email address and response team for all outbreak-related concerns
If you don’t have a specific email address for employees to inquire and learn about the virus, set one up. Every relevant email should remind employees that they have dedicated team leaders who can answer informational and procedural questions.
This shows you’re proactive about the crisis and that you want employees to email any time they have any doubts about what they should be doing.
4. Create guidelines on remote working standards.
This virus will have a long-term impact on how companies work remotely. If your company is not already remote-friendly, think about how it could function remotely in the near future.
Here are three things you should include in this document:
- Expectations of working hours. Some companies have zero expectations about when or how you work, as long as you get your work done; some want you to be online during certain hours, with no exceptions. Define your approach clearly.
- How to effectively use communication tools like email, teams and telephone. teams has “do not disturb” abilities that can be beneficial for employees unaccustomed to using such tools. Keep email short and to the point, send under two minutes of content if you want employees to read all of your message. Some companies advise, “If your email is longer than two paragraphs, get on the phone or send a direct message via teams to get a quick response.”
- Data security. If employees are working from home much of the time, it’s important they know protocols for handling the company’s data. For example, some companies have strict rules against printing things at home, because confidential material would be outside their premises.
Preparing the team to work remotely is an effective way of keeping the company productive and ready for an array of contingencies.
Considering that COVID-19 is still spreading, it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen next. Many conferences have been canceled, and companies have moved to remote-only work for precautionary reasons. This means proper communication is more important than ever. Use the above tips during this crisis, and your company will be better off.
Michael DesRochers is the CEO of PoliteMail, an email intelligence platform for Outlook. This article is in partnership with PoliteMail.