How communicators can promote stability amid volatility

Don’t sweep issues under the rug; communicate with transparency and empathy. Prioritize employee engagement, and remind workers of their value.

Amid today’s tumult, is “Keep calm and carry on,” enough?

In recent years, the world has seen a series of profound political changes, turmoil and jarring events.

From Brexit to Trump to North Korea and the ongoing chaos in the Middle East, there has been no shortage of anxiety-inducing upheaval. Here in Brazil, the former president, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached, and the country saw an unprecedented decline in trust in the government. The U.S., meanwhile, has “suffered the largest-ever-recorded drop in trust” in several once-revered institutions.

Unfortunately, the effects of political instability are not limited to economic or diplomatic concerns. All this uncertainty affects business organizations—especially in terms of communications.

Here’s how communicators can promote an atmosphere of confidence, stability and trust in a volatile world:

External uncertainty increases the need for internal stability, certainty and purpose. Now more than ever, leaders must project clarity and certainty to employees. The best way to do this is to present a substantive, inspiring, consistent purpose.

It’s vital that staffers receive a clear view of how their individual work contributes to the larger purposes of the company. Everyone wants to feel connected to something bigger than themselves, but many employees struggle to recognize the worth of their work. One U.K. survey found that 37 percent of British workers felt their jobs are “meaningless.” To fight this malaise, communicators should consistently remind employees how valuable—and meaningful—their work is.

Leaders should prioritize employee engagement. We’re living in a time of extreme skepticism. According to one outlet, we’ve shifted mindsets from “trust, but verify,” to “verify, then trust.”

Mistrust stymies employee engagement, but consistent, clear and uplifting internal communication is fuel for engagement fire. This should be a top priority for any company that plans to keep workers motivated and happy.

Geopolitical uncertainties can shake employee confidence as much as economic woes, but companies that prioritize transparent, empathetic employee engagement will have a competitive advantage. Instead of ignoring major events—and any possible fallout that might affect the company—tackle issues head on, and hold candid discussions with employees. Communicate openly about the course the company plans to take. Fielding and answering any pressing questions will alleviate fears and improve morale.

Communicators should work to maintain a unified, confident, employee-focused company culture. This requires dedication, resources and investment and strong leaders who are committed to building a culture that prioritizes the needs and preferences of workers.

In times of crises and instability, company culture becomes even more important—and apparent. Leaders should work each day to promote a stable, transparent internal environment. When people are on edge, that’s not the time to go silent.

Strong leadership also requires emotional intelligence and empathy. To communicate effectively, you must be able to see things from the other person’s perspective. If your executives struggle in this regard, communicators should bridge the gap between leaders and workers. Force them to listen to one another, if necessary.

Personal, candid dialogue is essential for building a culture of trust, even when it seems the rest of the world is on fire.

Rogério Artoni is founder and executive director of Brazil-based Race Communications.

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