The importance of feedback in crisis communication planning
The role of feedback has always been an important one in corporate circles. Whereas quarterly or annual reviews once dominated the feedback cycle many are moving toward workplace culture where feedback is given more organically, and more frequently.
With the pandemic in full effect, there is additional pressure on companies to address the urgent needs of their workforce. They may mean finding the means of allocating resources and determining what those resources may be. Maintaining contact with teams is essential, but eliciting feedback from them may not be your number one priority. We’re here to tell you, it should be.
Too often emergency plans and strategies are centric around processes, and the physical aspects of work, they do not factor for communication or offer any significant consideration to the people the emergency effects. The truth is, different people react to crisis differently, which means developing a corporate crisis communication plan should include different forms of communication, including a 2-way feedback cycle.
What should companies be doing right now?
Recently we were asked to participate in the “Leading in a Crisis – Actionable Business and HR Strategies for Navigating Crisis and Change” virtual summit. CEO and Co-Founder of Weeve, Vivek Mehta, spoke with Anisa Aven, CEO of Turnkey Coaching, to discuss specific actionable strategies and free tools your business can employ right now to implement a strategy for feedback to help you lead through this global crisis.
You can watch the full 53-minute discussion here https://youtu.be/OYPwbY_aMHY
During the talk, Vivek explains that communicating to your employees with empathy is the utmost important, especially in times like this. This starts with understanding what empathy means for your organization. It is universally important to feel heard and to be kept in the loop about what is happening, what decisions are being made, and why, but it is equally important to keep that conversation ongoing. The specifics of what that conversation looks like will differ with the cultures you've built. One communication style may work for one company but it may not work for another.
Feedback to engage employees
Asking your employees for feedback is an effective way to engage with them during times of uncertainty, but peppering them with a basic employee engagement survey is not the way to go. You want to ask them questions that are immediately relevant, and then you must communicate how you are using the data from what you are asking of them. That’s because nobody will engage with your survey, and spend time filling it out if they don't understand why they are doing it. They have more important things to deal with right now.
This is why instantaneous 2-way communication is so critical. Listening and responding quickly is always important, but it is an essential part of a crisis communication strategy.
The PwC Global Crisis Survey, conducted in 2019, studied how companies respond to global crisis. By taking the time to delve deep into real-world experiences of organizations, they were able to uncover some surprising findings, one of which being that 40% of leaders are unable to gather data quickly enough to make timely decisions during times like this. They do not have a clear crisis communication strategy. Even when they do, the outbound platforms, such as surveys, do not have a way to make sure that employees have received and understood the messages they've created for them.
Working through tough times with clarity
With companies in crisis, we are seeing a higher than average unemployment rate. Layoffs and furlough are terrible, nobody enjoys laying off their workforce, and we should not be hiding that fact. It is, however, important to be as understanding and human as possible. The benefit, right now, is that we are collectively going through this together, so there's an inherent level of sympathy. What we need to do is be honest, be open, and be timely in your updates. You must be able to help people answer any questions they have as quickly as possible. Supporting your people through the unemployment process, or even advocating for the people you are laying off can help.
Once the pandemic is over, you want your workforce to understand that you were right there with them; advocating for their wellbeing, listening to their problems, and offering solutions where possible. Layoffs are painful for everyone involved, and can even affect employees who stay employed. Layoffs and furlough signal to them that it’s possible their jobs are not safe in the future. This may have them coinciding outside offers and employment elsewhere when things return to normal.
The most important piece of your communication strategy should be centric around providing clarity, lowering confusion, and preventing miscommunication. Ultimately, your employees are the best determinant of how well, and how fast, your company will recover post-crisis. They drive the narrative. So, with a proper crisis communication plan in place employees themselves can prevent confusion and panic. After all, they are the ones to reassure customers and clients. In the end, they will be the ones to protect or define, your company image.
Weeve provides FREE tools to respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Having already established that 2-way communication with both empathy and understanding is an integral part of an effective crisis communication strategy, we’ve developed a means for organizations that need a temporary solution to the COVID-19 crisis. Kim, our empathetic colleague chat-bot has been updated with free pulse tools that will help you understand the needs of employees right now, during this pandemic. They can help you to engage employees in building solutions, crowdsourcing methods of application, and setting up a channel to provide feedback as necessary.
We know that it does nothing to just dump data on people's desks, especially in a crisis. This is why discovery and follow up can be automated using Kim. Companies can spend less time going back and forth trying to uncover the heart of problems employees are facing, which can shorten the issue-to-action time from a year to just 2 weeks.
Simply by regularly updating your workforce on latest policies updates, health and safety policies, what the impact to their jobs will be, and incorporating employee thoughts into your narrative, you are moving into a more empathetic approach to communication. This sends a message that there is an “us” mentality. Like, “We’re doing this as a team.”
Employees need to know that their managers are listening. Our pre-defined workflow with tools already ready to go simplify the process, but it does not replace “face-to-face” interactions. They merely set up the process so that by the time managers can “meet” with their employees, they are set up to make the most of the time they have together.
The most successful companies, over the next few years, will be the ones that were known to be open and honest with their employees during this time. They will be the ones who were able to successfully align vision with mission, and prove that everyone was in “this” together. They will truly iterate to their workforce that they are not facing this, or any crisis alone. They will have a systematic methodology for communicating to and receiving feedback from employees, now and in the future.
This is your opportunity to define the story of your company.
Try Weeve for FREE, and meet Kim! In the last few days, we've quickly developed a series of remote work and COVID-19 pulse tools for Kim, our emotionally-aware chatbot that gathers employee feedback with empathy. Think of Kim as a combination of pulse surveys + crowdsourcing + organic conversation.
We're making this offering available and free for all organizations. We hope that it helps you during this difficult time.