Lockdown: robust internal comms practice to survive the pandemic

by Angela Hughes, Director

In part one of our internal comms blog, we cover the importance of strategy, visibility and compassion. Employees have had to respond to a huge, unplanned shift in working practices, bringing the importance of internal communications into sharp focus. We’ve seen examples of companies who have handled it poorly being shamed on social media. Here are some tips on what you can do now to ensure you master employee comms through the crisis:

Update your internal communications strategy

It’s highly likely all employees have changed their working arrangements in some way, whether moving from office to home, following stringent health and safety rules, or they’ve been furloughed, meaning existing internal communications strategies are outdated. There will be obvious changes, such as cancellation of the company away day in June. Then there’s planning what channels to use to communicate with a newly remote workforce. Revise your messaging to ensure employees know what’s expected of them, while acknowledging personal anxiety levels. Special consideration may have to be given to specific groups, such as those who are furloughed. The CIPR has produced a useful guide to communicating with furloughed employees.

Out of sight. Not out of mind

Many businesses have experienced a crash course in flexible working, with teams dispersed from the workplace for the first time. This means we need to find new ways of communicating with teams. Sending the occasional email won’t cut it, and internal communicators and line managers must be proactive and consistent when communicating with employees. Thankfully, modern technology has enabled online interaction at the touch of a button, with video conferencing helping to replicate face-to-face meetings. While the temptation to micromanage is real, there is a balance to be struck, particularly for businesses who are new to remote working. Ensure your team catch ups are structured, relevant and designed as opportunities to talk and, importantly, to listen — not an excuse to check-up on people.

Leaders must be visible — and human

Some internal communications principles remain as relevant as ever, including the need for leaders to be highly engaged with employee comms. People will look to senior management for reassurance and direction. Leaders must communicate regularly with the workforce, sharing honest and accurate information on the impact of Coronavirus on operations. And it’s vital they show compassion and understanding. A boss who appears to only care about the bottom line is likely to pay in the longer-term. Internal communicators may have to coach leaders to be as charismatic on Zoom as they are on the shop floor.

Click here for part two: Plan Employee Engagement with Coronavirus Exit Strategy.