As we all cope with the global outbreak, communicators and the professionals who manage the employee experience within their organizations have questions.
We just held a webinar, “Maintaining the Employee Experience in the Time of the Coronavirus” with Carrie Goldstein of Cheer Partners, and we were overwhelmed by the number of attendees and the thoughtful questions they asked.
It can often feel like we have thankless roles, and our work goes unnoticed. But not now. The coronavirus (COVID-19) has highlighted the importance of what we do to help keep our colleagues informed and safe while also protecting business continuity during this unprecedented time.
There were so many great questions that Carrie and I didn’t get to all of them. So, we’re answering them here. But I encourage you to listen to the webinar. Even though we’re all incredibly busy, it will be worth your time. It’s the virtual hug that we can all use right now.
What Do You Recommend for a Communication Cadence?
Becky: “It depends. If you’re a hospital, you’re probably delivering more than one communication a day. Other organizations? Two or three times a week might be good. I certainly wouldn’t go less than that. I would suggest once a day so that people know that we’re checking in. Whatever cadence you select, try to stick to it because employees will notice if there’s a long lag and could assume the worst.”
Carrie: “It can also be from different leaders. Maybe it’s a big corporate message twice a week, and breaking news as needed. There can be something from HR, too. And there probably should be something from front-line managers at least once a week that consists solely of, ‘How are you doing?’ I see it like Keanu Reeves in ‘The Matrix’ where he’s bending into those crazy shapes. You need that kind of agility to react in the moment.”
Becky: “I would add that if you do have the ability to segment your audience, create unique messages to different target groups.”
How Do You Strike a Balance Between “Fun” and Wellness?
Becky: “Fun is about creating emotional moments that are temporary breaks from everything we’re experiencing. In the long run, wellness is going to be much more important. It speaks to our physical and mental well-being. I would be pointing people to benefit, financial, and counseling resources. Also, create places where people can meet virtually with colleagues. It’s about really taking care of themselves and recognizing when they’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed with family pressures, personal pressures, and financial pressures while they’re still meeting the demands of their jobs.”
Carrie: “I would add that quick-hit reminders are important. Things like sharing with colleagues the supplies they might need to stockpile to help them get through this time. Some good novels. Coloring books for kids – and for adults. Stress balls. Reminders to step away from the desk, walk around, and stretch. Encourage your people to share their best tips. We have a client that has created a fitness resource group. Champion the idea of using the opportunity of working from home to stay healthy.”
How Should We Think about Communicating with WFH people and Those in the Usual Work Environment?
Becky: “You need to consider who can see your messages. Some will be able to see them on your intranet, but others won’t. You need to think through a day-in-the-life of the roles at your company. Who are your different audiences and where they can tune in to what you’re saying?”
Carrie: “It’s so important to ask your employees – especially those on the front lines – what they need. Ask them what they’re genuinely struggling with right now, and where the company can support them. It shows that the company is listening to them.”
Becky: “What Carrie said prompted another idea. Give talking points to the front-line managers every day. Maybe front-line workers at your organization don’t have access to digital tools. But most likely, their managers do. Equip them with easy-to-deliver information that they can pass on to their teams.”
Any Ideas to Keep Colleagues Connected When We’re Suddenly Far Apart?
Carrie: “Tap into your Employee Resource Group or create ones that support your employees in this new normal, such as working parents. Make sure they’re continuing to connect virtually and supporting each other with tips and tricks. Don’t lose that. You can also create a virtual water cooler channel that’s outside of your normal workflow where everyone can just talk. It can be about letting off steam and discussing what we’re all experiencing.”
Becky: “With that in mind, you could be organizing trivia contests. Sharing selfies. Pictures of your workspace. You can still celebrate birthdays and company anniversaries remotely. Virtual coffee breaks are good just to get everyone together, too.”
Carrie: “Honor your company’s traditions regardless of the current circumstances.”
What Are Your Thoughts about an Employee Advocacy Program?
Becky: “It’s definitely not business as usual. So, you probably wouldn’t want your people sharing messages around your product offering, unless is relates in a specific way to what people and organizations are experiencing right now. But there are great opportunities to have employees amplify messages that have a real-world impact on the public. For instance, our customer Cumberland Farms is having employees share information about alternate store hours and how they’re keeping their stores extra sanitized. Employee advocacy can be essential to highlight the great things you’re doing during this time for our customers and our people. Employee advocacy also gives people a way to stay connected to the pride they have in their companies.”
Carrie: “We’re all dealing with the crisis and wrapping our heads around things like working remotely and working differently. Hopefully, all of that gets resolved soon. But eventually, business as usual will resume. There’s a way to focus your employee advocates to come together to benefit both everyone in the short term and the long term.”
Additional Resources to Learn More
- Maintaining the Employee Experience in the Time of the Coronavirus Webinar Deck
- The New Employee Experience: Positive and Negative Influences of a Remote Workforce
- Why Employee Communication Matters More Than Ever
- Employee Communication in a Time of the Coronavirus
- CDC: Coronavirus Resource Website
- National Institutes of Health Resource Website
- World Health Organization Resource Website