Employee Communication & Your Employer Brand
We’ve been watching the drama unfolding around the world. But it’s no longer an international problem.
It’s a domestic problem.
And it’s a business problem.
And businesses are now beginning to address it.
Three Reasons to Communicate to Your Employees About Coronavirus
1. Demonstrate Care
2. Eliminate Speculation
3. Build Reassurance
Based on the events of the past few weeks, businesses in the U.S. are now preparing for both the direct and indirect impacts of a coronavirus pandemic. Leaders and risk managers are not waiting until something more significant happens. Communication is being created now.
Businesses have a complex set of stakeholders, so communication strategies should be developed to address specific audiences based on operational impact, risk profile, mobility, etc. Employee communication, in particular, is critical at all levels because employees are already thinking about how their company will respond and how they will be impacted.
Ideally, employee communication is delivered to employee groups segmented based on level of risk exposure, whether they can work remotely, staggered shifts, etc. in order to maintain continuity of operations and service level commitments to customers.
Suddenly that business continuity exercise you did years ago feels really important. Companies that have not executed a trial run of remote work arrangements might find it’s a priority now. And it gets a lot more exciting real fast when forced to ask questions like…
Is the company prepared to implement safety measures for employees in high risk roles?
How can services be maintained with a 30% reduction in workforce availability?
Has succession planning provided a framework for backup leadership in the event leaders are unavailable?
Are supervisors and managers aware of their responsibilities related to communication, safety, security, etc.?
In a real continuity of operations planning exercise, the list of questions is a lot longer and gets a lot tougher. But there’s a human side to all the operations planning. It’s often said that people don’t remember what you say but they always remember how you made them feel. Either your employees are going to feel cared for or abandoned during a business survival exercise. You will show your hand either way.
Here’s why you want to communicate to your team the right way.
Three Reasons to Communicate to Your Employees About Coronavirus
Reason Number 1. Demonstrate Care
This is a critical opportunity right now to demonstrate care and concern for your people.
If you don’t communicate something, that will send a different message and they will hear that loud and clear too.
SHRM, Gardner and others already have been vocal about the fact that corporate HR needs to prioritize people issues, both preventative and responsive. Even job boards like Ladders and Glassdoor are addressing the issue with preemptive communication. While every company has a unique set of requirements for addressing continuity of operations, the focus here is on how the business shows up to its staff level employees who are typically critical to operations – because, regardless of the coronavirus outcome, your employees will remember how you handled it.
Reason Number 2. Eliminate Speculation
Your employees are already wondering about the impact on the company, customers, jobs, etc.
If you don’t communicate something, they will fill in the blank with something that isn’t good, guaranteed.
It’s normal; uncertainty is scary. Your employees will eventually, if not already, be thinking about their safety, their jobs, impact on the company, how to keep working and a lot more. Unfortunately, in the absence of real information, the human mind is happy to fill in the blanks – and it’s usually not pretty. Eliminate the speculation. Fill in the blanks with a plan and real updates.
Reason Number 3. Build Reassurance
First, recognize that we are all people, and we are all in this together – but we all have different concerns.
While your employees are concerned about their families, their loved ones and their jobs, you must also demonstrate that you will protect the business – for the company, the customers and the employees.
Communicate with confidence that “we got this.” It’s okay to admit that this is a potentially big issue, but confidence is created in also communicating that the plans which have been used successfully in the past will be leveraged again. And remember the balancing act of care for the employee, the business and the customer. Of course, being specific will make it more reassuring – whether it is business travel restrictions, use of safety equipment, remote work arrangements, etc.
In our work with Employer Branding and Re-branding strategy and implementation, we find there’s frequently a disconnect between leadership’s perception of the Employer Brand and the workforce’s perception of the Employer Brand. In short, an organization’s Employer Brand is the public perception of the business as an employer. We all know of organizations which have incredibly wonderful consumer brands but pathetic employer reputations. This critical distinction is now one of the single-most significant factors affecting Talent Attraction and Retention.
At no time in history has any organization every had to put more attention on their public employer persona because never before in history has so much public information ever been available to job seekers.
After years of consulting with companies on improving their public reputation as an employer to become an Employer of Choice and attract High-Performing Talent, our position is that ignoring the coronavirus issue will be a huge missed opportunity and reinforce an existing negative Employer Brand…OR…it will be a powerful way for an organization to demonstrate its care and concern for its flock, dramatically enhancing the public perception of the business as an Employer of Choice.
No business is going to escape this one. Every organization will fall on the on one side or the other.
If you want more information about how to evaluate and transform your public Employer Brand and employer reputation, check out the information below.
Regarding the creation and delivery of internal employee communication related to coronavirus, look no further than the global giant Intel for a real-life example of swift and meaningful internal communication:
Intel Supplier Communication Coronavirus
Intel supplier communications take note of the update to Intel’s response and its coronavirus policy
How ProForce Can Help
Employer Branding Strategy and Support
ProForce offers consultative support, executive messaging, talent acquisition strategy and planning, training and development and other critical essentials in support of building or re-building an Employer Brand to create a public profile as an Employer of Choice.
WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Job seekers research prospective employers first. Candidates and employees have many employment options and alternatives. Top companies have a public reputation as an Employer of Choice and with it, the ability to attract high-performing talent and retain high performers. How your organization shows up as an employer over the coming weeks will make a huge difference – bad or good.
Need more information? Our most popular webinar is now online and explains what the most successful companies are doing to attract talent in a competitive employee market. Register for free here: https://joinnow.live/s/ZHkfSf
Recruiting as a Service
ProForce offers 100% virtualized remote recruiting support that is fractional and on demand as needed.
WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Recruiting as a Service as an option if you experience disruption in internal talent acquisition operations. Our virtual recruiting support is a scalable solution if you experience a reduction in workforce availability due to illness, access to the workplace, etc. It’s also an option for businesses that need to immediately reduce cost of operations while maintaining recruiting capability to support internal and external customers.
Recommended Additional Resources
COVID-19 Coronavirus Employee Communication and Your Employer Brand
Combating The Coronavirus at Work
CDC: How Americans should prepare for school and workplace closures due to coronavirus
Current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories
Coronavirus: Protecting Your Employees and Business
How to Handle the Coronavirus in the Workplace
Coronavirus Concerns in the Workplace
10 Questions for an HR Pandemic Plan
These 3 things will stop Coronavirus from killing you
Update: March 5, 2020
Comments to an Operational Leader in a Multi-State Org with Employees in Roles with High Public Exposure
The information in the article and the links above represent different sides of an employer‘s concern regarding coronavirus.
Voice of the Employee
First, employees are watching to see how their employer will handle the increasing public concern and whether or not the employer demonstrates concern for them or just the economic impact to the business or demonstrates no concern at all. How the company responds to the concerns of it’s employees will impact the perception of the employer brand long into the future, good or bad.
Voice of the Business
Second, since the increasing coronavirus infection risk is a known public health emergency, employers will likely be held to a standard consistent with the risk profile of their employee population. At a minimum, OSHA regulatory standards mandate that employers take reasonable and appropriate cautionary measures to protect the health and safety of employees. This will certainly open up potential areas of liability for companies that don’t respond appropriately.
Voice of the Customer
One final thought is that regardless of the currently morbidity rate, the operational, financial and reputational impact on a business will be significant if employees in high-risk activities are identified through contact tracing as having been simply exposed to someone with coronavirus. Schools, first responders and healthcare organizations are already feeling the impact of losing up to 25% of their staff availability due to mandatory quarantine after inadvertent exposure. Because contact tracing identifies everyone who may have come in contact with an infected individual, the impact on a business can be extraordinary. Organizations with employees at higher risk can avoid significant operational disruption and financial impact by implementing risk mitigation measures early. This type of corporate response is not simply self-serving. It ensures that the organization maintains capacity and capability to continue to deliver services. And that’s good for customers.
About the Author
Mark Galvan is a Managing Partner at ProForce where he continues his work disruptive talent acquisition strategies to provide competitive advantage to clients. Mark leverages insight and capability developed over more than two decades in talent management, outsourcing, consulting, lean six sigma, operational excellence, leadership and strategic planning to enable clients to differentiate in an increasingly candidate market and compete to win talent.
Find him on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markgalvan/