On average, people speak approximately 16,000 words per day. But just because a person speaks a lot doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to arrange their words in a way that inspires and informs.

That’s because speaking and communicating are two different skills.

Think about it: How many people do you know who can talk ad nauseam without saying much of anything? This kind of behavior might be annoying or tiresome in a social setting, but it’s ultimately harmless. However, in business, the stakes are much higher, and poor communication could cost an organization time, money and even employees.

The Case for Critical Communication

In times of crisis, making your words count is more important than ever. The events of the past two years have underscored this fundamental truth. Organizations with dispersed workforces need to effectively communicate with their employees — whether that means relaying critical company information or connecting with workers in the event of a lockdown.

The COVID-19 pandemic aside, organizations need robust internal communication strategies to weather the highs and lows of doing business. For instance, imagine that a business’ employees have gone on strike. In this case, approaching employee communication from a place of compassion and transparency can go a long way toward mitigating damage, building trust and resolving underlying issues. And during negotiations, sharing accurate information with employees helps promote a safe, seamless return to work.

Sometimes, real-time communication can be the difference between life and death. For example, in the event of a food recall, time is of the essence. Manufacturers need to be able to communicate with plants, retailers and the public in real time to protect lives, preserve their brand reputations and retain resources.

No One Left Behind

Yet leaders consistently fall short when it comes to effective employee communication. One study found that of managers say they’re uncomfortable with essential, everyday communication. That’s especially troubling where front-line workers are concerned. Despite representing 80% of the world’s workforce, these employees have long been relegated to the back burner for companywide communication.

Often, front-line employees do not have access to computers or a company email address. Instead, they must rely on notice boards for updates, but this form of communication is outdated and certainly isn’t helpful during a crisis. To successfully manage crises, companies must cater their communication to front-line employees. Here’s how they can do this:

  1. Adopt processes and tools that enable real-time information sharing.

    Organizations must keep their employees safe. A clear internal communication strategy can help by ensuring all parties know how to manage crises quickly and effectively. To that end, companies need to implement processes and tools that enable real-time information sharing. For instance, in the case of a safety hazard, an employee communication app will enable workers to log the incident as soon as it occurs to maintain operational efficiency amid chaos. All employees — but particularly those on the front lines — should be able to access this digital platform.

 

2. Have a well-documented crisis response plan in place.

Crises rarely announce themselves ahead of time. However, a ready-made crisis response plan will act as a “north star,” guiding all relevant stakeholders so they know how to pivot regardless of the obstacles ahead. However, 70% of change programs fail due to a lack of shared understanding, so communicating the plan is a vital next step. Provide front-line employees with information at their fingertips — rather than on notice boards or pieces of paper — to ensure everyone can row in the same direction.

3. Set up an effective feedback mechanism.

There must be a feedback loop to ensure employees understand what steps they need to take during a crisis. Setting up a feedback mechanism enables employees to ask questions and voice concerns about your crisis response plan — which, in turn, allows leaders to address issues before they escalate.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of employee communication, especially during these unpredictable times. Keeping employees, particularly those on your front lines, informed and reassured will ensure that you’re ready to respond to the next crisis — whatever it might be.

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