One month on and the Brits are still grappling with the shock result of their Brexit referendum. Three thousand miles away, and the Americans are in the midst of what has to be the most spectacular election campaign in living memory.
Only time will tell if this is the start of a better future. But right now, there’s a job to be done to reassure, unite and guide employees through this ambiguous time.
Uncertainty gives folk the jitters. Employees feel vulnerable, confused, and look for direction. Ironically, this presents a golden opportunity for business leaders to drive unity and demonstrate leadership skills. But, how?
Stand up all you internal communicators! Seize this historic occasion to prove your worth and make a difference.
Drive unity by following these pointers for communicating effectively in uncertain times.
- Invite employees to share their concerns with you confidentially, rather than publicly posting on the company intranet or collaboration platforms. This buys a little more time to prepare a fully researched response, rather than fire-fighting live conversations that can quickly spiral out of control.
- Communicate often – even if there’s not much to report. You won’t know all the answers yet, and nobody will expect this. If there’s a burning issue that needs addressing, be up front and explain it needs time to work through. This honesty strengthens the presence of the leadership team, and helps build a feeling of trust and attentiveness.
- Familiarise yourself with the Change Curve – a powerful model used to understand the six stages of human behaviour during change. (The stages are loosely defined as: blame others, blame self, uncertainty/confusion, acceptance/rationalisation, problem solving, and moving on.) Each stage requires different communication styles to ease an employee’s transition. Understanding the change journey will help you predict how employees are likely to react in the coming months, and plan communications accordingly.
- Take a “campaign’” approach to internal communications to ensure momentum is not lost. This structured approach will ensure staff remain aware and therefore involved in what’s happening. For example, create a bundle of messages that are drip fed and repeated over a defined period. Powerful internal communication channels such as desktop alerts, scrolling tickers, and digital screensavers can produce a highly effective campaign to get employee attention.
- Prepare for different scenarios. Nobody knows how the future will play out. For the Brits, there are already some employment issues surfacing. For the Americans, international trade agreements are at risk, impacting jobs. Think ahead and anticipate concerns. For example, if you employ European Union citizens who do not have a British passport, they will be worried about their future rights.
- Adopt the default “mushroom management” technique i.e., keeping your employees in the dark. This will only ignite the rumor mill.
- Forget to measure engagement levels. It’s critical to know who’s actually opening, reading, and understanding the messages you’re pushing out. Tracking and validation tools offer accurate insights into the gaps and engagement rates of employees.
- Assume one-size-fits all. Think carefully about which channels will get employee attention, and are fit for purpose. For example, non-urgent content could be packaged and distributed via monthly updates. This leaves breathing space for urgent, essential communications to get the attention they deserve.
- Ignore new technologies. Today’s employees deserve more than email. Keep up-to-date on new tools designed that could meet your exact needs.
In summary, nobody knows what’s in store. Anxiety and tension will naturally occur, especially when people feel excluded.
Transitioning through a period of change requires strong leadership. And effective communication is a well-recognised hallmark of every good leader. Communicate through the change journey in a structured and empathetic manner, and you’ll win over the hearts and minds of your employees.
Want to learn more about communicating in uncertain times?