Today is the internal communicator’s finest hour.
The Brits' decision to exit the EU has taken many organizations by surprise. Now the focus for business must be to reassure employees and prevent a company-wide panic attack.
Here’s a quick guide to what and how you should be communicating during the upcoming weeks and months.
Your first communication task is to reassure employees. It’s human nature to think the worst, so convince the teams otherwise.
Calm the chaos by reminding them nothing will change immediately. Show you understand your employees' concerns by committing to communicating regularly. Create and share your internal communications plan, which outlines the process and timetable in which employees will be kept informed.
At this stage, it’s impossible to know exactly what you’ll be communicating in the coming months. But providing a framework on how you’ll be communicating will be appreciated.
- Push messaging
This is the time for top-down communications. Forget faddish collaboration tools, which are now proving to be a major time suck. Do not encourage staff to broadcast their anxieties over collaborative platforms. (Many organizations have recently suffered the fall-out from inaccurate employee posts, which have quickly spiraled out of control.)
Instead, take the lead and deploy specialist employee communication tools. These guarantee to get your messages out, at the right time, to the right people. The best ones can be up and running on your company’s network within 24 hours.
You still want to encourage employees to express their concerns, but get them to do this directly with their line manager or human resource team, or via a confidential survey.
- Recruit a team
Create a tight-knit working party to shape the comms and keep it relevant. This team should include those who have their ear on the ground and are not afraid to voice genuine concerns.
By now, some of the realities of Brexit will be surfacing. The anticipated changes will start to emerge, so it’s important to understand the Change Curve, and how people move through it differently.
Don’t sugarcoat communications. People are surprisingly resilient, and always prefer to know the facts rather than the half-baked truth.
Blame is a natural stage of the change cycle so focus on building trust and keeping employees informed by running regular updates. This should be a key priority for your CEO and other senior executives. Employees hearing news firsthand combats the spread of rumors.
- Structure campaigns
Set up ‘campaigns’ for your internal communications to ensure each topic gets fully covered. This could comprise a bundle of messages that are drip-fed and repeated over a defined period. A structured approach like this will ensure staff remain aware and therefore involved in what’s happening. Measurement tools monitor to track employee engagement.
- Ready for every outcome
By now, management will have made progress in understanding the impact of Brexit. This may mean some unpopular decisions need communicating.
Be ready for this important stage. Have your communication assets prepared in advance. Once a decision is made, it should be communicated as quickly as possible, or you run the risk of Chinese Whispers.
Be aware that this is when employees are starting to consider their options. Your best staff could be on the lookout for their next role if they’re feeling out of the loop. Keep track of engagement levels, through staff surveys. Ensure your communication channels can provide data on who has or has not opened a message, and which links they’ve clicked.
- Maintaining momentum
The novelty of the Brexit decision will undoubtedly have worn off. The challenge for internal communications is keeping momentum, and cutting through the noise. This is where campaigns, and specifically repeat messaging can contribute to improving employee engagement. It’s also a time to ensure your company culture is still intact.
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