There were 135,836 COVID-19 cases worldwide as of 13th March 2020. Businesses are likely to experience substantial impact as the virus spreads both from a viewpoint of humanitarian assistance AND workplace. During moments of uncertainty it is important that employers have a strategy in place to connect with their main stakeholders–in this case, the employees –directly and efficiently.

Clear lines of communication with customers, partners, and other stakeholders outside of your company should also be identified. The following guidance will help you define communications needs and implement best practices as we manage COVID-19’s effect.

Build a strategic communications plan to cover all levels of the employees:

  • Have a strategy and processes in place to reach all employees with relevant information.
  • Describe the means of communication to reach employees–i.e. email, intranet messages, fliers, posters, photos, blog posts, FAQs and provide a “source of truth” platform where employees can access the latest updates (this may be an intranet company site or a physical location such as a bulletin board)
  • Determine how you can meet disconnected workers–those without email or mobile access, those on leave and those who have accepted offers but have not yet begun their employment with the company
  • Involve Legal, Human Resources (HR) Partner and other main leadership to review and authorize all communications and materials in good time before distribution.

Identify a point of contact to remain on top of trends, control the flow of communication and receive and respond to employee concerns:

  • Ask employees with questions to contact HR and provide contact details on how to access them
  • Create a communication line for employees to send prevention and preparedness-related requests, post answers to questions of general interest
  • Develop business-wide tools to help communicate key messages and respond to employee questions / complaints.

Develop an external relations strategy and detail how to communicate to stakeholders outside the company, when and what:

  • Work with the marketing, advertising and/or public relations team(s) to build an advertising strategy to target outside stakeholders including: news media, creditors, customers, partners, analysts, etc.
  • Align external communications with internal communications (i.e. keep employees in the loop on what external messages are being delivered)

Consider the messaging carefully–state the facts, explain the effect, disclose security measures:

  • Provide ongoing assurance that the company safeguards employee health and safety in a manner that is sufficiently respectful of everyone’s privacy
  • Review content and tone communications–do not trivialize or intensify employee concerns, and be sure to collect or react to empty feedback
  • Place ties on your intranet company or other networks to official news outlets such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Work-from-home, time-off and travel policies outline-update as needed:

  • Clearly communicate requirements and strategies on work from home for deserving workers
  • Ensure that workers are aware of any improvements to the existing travel policy
  • Notify employees of alternatives to in-person meetings, such as phone calls, video conferencing and online meetings

Prepare HR partners, managers and leaders to react and connect to employees:

  • Provide FAQs, discussion points and other details to provide the employees with facts and information.
  • Redirect more nuanced questions to your delegate or HR team

Prepare customer-facing team members with essential business details:

  • Create and deliver information such as operation, distribution and implementation to the customer-facing team members with information about what this means and how it affects / does not impact customer support

Organizations should carefully document their communications strategy, take note of what communication platforms, messaging and approach worked / did not work based on employee input, and then refine their strategy for potential use as a guide.

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