Covid-19 has seen a rapid and continuous change to many companies, during this time good communication with employees has proved vital as the normal work-life that employees have been used to has changed dramatically over the last few months. Employees have found themselves working from home, either for the first time or permanently, or they have been placed on furlough. Good communication between employers and staff is needed to help maintain employee engagement and to help with any fears and concerns employees may have.
Managers should ensure there is consistent two-way communication between themselves and employees, if two-way communication is lacking then it can cause uncertainty with employees about company issues and can affect their ability to carry out their tasks effectively.
Good communication during the coronavirus pandemic is required to ensure that employees understand what is happening with the business and are aware of any changes taking place.
Good communication with employees can result in:
- High levels of engagement;
- Lower absence levels;
- Low turnover levels as employees feel valued and committed to the company;
- Increased performance and productivity as employees tend to go the extra mile;
- More effective management decisions as managers listen and receive feedback from employees about issues;
- Good customer service as employees are happy in their role.
Is a two-way process of sharing information between an employer and their employees. The purpose of employee communication is for the employer to:
- tell employees about any company changes or developments that are taking place;
- ensure employees have access to company policies, procedures, objectives, and ways of working;
- give employees clear instructions and support so they can perform their job role;
- gain feedback and information from employees;
- help employees to feel confident about raising concerns or queries that they may have;
- allows employees to make suggestions.
What employees need to know
Employees will want to know how the pandemic is affecting the company and what the company is doing in response and how it is likely to affect them.
Any temporary changes to company policies, procedures for example sickness absence or working from home arrangements, annual leave etc. must be communicated to all employees.
Keeping in touch with furloughed employees
Employees who are on furlough leave are likely to feel cut off from the company and may start to question their value to the workplace. Regular communication to furloughed employees will help them to stay engaged and motivated while they are not at work.
Any changes that are happening in the business should be communicated to furloughed employees, so they are aware of what is happening.
Furloughed employees should be informed of any support available to them such an employee assistance programme (EAP) or training courses etc.
Employees should be kept informed of when it is likely they will be required to return to work and need to have access to contact someone from the company if they have any concerns or queries.
Communicating with remote workers
Many employees who have been home working during the pandemic, will be continuing to do so for some time yet. It is important to have regular communication with remote working employees to ensure that they remain motivated and engaged and know what is happening.
Regular communication allows employees to still feel valued for the work they are doing and helps managers to spot any signs that an employee may be struggling with remote working.
Different employees need different levels of contact; managers will need to adjust the communication levels required for their employees. Some employees may need regular feedback and encouragement to perform their job role, whereas others may just prefer a simple email checking all is ok, it depends on the style of working, character and positions as to what level of communication is required.
Employees who are not used to working from home may feel isolated from the rest of the team, holding regular team meetings either via the phone or video call can help to maintain team spirit. These meetings can be daily or weekly whichever suits the team, however, it must be taken into consideration, not all employees will like to do a video call or have the equipment to do video calls, so employees should be allowed to just dial in as audio not video if they wish.
Managers also must be aware of their employee’s home life situation as many remote workers have children at home or someone they are caring for. Extra support to these employees should be given and flexibility in working hours allowed to enable the employee to cope with their situation as well as their job function.
Communicating the return to work
Employers will need to have a clear plan for when they are returning employees to work as lockdown eases. Employees will be anxious about returning to the workplace and managers have a responsibility to reassure employees and inform them of the measures that are in place to protect them.
Employers must ensure that managers are aware of the guidelines on returning to work so they can answer concerns employees may have.
Managers should have a return to work meeting with their employees before they come back to the workplace so that any concerns can be addressed and individual circumstances are taken into account regarding any adjustments that need to be made. Employees circumstances are all different, so these meetings are advised to be done on a one to one basis rather than as a team meeting.
Principles of good employee communication
When communicating to employees, employers’ communication should be:
- prepared – plan what information is to be communicated and how it will be communicated;
- concise – communication should be in key points to help focus on the main issue;
- relevant to the audience – listeners will soon switch off if the communication is not relevant to them, keep communications relevant to the teams that are being communicated to. Some employees may need a detailed communication on the topic where others just need to have the main facts communicated;
- via the right method and tool;
- done in the right environment away from interruptions and distractions;
- allow for feedback to be listened to and considered if appropriate;
- delivered positively, by using positive body language and tone of voice.
The method of communication will depend on what the topic of communication is and who it needs to go to. Choosing the right method of communication is vital for how effective communication is.
Deciding which communication method to use depends on:
- who is the communication going to?
- does there need to be immediate feedback?
- does there need to be a written record?
- is the information sensitive or confidential?
- is the communication urgent?
There are various tools available to provide communications to employees these include:
- one to one Meetings;
- team meetings;
- video calls;
- internal chat function;
- intranet page;
- social media.
Information managers should communicate
Managers need to communicate various subjects to employees, these include:
- corporate aims and structures;
- HR Policies and procedures;
- feedback on employee performance;
- organisation changes;
- expectations of employees.
It is crucial that managers have a good rapport with their employees, saying good morning, please, thank-you, how was your weekend, can make a difference to working relationships.
Communication during a period of change
Employees need to be informed of business changes, providing employees with information helps to avoid anxiety amongst workers by reducing uncertainty about any changes and stopping the rumour mill or grapevine versions.
Tips for communicating changes:
- show confidence for the reasons for the change – the communication should be informative providing reasons for the change and be supportive of these changes;
- support employees through the change – provide a way they can raise concerns or provide feedback to management;
- ensure the communication style you chose to communicate the change is the right one for the audience – Individuals will react differently to communication; the communication needs to be adapted to suit the audience according to how they may respond;
- prepare for how employees might react – if you gauge how employees will react then answers to their concerns could be included in the communication;
- ensure the communication is consistent – The message given to all employees must be consistent to minimise the risk of wrong information via the grapevine.
Copyright Clover HR