Why Employee Communication is Now More Important Than Ever

by Doug Claffey

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate world news, employers are scrambling to protect their workforce, minimize disruptions, and adapt to a new, virtual way of working. Undoubtedly, the crisis will have many phases. And now more than ever, companies need to keep the lines of employee communication open with what is the most disparate workforce this economy has ever experienced.

Questions every leader should be asking right now

We know after 14 years of research there are 15 Culture Drivers that lead to high levels of employee engagement. We’ve organized them into four themes or “imperatives”: Align, Connect, Coach, and Perform.

These imperatives are what make the difference between an average or an awful workplace and a great workplace. Smart leaders know to focus their efforts here to shape and maintain an intentional culture. So, as you and your leadership team navigate the uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis, here are four key questions to consider:

  • Align: Is your senior leadership team aligned on your response to COVID-19?
  • Connect: Do your employees feel well-informed? Are your senior leaders clued-in to what it’s like on the front line?
  • Coach: Are managers and leaders demonstrating they care about employee concerns?
  • Perform: Are you performing effectively and efficiently given all of the changes, stresses, and contingencies that are being presented by this crisis?

The key culture driver most at risk during times of change

During a crisis such as COVID-19, there’s one Culture Driver in particular that can get overlooked. “Clued-In Leaders” is a driver belonging to the Connect imperative. It’s about upward feedback and employees feeling heard. It’s about keeping the lines of employee communication open.

What happens when organizations struggle with this Culture Driver? Well, when employees believe senior leaders are out of the loop, it’s harder for them to connect with the organization. And when leaders really aren’t clued in to what’s happening, they’re missing valuable insight from those closest to the customer: their employees.

Three ways to maintain employee communication during a crisis

In order to keep a strong connection and stay “clued in” with employees – especially now – pay special attention to keeping the lines of communication open. Here are three ideas:

  1. Communicate through levels of hierarchy. Ask employees to talk to their managers and managers to talk to their managers. Then, talk to the senior leadership team up through the layers of the organization.
  2. Utilize town hall meetings. While it’s best to hold these in person, during this coronavirus outbreak virtual town meetings can also be an effective way to communicate key messages and give your employees a voice.
  3. Ask your employees for feedback. Pulse surveys are the most effective and efficient way to ensure you give employees a voice, capture real-time data, and deliver it to the senior team quickly and directly.

Want to learn more about keeping open the lines of employee communication open? Check out our Field Guide to Clued-In Leaders for more tips.