COVID-19: Now is the Time to Have a Clear Internal Communications Plan in Place
by Mary Schafer
Consider this checklist when crafting your organization's internal communications regarding COVID-19.
As of March 20, 2020, there were 258,000 cases of COVID-19 worldwide. Significant impact is anticipated for employers as the virus spreads both from a humanitarian support AND workplace perspective. During times of uncertainty, it is imperative for employers to have a plan in place to communicate directly and quickly with their key constituents – in this case, their employees.
Clear lines of communication should also be established with clients, partners and other stakeholders outside of your organization. The following guidelines are designed to help you identify communications needs and leverage best practices as we navigate the impact of COVID-19.
- Develop an internal communications plan to reach employees at all levels:
- Have a plan and processes in place to reach all employees with important updates
- Outline the communications channels to tap into to reach employees– i.e. email, Intranet postings, fliers, posters, videos, blog posts, FAQs and have a "source of truth" resource where employees can go to for the latest updates (this could be a company intranet site or a physical location such as a bulletin board)
- Determine how you'll reach disconnected employees – those without email or mobile access, those on leave of absence, and those who've accepted offers but not yet started their employment with your organization
- Partner with legal, human resources (HR), and other key leadership for timely review and approval of all messaging and materials prior to distribution
- Designate a point person to stay on top of developments, manage the communication process, and receive and respond to employee concerns:
- Ask employees with concerns to contact HR and provide contact information on how to reach them
- Establish a line of communication for employees to submit questions related to prevention and preparedness measures; post answers to questions that may be of general interest
- Establish go-to resources across the business to help distribute key messages and answer employee questions / concerns (i.e. this could encompass a team of HR representatives, key leaders in business units, and other change champions like office managers)
- Develop an external communications plan and outline how, when, and what to communicate to constituents outside of your organization:
- Work with your marketing, communications and / or public relations team(s) to develop a communications plan to address external constituents, including: news media, investors, clients, partners, analysts, etc.
- Align external communications with internal communications messages (i.e. keep employees in the loop on what messages are being delivered externally)
- Carefully consider your messaging – state the facts, outline the impact, share safety measures:
- Provide ongoing assurance that the organization is safeguarding employee health and safety in a manner that is appropriately respectful of everyone's privacy
- Review communications for content and tone – don't trivialize or escalate employee concerns, and be sure to collect / respond to feedback from employees
- Place links to official sources such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or Government of Canada on your company Intranet or other channels
- Outline work-from-home, time-off, and travel policies – update on an as-needed basis:
- Clearly communicate expectations and polices regarding working from home for eligible employees
- Ensure employees are aware of any changes to your current travel policy
- Remind employees of alternatives to in-person meetings such as conference calls, video conferences and online meetings
- Prepare HR partners, managers and leaders to respond and communicate to employees:
- Provide FAQs, talking points and other information to arm go-to resources with facts and information for your employees
- Redirect more complex questions to your HR team or representative
- Prepare client-facing team members with important information on business operations:
- Develop and deploy information to your client-facing team members like service, sales and implementation with information on what this means and how it impacts / doesn't impact client support
Organizations should carefully document their communications plan, take note of what communications channels, messaging and approach worked / didn't work based on employee feedback, and then update their plan to use as a template in the future.
Protecting Your Workforce and Understanding Policies as Your Organization Responds to COVID-19
As employers develop their coronavirus response strategy, they need to stay mindful of attendance and leave polices and regulations, employee privacy, anti-discrimination, and other employment law considerations, while keeping an eye on brand reputation and business communications.
This webcast offers insights and best practices, including:
- Key HR and business challenges
- Compliance considerations
- Leading practices
- Reliable sources of information
- Next steps
An on-demand replay of the 35-minute webcast is available now.