5 Ways to Strengthen Internal Communications in a Crisis

In this article, I look at the heightened role of the internal communications teams during an unprecedented crisis which beckons it to “communicate, communicate, and communicate more” with employees and even families of employees. I have also suggested a few effective initiatives, which if implemented correctly with the support of management can help employees stay focused and motivated.

In the current scenario, companies find that many of their plans have gone kaput! Employees’ concerns regarding their own and their families’ health, their jobs, their ability to perform, their mental health issues are at a heightened level never seen earlier at this scale. If ever there was a need for internal communications to step up its efforts to assuage fears—real and imagined, it is now. Following are five ways these teams can take:

  1. Increase communications from top leadership by 3x. Frequent leadership commentary is often reserved for unprecedented internal or external events and can be shared in the form of a series of leadership notes from the desk of top management. Suggestions and updates on how the organization is coping with the crisis and responses to employees’ anxieties from the leader’s desk would have a reassuring effect. These can be delivered to cross-sections of employee segments at regular intervals with a 360-degree feedback mechanism.
  2. Empower team leaders to use available tech tools to communicate regularly with their teams on work and personal issues. Working from home, coordinating with remote teams, worrying about deliverables, dealing with health issues of self and family has given employees both logistic issues and anxiety attacks. Face-to-face meetings with teams are not advisable in times of COVID-19, but thanks to technology such as video-conferencing, instant messaging and check-ins, team leaders can assure their teams that they are not alone or isolated in dealing with this crisis.
  3. Invite and act on employee feedback. Create a two-way communication process through employee surveys wherein even junior employees feel heard and involved in the decision making process.
  4. A personalised newsletter with an open, honest and transparent tone from the corporate communication desk on a regular basis can relay organizational information and developments in an organized and insightful manner to all employees.
  5. Live, interactive townhalls on a consistent basis acts as a communication platform where leaders can provide a vision and a roadmap on how the organisation intends to navigate the crisis. Employees are brought to speed on functional and business updates and developments within the organization with curated Q&A to drive visiblity of business and functional leadership and their work.

Evolved companies rightly depend on their internal communications teams, usually comprising a mix of Human Resources and Corporate Communications colleagues to be the vehicle through which values, internal developments, culture initiatives, leadership views, crises communication, etc. are conveyed to employees. This increases employee engagement and years of research have shown its correlation with the financial performance of a company. Simply put, companies that rank high on employee engagement have a stronger financial performance than those ranked low.

Impactful internal communications can make employees feel excited about the work, connected with leaders and their vision and committed to furthering the goals of the organization, and thus the importance of its function.

The role of HR and Corporate Communications is critical in executing a well thought through internal communications plan but is incomplete without the active involvement of top management who are the visionaries and “culture carriers” of a company from whom all communications begin.

Also Read: Communicating the unthinkable – Bereavement Communication 

Educational Resource – Harvard Business Review – “Selling the Brand Inside”


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