Internal communications have never been so important
Updated: Aug 27, 2020
We are living in very uncertain times and nothing is more uncertain at the moment than our employment status.
Start talking early
Whether you are an LSE or an SME be in no doubt that your employees are going to be concerned about their future and so it’s really important to open up a communication channel. Rather than making decrees from above, you should have two way conversations that allow employees to ask questions about what is happening in their firm.
The worst approach is to say nothing – because a communication void means that employees are likely to fill it with misinformation and rumour. This could result in employee absence, less productivity or your best people looking for work elsewhere.
Communicating job losses or even business change should be a team effort. The HR people will be focused on the detail but there should always be a communication person working alongside them to consider the messaging, sequencing and developing a response to the inevitable questions.
That’s why it is so important to keep staff up to date with what’s happening in the board room. Yes, we have lost a major customer, but it’s still business as usual. Or, yes we have lost a major customer and we will now have to look at ways we can withstand the loss and will come back to you with our findings.
And make sure you do come back to your staff. Provide regular status updates about the good news and the bad. Even if there is no news, tell them that – it will avoid that communication void.
Making job losses
The word redundant literally means ‘no longer needed or useful’ – when you apply that to a person it’s quite dehumanising. This is just one example of why language is so important when you have to impart bad news.
If you have to make cuts it’s important to remember that while your organisation is thinking in terms of head count, bottom lines and profit and loss, in real terms your decision will have a major impact on a person’s life – and, possibly that of their family. That’s why you should strive to use language that is compassionate – this is about them, not you.
Of course, you should explain the reason behind the decision but you should also understand how the news could impact that individual. If you have had an open two-way dialogue, it may not come as too much as a shock. Nevertheless, in an ideal world you should be giving bad news with anything that may help to cushion the blow. This could be around redundancy and severance packages, holiday pay or assistance with re-training and so on.
The golden rule is always, always do this in person - it’s the least you can do. Remember that you company’s reputation could be severely damaged if you get it wrong.