Key to crisis management and business continuity – and, clearly, enshrined in the crisis management plan that (if you’ve been following this series of occasional diatribes) you’re on the cusp of completing – is employee communication, for reasons which should (really) be obvious. In case they aren’t, here’s a taste.
Your employees are your greatest asset and your largest potential liability – if they’re on side, then you have a network of ambassador/evangelists, spreading your messages. If they’re not on side, mind, then you have an uncontrolled flow of misinformation, biased opinion and perhaps even vitriol
When disaster strikes, your employees need to hear from you – preferably before they hear from anyone else
In the case of a crisis, your employees will need to know what to do and where to go, and they’ll need to know quickly
Most importantly, in the crisis scenario, your employees will need to know what NOT to do and to be reminded what policies and rules they are governed by, as employees
These are just a few of the things you should be considering, and incorporating within your plan, and within the communication process around the finished plan. I’m certain you can think of others. (And if you can’t, then sit in a darkened room, or have an ideas shower, or go and see your boss, or whatever it takes for you to be able to think of others. Because there are some others.)
So, briefly – because I know you like brevity, dear blog snorkellers – here’s some of the mechanisms you need to have in place and a selection of the communications issues that you might need to consider. It’s not extensive or complete – I want you to think for yourselves.
- Have you got an ‘employee hotline’ number? This is a dedicated telephone number that any number of employees can call at any point in time to get an update on their employer’s status. That update is, normally, something along the lines of ‘This is the XXXXX Corp Employee Hotline – at the present time, it is business as usual’. Obviously, it would be best to prepare a selection of messages that can be put on to the hotline as soon as something occurs. ‘This is the XXXX Corp Employee Hotline – an event has occurred at/near the XXX site. All employees should remain at home unless otherwise directed. Further details will be available at (time).” Or similar. You get the idea.
- If you’ve only got a few – or a manageable number of – employees, do you know where they all live? Do you have their telephone numbers and personal email addresses?
- Does your workforce have access to the company’s computer systems when they’re away from the office – if not, is it something they should have?
- Do you have, or is it worth arranging, some kind of text message alert system for your employees?
- What are you going to say to your people – there might be different messages dependent on who it is and what they do – those who may be indispensable in a crisis and those who can stay in bed.
- Who’s going to take responsibility for employee communications and welfare (because it might not be you, the communicator) and how is the interface between internal and external communications going to be handled?
- How are you going to remind people of your social media policy and how they should be behaving?
Bear in mind that these are just a few of the things that you should be thinking about, and that there will be more – and that they will change and develop as your crisis unfolds. The key point here is about scenario planning – preparing everything before hand so, when the time comes (as it inevitably will) you can act immediately. An ill-informed workforce left to their own devices and free to speculate are at least as potentially damaging as any crisis or issue that your organisation may be facing.