Why You Should Make Your Employees Your Most Important Audience Post-Pandemic
By Anne Linaberger, Vice President, C4CS
You might think your customers will require most of your attention as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.
While they’re important, we believe your organization’s employees deserve as much or even more communications focus. They’ve been loyal through the pandemic. They’ve worked from home when you’ve asked them to. Those who have needed to work in person have followed your coronavirus protocols.
Post-pandemic, employees will be your best and most important allies.
As we approach a “new normal” you may be asking so now what when it comes to your workplace. Should you maintain the same rules for in person employees? Should those who have been remote return to work in person and if so, when and how? Can you require employees working in person to be vaccinated?
We’ll tackle those questions in a moment. But first we recommend – if you haven’t already – that you evaluate how you’re communicating these prickly issues to your employees.
We find when it comes to internal communications, it can be helpful to apply the traditional journalistic questions: who, what, when, where, how and why.
Who do you want to communicate with and who will communicate it?
Your employees are your most important stakeholders in any crisis, including the coronavirus pandemic. When you do a good job of communicating with them, you build trust and create employees who will support you. This is especially impactful when your communication comes from the top. If you’re communicating about a major issue, like pandemic policies, top level leaders should deliver the messages.
What do you want to communicate to employees and what outcome would you like to see?
Be as transparent about your organization’s post-coronavirus plans as possible and be ready to welcome questions and listen to concerns. You want a workforce that feels “in the loop” about your policies and understands that you care about their welfare and welcome their feedback.
When should you communicate with employees?
As soon as you’re ready to let your employees know about your workplace plans moving forward, communicate immediately. This heads off any speculation among your rank and file, minimizes rumors and gossip about what’s going to happen, and allows time for you to receive employee feedback.
Where/How should this communication with employees occur?
The answer to this question depends on the size of your organization and how you typically communicate with employees. If your company is small and local, why not have an “all-hands-on-deck” in person meeting? If you’re larger, with employees in scattered locations, a virtual platform call, or email memo might work. We’re ready to help you determine and plan for this, including crafting effective messages.
Why should you be communicating to your employees?
This should perhaps be your first and most obvious question: you want your most important internal stakeholders, your employees, to be the first to know about any changes when it comes to your policies. When employees are in the loop, they feel cared about and you’re more likely to have buy-in. When they’re the last to know, you’re likely to have trouble.
Now to the nitty gritty. As for return to work in person, if you don’t already have a coronavirus workplace safety plan in place, under Biden administration recommendations issued in January, you’ll need one. We recommend that you solicit employee input to create buy in if you’re writing a plan or revising one.
As for vaccinations, right now (the issue is already in the courts), the EEOC says you can legally require your employees to be vaccinated, with the exception of those with health issues or religious objections that could exempt them. You may be required to make “reasonable accommodations” for employees who don’t fall into those categories but still refuse to be vaccinated. It’s something you’ll want to evaluate based on your organizational needs. It’s certainly an issue that will require careful internal communication with your staff.
The Biden administration has also proposed tax breaks for companies that provide incentives for employees to become vaccinated. The president has encouraged companies to provide these incentives, including paid time off to receive a vaccination and recover from it.
In partnership with Catalyst Connection, Pittsburgh-based C4CS® (https://c4cs.com) provides virtual and in-person strategic communication training and counsel, built around your organization’s specific needs. Whether you need advice on how to communicate with your employees or one-on-one media or presentation training for your top managers, we’re here. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org