Crisis communication as an area of business practice has been garnering spotlight lately. It’s been a subject of deliberation by business leaders in the current economic times. With the global talent crunch and optimistic job market outlook in 2016, there is a dearth of talented candidates with on-demand skills.
Through an exclusive interview with Stacey Engle, Executive Vice-President of Marketing, Fierce Inc, we draw further insights on the need to establish transparency and communicate the truth to employees during times of intense scrutiny. This will help retain talented workforce within the company. Read on…
Keeping employees motivated and informed during time of crisis should be top priority on the management teams’ agenda. If the internal staff feels they are in dark on an issue and cannot address rumours they hear, there will be a significant decrease in the trust and morale throughout the entire organization.
Holding frequent 1:1 check-ins as well as group meetings opens the floor for communication and transparency. These meetings are an opportunity for the internal staff to ask questions and in turn, for leaders to ask their employees for help.
Addressing the truth and asking for advice will ensure your employees feel trusted and that their opinions are valued. Welcoming this internal communication throughout the entirety of the crisis will help silence the noise outside and keep employees motivated and focused towards the big picture by carefully aligning their day-to-day activities and goals.
First and foremost, executives must address the issue and admit to any faults. Sure there are two sides to a story, but being honest and admitting to mistakes is the first step to embracing transparency. Doing this upfront will eliminate the circulation of rumours in your organization and prevent any secrets from appearing in the news later on.
Laying the truth on the line will most likely bring follow-up questions, so be sure to make yourself available to answer these questions and remain open to the advice you are given.
The transparency you establish and the trust you build with your employees during a time of intense scrutiny will trickle through the organization and carry on even after the issue is resolved.
Tell the truth and invite it from others. The level of transparency you see in your organization depends on your level of transparency every day. Leading through example and creating an environment that fosters honest conversations with employees will make dealing with major and minor issues much simpler.
Hold weekly team meetings until the issue is resolved or scrutiny passes. During these meetings, you should welcome any and all questions to make sure your employees are well-informed. Criticism via news outlets and social media is likely to brew rumours.
By leaving items unaddressed, employees will naturally fill the silence with their own assumptions, likely believing the worst case scenario out of fear. So you need to create a safe space where employees feel confident and they will hear the truth. This will help clear their minds and maintain their focus and motivation throughout crisis situations.
Once crisis has struck you can’t turn back the clock. Lay out your conclusions, your solutions and strategy. If layoffs are the result and outcome of your mistake, be honest about it and develop a plan to move forward.
Rumours eventually blow over and disgruntled employees move on, but it is important to take responsibility and let your current employees know where the company stands. In addition, make yourself available to employees you have laid off, keeping communication open with past and current employees will help retain their respect and trust.
While a CEO is a key figure in addressing issues publically and internally, the HR department should also be transparent and offer themselves as a resource for employees, who have questions or need council during difficult times.
Developing crisis communication plans ahead of time can help reduce panic and stress if/when disaster strikes. Also, providing support to the CEO will provide them with more time to fine-tune their plan of action and successfully execute it.
By investing in the whole person and equipping someone internally to have better conversations in the workplace, these corporations, through Fierce’s training, are able to incorporate performance management initiatives, create strong company culture, better develop their leaders and drive more powerful results through communication.
Given that, more and more job candidates are motivated by purpose, not money, organizations that invest in the whole person and support meaningful conversations within the company will be able to provide their employees with a feeling of purpose within the company.
Keep your culture on top of mind. HR managers should host forums, fireside chats and other mechanisms to encourage the conversations that need to take place. Get executive sponsorship to show the dedication, the team has to taking the company where it needs to go.
Having the entire company on the same page and providing transparency on the issue at hand will enable employees to feel they have a purpose for staying back at the company and that their opinions and help are both needed and valued.
Fierce aims to start with the word leadership and developing each person’s ability to talk with authenticity and sincerity. Organizations can help by providing conversations training to their employees. Learning how to have conversations and address the real issues is critical to building crisis leadership.
We at Fierce often share that trust is developed by persistent identity. Meaning, you need to learn how to show up in any situation as yourself and speak from your real voice. This is a continual journey, and yet, that self-awareness and skill really increases when trained and continually practiced.
A leader, who embodies transparency by telling the truth and sharing their plan, will be respected far more than those who hide from their mistakes. There is something within us that responds to those who level with us, even if they are in the wrong. Being honest is the first step in ensuring communication is effective.
Second, ask for advice and be open to the opinions of your employees, even if they are not in line with yours. Next, provide feedback. Often leaders will brush off suggestions because of the stress they feel holding the responsibility as a key decision maker. Meaningful feedback to employees will let them know you are listening and value their perspective.
Lastly, share the plan you decide to put into action, keeping transparency throughout the entire crisis situation will help set the standard for how to deal with company issues moving forward.
In 2016, Generation Z will join the workforce, new technologies will inspire self-management, killing the yearly review process and money will not be the main motivation in taking up a new position. Employees will be motivated by individual purpose and company missions, as much as salary and benefits. Below are five predictions Fierce Inc. has developed for the coming year:
1. Recruiting Talent – Job Candidates Motivated by Purpose, Not Money
In 2016, job candidates will want to ensure a potential company’s purpose and mission aligned with values they hold near and dear to their hearts. Values and purpose, over tangible items such as salary, will become an increasingly important factor in the decision-making process in the competitive job market.
In fact, a high salary is the least important aspect of a job to both men and women, whereas holding a job they enjoy is the most important aspect, according to Pew Research Center. With the rise of social media and online publishing, CEOs and other executives have reached celebrity status unlike ever before.
This gives them a platform to communicate their personal and professional aspirations directly with the public. It also means that the CEO’s vision and persona will be highly influential in the recruiting process, placing a whole new level of responsibility on leaders to accurately represent and depict the mission and ideals of the organization.
2. Job Flexibility – The Sharing Economy Inspires Job Sharing Programs
Employees expect a degree of flexibility in today’s working world, whether that entails setting their own hours or working remotely. In 2016, employers will need to think out-of-the-box in terms of flexibility, by offering creative solutions to employees.
2016 will see the rise of innovative job share programs that draw from principles of the sharing economy. Through job share programs, employees who seek fewer work hours can share shifts on the same role, and work as a team to fill one full-time position.
3. Performance Management – Real-Time Analytics Go to Work
In 2016, employees will have the ability to track their on-the-job performance data through technologies like people analytics to gain a better understanding of where they dedicate their time and energy, and how their performance stacks up with others of a similar job title.
Because of greater access to performance metrics, feedback will be provided throughout the year via dashboards, rather than only during formal yearly reviews. As such, managers can take on the role of a coach, empowering their direct reports to self-manage.
This allows managers to redirect some of their time to other high-level business strategy tasks, while providing Millennials, a generation that values independence, a style that minimizes micro-managing and integrates technology into their daily lives.
4. Management – Workforce Generations Require Shifting Management Styles
Whether you like it or not, Generation Z is entering the workforce and with Baby Boomers still logging their hours, meaning there will be five generations with a 50 year age difference. In 2016, we will see drastic differences in work ethic, approach and management styles.
Effective managers will need to be able to adapt on the fly to different employees and find different ways to foster collaboration across generations. Managers will need to understand that each individual, young or old, has their own set of skills and should encourage co-mingling to teach each other.
Younger generations can teach how to use emerging technologies and to leverage social media, while the older employees can instil the value of face-to-face communication, internal networking and building relationships.
5. Intrapreneurship– Employees Will Think like Entrepreneurs
Employees just entering the workforce have witnessed tremendous start-up success and seen their peers gain celebrity-like status through social media channels like Instagram and Vine – this makes them hungry to achieve the same success.
2016 will see a rise of large multinational companies creating start-up centric programs or spin-offs to attract these individuals and drive innovation. Incubator-like training programs will build different skill sets for employees, but the programs will need to be more interactive and provide opportunities for employees to apply the lessons and skills to real life situations.
Image credit: missionmode.com