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Employee Communication Strategies in a Virtual World During a Pandemic

A key component of any successful benefits or health and wellbeing program is how it is communicated to participants. In fact, employee communication in general is vital for an organization to truly engage their workforce, and statistics prove a direct correlation between increased employee engagement and increased employee productivity and retention.

As we continue to adapt to both a virtual world and learning to thrive during a pandemic, consider how these communication strategies may be necessary now more than ever before.

  • Source

    First, your organization needs to determine the source of the communication you are sending. Having buy-in from leadership is critical, as it shows your employees that this is an important organizational initiative. In a time of uncertainty and concern like the current pandemic, your team needs their leadership to lead. Consider how the messaging can be distributed down your management hierarchy as well – your front-line managers often have the most frequent opportunities to connect with their teams, so be sure these communications are shared in team meetings.

  • Tone

    Next, we’d encourage you to take a good look at the tone of your messaging. Your team is likely hearing information on a frequent basis that impacts their livelihood – the safety of their job and their earnings, their benefits program, and not to mention dealing with a global health emergency. Now is the time to be empathetic and compassionate, but even more importantly, your tone needs to embody transparency. It’s ok if you don’t have all the answers, but employees don’t want you to sugarcoat the details, or try and give everything a positive spin. Not everything has a positive spin at the moment, and they will have greater respect for their leaders who are honest and truthful about the situation at hand when done with empathy and compassion.

  • Personalization

    Further, the most successful communications are the ones that speak to each of us where we are. In a time of extreme information overload, it’s quite challenging to decipher which messages apply to us and which ones don’t, and it’s just not possible to absorb them all. Create different personas or target audiences and craft personal messages for each of them. Your management team is likely facing a different scenario than your contracted population, or your team in New York is facing more harrowing times than your team in Georgia. Cater as best as you can to your different sub-groups to make your communications as personal as possible.

  • Frequency & Modality

    Finally, the frequency and modalities of your communications will also play a large role in the success of your messaging. We are receiving breaking updates on a weekly, if not more, basis. Being kept in the know as to our employer’s response and action plan as it relates to these breaking updates gives great comfort to your team. They want and need to know you are in charge and they can trust you with handling this information. But sending urgent email after email after email may not have the desired outcome. Consider a multi-channel approach where you are taking into account the different communication modalities available. At OneDigital, our leadership has shifted important communications to our Microsoft Teams app, so employees can quickly sift through breaking updates without having to dig through our emails. We also take advantage of videos and recorded virtual meetings shared on our company intranet so the content is accessible 24/7 to review and digest at our own pace. Many of the customers we work with are now using text messaging to reach their workforce, or considering benefits apps and third-party vendors to break through the traditional communication and email barriers. Regardless of the method, you want to be sure the information is available, that your team knows exactly how to access it in their time of need, and that it doesn’t get lost in the chaos of their day.

At the end of this pandemic and based on how the many challenges were handled, employers will either shine as a respected source of leadership to their employees, or diminish to an example of how not to handle a crisis. We encourage you to take a meaningful look at your communication strategy to ensure you engage, inform, and inspire your workforce during a time when they rely on you the most.

For more information on workplace best practices in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, visit our  OneDigital Coronavirus Advisory Hub, or reach out to your local OneDigital advisory team.