For the past 10 weeks, employees across New Zealand have been bombarded with news stories about a looming recession, job losses (when the wage subsidy ends), and company closures, along with differing views on the impact of Covid-19 by a wide range of so-called experts.
While employers may have been communicating with their teams during this time, many of their people will return to work, or are already back on deck, with a high level of uncertainty and anxiety about their future employment.
This is where companies need to ensure they have an effective internal communications programme in place, because as we all know, it‘s not going to be business as usual. Once business owners and management teams have worked out what the changes mean for their companies, they need to share those with the team.
The key is not to sugar-coat the messages. People want to know the truth, and respect employers who tell it like it is. So, don’t treat your employees like mushrooms, but also don’t be all doom and gloom. Highlight the challenges, but also the opportunities that exist.
If a company is left with no other option but to restructure, then this is where people need internal communications most. How it handles redundancies is crucial.
Employers need to ensure they demonstrate they have looked at all the options and it’s not an overreaction or a quick cost-saving exercise. When a long-term employee is made redundant, that is a lot of experience and knowledge walking out the door, which may not be easy to replace.
If there is no other option, then transparency and compassion is key when delivering bad news to an employee. If employers get this wrong, it not only impacts on the person being let go, but also the morale of the employees who remain will drop and can result in them turning against the company.
Once the hard decisions have been made, the focus moves to rebuilding and growth. To get the company moving, smart employers will draw on the experience and knowledge of the team to help shape how it will move forward. A business owner or manager should not be expected to know all the answers, and they need to tap into the strengths of the team.
Ralph Norris, former ASB and Air New Zealand chief executive, was asked during a radio interview what was the key to his success. His response was along the lines of: “I surrounded myself with people who knew more than me in specific areas.”
Various research studies have highlighted the importance of effective internal communications, including a Bambu data report that found 80 per cent of employees wanted their employers to keep them informed about the company; 77 per cent said it would help them at their job; and 66 per cent said it helped them build better relationships with their colleagues. Additionally, 63 per cent said that it would help them become an advocate for the business and tell others about their company.
This research highlights the fact that, if you get internal comms right, employees will feel they matter, that they are being listened to, and they will go above and beyond, which in a post-Covid economic climate is invaluable.