WHAM. Your business was just slapped in the face with a crisis.
A product drastically failed. The CEO resigned with little to no warning. A large portion of the workforce was laid off. News outlets and social media followers are asking questions, and they want answers now.
Before anything else, you must start thinking about your crisis management plan for your employees.
When bombarded with a crisis, businesses tend to focus on conversing with the public as to not butcher their reputation. What about people on the inside? Dealing with external audiences is prioritized, but the internal communication side of a crisis management plan is just as important.
What is a crisis management plan for employees?
A crisis management plan for employees outlines how people within your business should respond to a crisis. These guidelines often include how to share information about the crisis with employees and how they should be involved.
Failing to address employees during a crisis is a recipe for disaster. Even though they are a part of the business, they still need to receive accurate information about the situation as if they know nothing. As a leader, it is in your best interest to be the first voice they hear.
Communication tips for any situation
There are a lot of different ways to communicate, but no matter which one you use, use these etiquette tips to be heard in a crisis-- without being offensive.
Crisis management plan for employees
Handling a crisis can be a daunting task. Here are six strategies for your crisis management plan for employees.
Treat employees as powerful stakeholders
Even before a crisis hits, employees should be treated as your most important stakeholders. This is because they are your most important stakeholders.
There is no better group of people to advocate for your business than those who work there. They know the ins and outs of the business. Involving them in the crisis management plan will not only improve the situation, but it will also boost employee engagement by making them feel trusted and valued.
No matter the magnitude of a crisis, people talk. Rumors sprouted from inaccurate assumptions and misinformation can give employees the wrong idea about what happened and the severity of the situation.
Act fast and make sure the information you are giving your employees is honest, accurate, and timely. Keeping everyone up to date with new developments, good or bad, will improve the situation before making it worse. Using internal communications software can simplify this part of the crisis management plan process. You can set up alerts, have group conversations, and get immediate responses.
Do your absolute best to be the first voice your employees hear. You don’t want them forming opinions without hearing the facts from you first.
Anticipate employee questions
Put yourself in the shoes of your employees and brainstorm some possible questions, comments, and concerns they may have. During a crisis, it is natural for employees to worry about the health of their company, their status as an employee, and the long term effects of the situation. As an employer, you have to understand their thought processes.
Include the answers to the questions you anticipate in your initial crisis management plan messages to your employees. Not only will this save time, but it also shows your employees you empathize with them.
Educate employees on dealing with media
During a time of crisis, your employees will be approached by members of the media. News outlets feed off disaster, and they will do whatever it takes to get a scandalous picture or comment by addressing your employees with harsh statements and trick questions.
Your crisis management plan for employees must include the information they need to handle interactions with the media. More often than not, this includes directing the media to the person or group designated as the point of contact during the crisis. Equip everyone with the appropriate phrases and information for dealing with the media. You don’t want your employees sounding rude or defensive to the media as they both imply guilt.
On the other side of this situation, there is the potential problem of employees posting sensitive or inaccurate information on their personal social media accounts. It is usually best if employees refrain from posting anything on social media about a crisis. Stress the importance of this in your initial message.
Encourage open communication
Two-way conversations are necessary when responding to a crisis. Not only will updated information and procedures be requested, but comfort might be needed.
In the midst of a crisis, employees can start to feel sad, guilty, or even personally violated. It is necessary for managers to open communication channels to talk about how the crisis has made everybody feel. Some situations are worse than others, but don’t assume that everybody is cruising along, unaffected by the unusually negative circumstances.
Do not keep employees in the dark
The biggest mistake you can make during your crisis management plan for employees is failing to communicate with them. A time of crisis is not a time to hold back. Make sure everyone has the information they need to proceed in the crisis response procedure.
Do not withhold information. Employees can turn to unreliable sources that might give them inaccurate details about the situation. Do not lie about matters that are in the process of being resolved if they aren’t a done deal. You don’t want to build up hopes with uncertain information only to tear them down.
Keep everyone in the loop
Nobody wants to experience a crisis, but your crisis management plan for employees can alleviate some of the associated pain and stressors. Speak openly with your employees during a crisis, and keep them engaged throughout the recovery process. Once the dust settles, you will have a loyal team of crisis management experts.
Mary Clare Novak is a Content Marketing Specialist at G2 based in Burlington, Vermont, where she is currently exploring topics related to sales and customer relationship management. In her free time, you can find her doing a crossword puzzle, listening to cover bands, or eating fish tacos. (she/her/hers)