If there is a certainty these days, it is that none of us are escaping the COVID-19 pandemic. Small business owners and leaders of global corporations alike are being faced with unprecedented decisions that will affect every single one of your stakeholders. While each stakeholder holds value, in uncertain times it is important for you as a leader to actually lead.
The reality of the COVID-19 infection rates to-date and the projected impact here in the United States shows us a harsh reality. Someone in your company or someone directly in contact with someone in your company will contract the virus. At this moment, your ability to show leadership and communicate effectively across your organization can either incite panic or reassure your employees that their leadership has the situation in hand.
In order to maintain that control in such an uncertain time, we share the following insights on how to communicate with your organization.
As a senior leader in your organization, you need to already be prepared with how you will communicate effectively with stakeholders, starting with employees, on possible COVID-19 cases within your company. This communication needs to share the status of the company, any changes to policies on sick leave, and any changes in their internal communications strategies based upon the news.
When an employee notifies you of a possible case, it is your obligation to notify the rest of the company in an effective and non-alarming way. It is also your job to minimize and at best, prevent the risk of spread in your organization. You also want to assign the point of contact for future notification. In smaller companies, that point of contact is often you. This ownership allows you to be the source of the information and prevents any miscommunications or delay in notification. It is important to try to get ahead of an infected employee telling their coworkers so as to minimize any rumors.
Getting to the point is also important, especially when the stakes are so high. When you are tasked with notifying your employees of a possible case, share the most important details but not to reveal the employee’s identity. Stating that an “employee in the Charleston office” will suffice — as long as you are also sharing next steps on your intent to flatten the curve with extra sanitation or new working policies.
Expressing empathy for your employees should never be a hard task and with today’s global state of affairs, it is expected that leadership will move with tremendous empathy. Trying to understand your employee’s hardships and communicating with them on ways you are working to ease those is something your employees will not forget. It’s also important to note that in the real-time media sphere, it is very easy for compassionate actions to be praised and for thoughtless actions to be vilified publicly.
Inevitably, you will be dealing with an exposed employee or a confirmed case of COVID-19 in your business, no matter your size. Planning ahead for this is just as crucial as communicating your next steps with your employees. Remind all employees that if they feel that they have been exposed to the virus or if they have a confirmed case, they need to immediately notify you, their employer.
While there is currently no clear solution in sight, it is important to display action driven towards solution. Your employees want to know that you’ll still be there when the dust settles and they’re looking to you to maintain stability. Your 2020 business goals and predictions may be completely different now, but as the leader, it is up you to pivot where you need and compromise where you must to come out of this on two feet with a full team still standing behind you.
Finally, remember that almost no industries are operating in their “normal” way, but leaders who prioritize communicating with their employees can make all the difference in maintaining morale and minimizing broader impacts on the larger business during this time.