With Brexit creating shock-waves throughout businesses and organisations, internal communications professionals need to step up to support their organisations through this period of uncertainty.
Emotions are running high following the UK’s EU referendum result with rumour mills going into overdrive. How organisations understand and respond to employee concerns and questions during turbulent times is more important than ever.
Every organisation will need to respond differently depending on its opportunities, challenges and circumstances.
Here are five key internal communications principles to consider during times of uncertainty or change.
1. You don’t need to have all the answers
Often organisations clam up and refuse to say anything when they don’t have a clear plan for the way forward. Encourage your leadership team to have the confidence to communicate with employees even when you don’t know what is going to happen.
Treat employees with honesty about what is happening and what is being discussed. Also provide ways for people to ask questions and raise issues that will help employees understand what steps are being taken and be reassured that leaders are on top of it.
2. Visible leaders
Not only will leaders be occupied with considering the impact of the referendum result on business strategies and plans but they also must create a sense of stability, unity and continuity despite the unknown.
Communications professionals should be part of the top table, influencing decisions and creating an understanding amongst senior leaders about the impact of decisions on employees and key stakeholders internally and externally.
A strong leadership team is a key driver of employee engagement. During periods of change, clear and consistent communication from leaders is a priority. The aim is to create a strong sense of one organisation, bringing people together despite possible change.
3. Give line managers communications confidence by arming them with knowledge
Many employees will look to their line manager for support and answers to questions. Face-to-face communication with line managers is one of the biggest factors to influence employee engagement during change.
Give line managers clear information, FAQs and guides to help them answer key questions and support their teams.
Managers need to know they are not expected to have all the answers, but should take the time to listen to employee concerns and feed these up through the business to ensure employee attitudes and perceptions are understood and acted upon.
4. Know your employees
As ever, one size doesn’t fit all. Having an understanding of different employees and their attitudes, perceptions and behaviour helps to ensure communication can be targeted to meet the needs of different people.
Providing reassurance to allay employee concerns and answering questions will help to ensure communication is on the front foot.
5. Be flexible
With many things still up in the air, organisations need to continue business as usual.
But be prepared to be flexible and open to change.
The approach taken to internal communications needs to be aligned with what is being said externally.
Organisations need to be open and honest with employees, understanding different people’s views and bringing people together. Engaging people in conversations wherever possible will provide a strong basis for effective change communications.