By Jasmine Agyemang
How many times have you heard the phrase “the new normal” since COVID-19 began? While some of us are still adapting, it’s time for leaders and communicators to look at the next normal. A crisis can cause tunnel vision with leaders only focusing on the here and now, so it makes sense that only 10% of leaders are prepared for a post-COVID-19 recovery.
But as companies across the globe prepare to bring back their workforce, leaders must set the vision for what’s next and then bring their communities with them. Communicating how your organization is preparing for this next phase can instill confidence in employees and ensure a smoother transition.
Need some tips? Check out these three steps for successfully entering into the next normal:
- Establish a COVID-19 recovery team. Dedicate members of your COVID-19 task force specifically to re-entry and future planning, anticipating issues and developing workplace guidelines. Human resources, facilities personnel, legal and communications teams should each be included.
- Identify an approach that makes the most sense for your business. Consider your industry, company’s mission and community. Re-entry approaches will vary from company to company, and that’s OK. Tech companies like Facebook have taken a long-term conservative approach by cancelling large events through June 2021 and Twitter will allow employees to work from home indefinitely if they choose, while car makers are beginning to reopen plants on a more aggressive timeline.
- Anticipate the risks and understand the context. Before reopening the workplace, outline what a successful re-entry looks like for your business and assess any associated risks. Understanding employees’ perceptions and concerns will allow you to anticipate and address any potential barriers to a smooth transition. Start with a survey or gather feedback through focus groups. Schedule check-ins between leaders and their teams. Prepare FAQs and think through scenarios based on these learnings. Be sure to identify back-up plans where needed.
Regardless of the specifics of your re-entry plan, remember these communications best practices:
- Be consistent. Consistency is always key when sharing a plan with employees. It instills confidence and communicates care for your team.
- Be confident. If you’ve developed a plan that adheres to the CDC guidelines, don’t be afraid to take action to recover. Be confident in your task force and leadership to communicate and execute the post-COVID-19 recovery plan.
- Be proactive. Sharing information proactively puts employees at ease and shows that your organization values its employees enough to communicate the plan before it is executed. In a recent study, 63% of employees asked for daily updates from their employer, and 20% wanted communications several times a day. Be open, keep to a cadence and remain consistent. Use these questions to guide you in determining what and when to communicate.
- Outline clear expectations for everyone involved. Employees should understand where they fit into the plan, and it’s important that managers and team members are clear about their roles. Leaders should clarify objectives and equip managers with the tools needed to implement new plans.
- Engage in active listening. Schedule one-on-one check-ins and conduct internal surveys to keep a pulse on your organization and the sentiment of your team. As you do so, leverage digital insights to determine what is being said about your brand in traditional and social media outlets and how that may shape your plan.
While each business may approach the post-COVID-19 recovery effort differently, having a plan in place and communicating strategically along the way can ensure the health and safety of your people and should remain a top priority as you look to the next normal.
If your business needs some additional support, our team of change management and crisis communications experts is committed to helping businesses plan and anticipate change during and after COVID-19. We would be glad to partner with you to develop or implement a workforce re-entry plan. Contact our team today.