Navigating Professional Communication During the COVID-19 Pandemic
It would be the understatement of the century to say that the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the flow of information in the workplace. It hasn’t simply disrupted communication in the workplace; it has rewritten the landscape of how managers and employees interact daily and how employees do their work. When it comes to a productive, efficient and effective workplace, nothing can replace robust communication between everyone. It builds trust, sets realistic expectations and gives everyone a sense of orientation, even—and perhaps even most importantly—when times are tough.
That is why it’s more important than ever to not only maintain communication with employees but improve it, as much as possible. HR departments, managers and employees all play a critical role in making sure that the lines of communication stay open and are used often. How do you do that? Consider this.
The pandemic has left people detached, distracted, and hopeless beyond belief. The unpredictable layoffs, dismissals, lack of income security, and compromised productivity have created an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear. One report suggests that about 655 million full-time jobs worldwide were lost in the first two quarters of 2020 alone.
This lingering fear of losing a job or business, or negative changes in monthly income has affected the psychological well-being of employees and employers alike. Adjusting to the new form of work while maintaining one’s sanity and staying safe from the virus is a huge challenge that has negatively affected communication within most organizations.
If you are experiencing some or all of these same difficulties and need some winning tips, we can help. This article brings valuable insight to help employers learn communication development ideas from a Christian perspective as well as effective tips for employees to acquire the support they need from their employers.
Acquiring Support the Right Way
Since the start of the Covid pandemic, employees worldwide have experienced a lack of support from their employers in the area of communication. This has greatly affected employees’ mental framework and productivity.
Many employees and managers alike have chosen to keep communication to a minimum, assuming it would prevent unnecessary conflict. But keeping concerns bottled up inside is an exhausting way to handle a situation. Speaking one’s mind will help relieve stress and also reveal unrealistic assumptions. But concerns must be appropriately voiced for effective results. To avoid a negative impact, follow these 5 strategies:
1. Voice Your Concern in a Timely Way
The first thing for workplace harmony is choosing the perfect time to share a concern. Discussing issues during a meeting or when leadership is interacting with others may be a big no-no at your organization. The most effective way in ensuring non-confrontation is to schedule a time with your leader and have an honest one-on-one discussion with them. Make sure the time is right, as it will set the course for productive conversation, allowing your employer to listen to you attentively and respond. Many leaders are more receptive in an individual setting vs. a group format when an employee goes out of their way to communicate.
2. Avoid Being Vague
If you are intent on finding a solution or you have concerns, be specific to avoid sounding negative or unserious. Instead of generalizing the problem, discuss the details, as generalizing diminishes the seriousness of your case. The more specific and clear you are, the more benefits you will likely achieve.
3. Keep Solutions Ready
The most effective employees are those who see a problem come up, identify a solution, and seek approval to implement. Employees who repeatedly raise problems without suggesting solutions tend to diminish their reputation, so try to be solution oriented. Suggesting a solution along with the problem will make you look like a problem solver and helps leaders be more receptive to considering your point.
On the other hand, those who perpetually complain hurt only themselves. Complaints are not limited to employees; leaders can be negative as well, especially given the pressures and restrictions of Covid-19. So you need to know when best to present something as a problem and when to visit your superior to seek their opinion and advice before you work on something.
4. Let the Employer Decide
You cannot force an idea or a solution upon your organization. Voice your concerns in the form of a request vs. a demand, present some suggestions, and leave the final decision to senior leadership. Even if you do not get your request approved quickly, it will be on the record for future concerns. Most employers want to hear concerns, and presenting them respectfully creates a greater chance of implementation.
5. Ask Others to Voice Their Opinion
If it’s an issue that affects others, encourage them in a respectful way to speak up for maximum results. When more people are affected by a problem, the chance of leadership taking action also increases. Together, all can help leadership understand the totality of workplace obstacles.
Communication Ideas for Employers
To make sure the organization is operating well and heading towards its intended goals, employers need to pay attention to the communication within their organization as it relates to the development, care and support of its employees. This is most important during this difficult Covid-19 pandemic period.
Below are 9 critical takeaways for leaders and human resource management to ensure added productivity and development, even in times of crisis.
1. Communicate Often, More Than You Think Is Necessary
Over-communication is rarely the problem in any organization. That is why is it important to communicate frequently. According to the Harvard Business Review, those who work remotely don’t feel like they are being treated equally. This is where consistent communication can make a dramatic difference.
Communication is key to success, especially during tough times. Constant reminders, motivation, and communication reduce employees’ concerns and help them stay on top of their tasks. The way communication is maintained with employees can have a dramatic impact on an organization during tough times. So, keep it transparent and regular. Consider developing a communication strategy that allows your HR team to take the lead to communicate key information on a regular basis. Doing so can help reduce the stress your employees may have of the unknown.
2. Have One-on-One Discussions With Your Staff
Having one-on-one discussions with your staff allows you to put your Christian values to work. Being tolerant and treating employees with grace shows that you value their growth and are willing to helping them develop to their full potential, regardless of circumstances in the outside world. Your staff grows, your company grows.
3. Be Empathetic
Empathy goes a long way and can buy you a lot of goodwill. Remember, everyone is working and building their careers, and concerned for their future and stability. People will continue to make mistakes in their work. This is where empathy can show that you care and are worthy of their trust. This leads to more honest and open communication.
4. Watch for Nonverbal Cues
The signs of stress or impending problems are often more easily seen than heard. In the age of video calls, watching for nonverbal clues can give you an edge when anticipating challenges. By being alert to and addressing these clues, not only are you being proactive but you show that you care enough to pay attention. That can go a long way toward bolstering communication between employees, managers and HR.
5. Give Employees Options to Have Their Concerns Addressed
Communication is a two-way street and by making it easy for employees to have their concerns heard and addressed, you are proving with your actions that you care. One-on-one conversations, suggestions boxes, easy access to HR and an open-door policy to managers are ways to show that employees matter. When people believe their voices matter, they speak.
6. Develop Feedback Mechanisms
Create a secure channel to communicate and encourage feedback from employees. To gain organizational feedback, allow employees to utilize several means of communication, such as reaching out to HR, talking to a senior or manager (open-door communication), or providing anonymous suggestion channels. Offering various methods allows the concerns to reach the right authorities and encourages the employees to give feedback, which helps immensely in professional development. For more intense leadership development feedback, consider HR Impact 360, a program where leaders are assessed by their direct reports, peers and superiors.
7. Ease the Work-from-Home (WFH) Experience
As we all know, maintaining productivity is challenging while working from home. Therefore, employers who can arrange for equipment to support working at home will help employees succeed. By now, most organizations have implemented software and tools (Zoom, Slack, etc.) to help employees perform without much hindrance. On the other hand, holding meetings and discussions on time that limit the effect on their family can ease the WFH experience. Opting for audio vs. video calls when few people are needed can also speed up things.
8. Provide Job Security
One of employees’ greatest fears, based on our conversations with them, is the possibility they might lose their jobs and have their careers derailed. Being a leader, it is difficult to navigate this territory. Many states are “employment at will,” which means employers and employees can part company at any time for very little reason. And employers must be careful not to insinuate job security in precarious times. Be cautious about assuring employees that their jobs are secure. And if you know it not to be the case, let them know in advance to give them enough time to prepare.
9. Keep Plans Transparent
These unprecedented times call for leaders to be extra composed as their subordinates look to them for cues often timed for strength and inspiration. When appropriate, share strategies and planning with employees and communicate the organization’s performance focus so that employees can, if need be, modify their work accordingly.
10. Encourage Participation in Group Conversations
A study done by Baylor University, a private Christian school, found that younger staff were less likely to offer an opinion or participate in a discussion if the more senior staff remained silent. Due to the perceived hierarchy and their “place” in the organization, people didn’t feel free to speak. By making it clear that participation is encouraged and expected, you can improve the quality of your group discussions.
Need Specialized Guidance?
The pandemic has transformed the way organizations operate, and for these changing times, you need better and more specialized strategies. In HIS Name HR helps implement effective HR plans and programs for organizational success. Our experienced HR leaders ensure that your organization enjoys improved productivity and better employee relations in just a short period of time.
If the pandemic has you stressed out, let our 10 years of serving clients nationwide benefit you. We are the leaders in human resource consulting and outsourcing services from a Christian perspective. Let our experts assist you in these hard times and save yourself from unnecessary pain and stress!
Mark A. Griffin is founder and Chief Consultant at In HIS Name HR LLC. He has over 25 years of HR experience. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
In His Name HR helps organizations build high-performance human resource programs. E-mail us here.