Business Leaders Have An Opportunity, And An Obligation, To Communicate More Effectively
The COVID-19 global pandemic has been swift in its reach and its impact. It has challenged governments and businesses to respond to something that was not in most business continuity or disaster recovery plans, and it has challenged individuals to manage through a plethora of personal and professional challenges.
This is hard.
In this moment of need, consumers are paying attention to what companies and CEOs are doing to help their employees, their customers, and the communities in which they operate. They are posting on social media and highlighting those who are stepping up and those who are staying silent.
A recent study by FTI Communications titled “Shifting Expectations” tells us more. This survey probes the general population, opinion elites, and retail investors. And if you are a CEO, head of Communications, work in Marketing or Human Resources, or lead Community Affairs, take note, because consumers certainly are.
The survey found that the general population, opinion elites, and retail investors are all aligned in the business activities that they are paying more attention to than they did pre-crisis. These activities include:
- Knowing what companies are doing for their employees’ safety and well-being (86% of the general population are paying more attention than usual; 92% of opinion elites; 89% of retail investors). These could be things like extra cleaning of grocery stores, work-from-home arrangements, paid sick leave, and other actions.
- Finding out what CEOs and leaders are doing to help people in need (82% of the general population are paying more attention than usual; 91% of opinion elites; 86% of retail investors). People want to see CEOs and leaders donating funds to relief agencies and charities like food banks as well as to initiatives that are aimed at helping public health professionals.
- Learning about how companies are treating their customers (82% of the general population are paying more attention than usual; 82% of opinion elites; 88% of retail investors). People want to see that companies are doing things like giving refunds, rethinking payment terms, introducing contactless deliveries, implementing seamless digital processes, and more based on the amount of need and the various ways companies can adjust and adapt depending on their industry.
The survey also tells us that 30% of consumers surveyed have posted online about companies who are doing good things, and 8% have posted about companies doing things that they don’t think are right. As expected, opinion elites are posting more, with a full 44% having posted about a business or leader going above and beyond, while 12% posted about a business or leader not doing the right thing.
Obviously business leaders should be seeking to help their employees, customers, and communities at this time because businesses thrive when the communities in which they operate thrive. But in the midst of a crisis, sometimes we forget to focus on those areas as we are hunkering down and trying to ensure the solvency of the business. And sometimes we forget that it’s important to communicate the good things that we are doing (or we think communicating those things may seem self-serving).
Remember to communicate because it is good for your company’s reputation, for your employees’ pride, and for helping lift the spirits of others who need to see good things happening right now.
And as you’re communicating externally, remember to also increase communications with your employees about things that impact them directly.
In the survey, it showed that employers are doing a good job in the minds of many employees. More than 70% say they are receiving effective communications regarding work-from-home arrangements and about their health and safety. More than 60% say they are receiving information about the health of the business, their working options, and their personal job security. Yet only 51% say they are receiving effective communications regarding potential furloughs and layoffs (perhaps because their leaders are uncertain so they don’t know what to communicate).
Yet the picture is different for those at lower levels of income, who rate effective communications from their business leaders in the 50% range regarding furloughs and staff reductions, working options, job security, and health benefits. Since many of these workers are deemed essential – working in supermarkets, healthcare facilities, warehouses, food processing plants, and critical infrastructure – they deserve better.
During this crisis, business leaders have an opportunity and a responsibility to step up for their employees, their customers, and their communities, and honest, transparent, and frequent communications must be a part of that.
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