HR Communications Action Guide

We are in unprecedented times where the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to make difficult decisions to layoff or furlough staff. Just as the decline in employment was rapid, there may be a rush to hire staff on the other side of the COVID-19 epidemic. No matter what industry you are in, you will need to hire staff once again. Ideally, you rehire staff that you lost because they know your industry, company and have institutional knowledge to support your mission. So, the opportunity is in the communication you keep with your impacted and retained staff between layoff, rehire, and onward. You may never have a better opportunity than now to live your values and build trust with your employees. 

The purpose of this post is to help drive thought on a communications framework for outplaced and retained employees. If you need a place to start on how to communicate with your affected and retained staff, consider these 3 steps:

1. What Does Success Look Like

Start with the end in mind. For many companies, the goal of communicating with affected and retained staff during this time will enable the company to rehire impacted staff when the situation has improved. This ongoing communication and engagement will permit a less disruptive reintegration into the workforce.

Get a clear goal(s) of what success looks like for your company and reverse engineer the solutions from there. The goals may change in the future as information and the environment change. Do your best now and adjust as you go along.

Your vision will help lead the type of content and wording you will push out to your staff. You may even come across a rally slogan based on your vision. Make it yours!

2. Understand Your Audience

You may already know who is going to be impacted and when. What you may not know is how you can support them and retained staff once layoffs occur. Understanding staff and anticipating their needs will help the company create your unique support position. Your unique support position includes the resources, leadership and planning that make the support you offer employees better and different from competitors. Think about:

  • Who is impacted: roles, skill level, locations, access to resources, likelihood of return?
  • What problems will each group face the next day, month, in three months, or six months? Think deep and wide, about the transactional, emotional and physical.
  • How do anticipated staff challenges impact your communication goals?
  • How are you going to communicate with staff (email, website, social) and at what cadence (daily, weekly, monthly, never)?
  • Who is the “Face” and voice of the communication? Are there multiple faces / voices depending on the topic?
  • Who else should understand the information we communicate with our staff? For example, external stakeholders, future candidates or employee families.

Now is the time to stretch your thought. No need to be conservative with anticipated needs, resources or partners. It is better to think deep and wide to have more possible questions and solutions at the ready.  

3. Plan Your Message Calendar

You have a vision of what success looks like, an understanding of your internal and external audience, some anticipated problems and solutions for your target audience. Now, put it all together on a calendar.

A message calendar will help you keep track of your messages, to whom they have been sent, and your success.

A message calendar helps with planning, keeping organized, and on track. To create a message calendar, consider the follow these steps:

  1. Choose your Communication Channels
    1. Because you answered the questions above and have a clear understanding of the impacted population, you will know what communication channels should work. For example, if everyone has an email address, then use email. If no one is on Tiktok, then do not use it. It’s best to focus on two or three channels, rather than all of them.
  2. Decide What your Calendar Needs to Track
    1. Some typical considerations are: the platform used, when the post goes out, type of communication, link to a copy of the asset. It’s better to add more now because you can always delete later. Modifying after the fact and adding later is confusing and much more difficult.
  3. Make a Content Library for Your Assets
    1. Places all your digital items one location so that they are easy to access and reference. This may include logos, letter head, virtual office link, e-signatures, training resources and so on. Ultimately, this is where you can keep the final copy of the calendar and documents you send out for knowledge management.
  4. Establish a Workflow
    1. The workflow should reflect the following: (a) how often you want to send out a communication, (b) the ratio of fun / inspirational content compared to technical content; and (c) at what point your message or ratio needs to change.
  5. Start Crafting Your Communication
    1. Draft the letters, posts and mailers which are necessary to ensure coverage of your employees, but not too great so as to contribute to communication fatigue. Who can provide input for adjustments? Who needs to review communications before they are approved or sent out? Make sure to save all drafts and final assets in your content library so you are ready and easily able to follow your Message Calendar.
  6. Start Publishing Based on Your Calendar
    1. Make sure that your message includes a call to action and a system for obtaining feedback.

Ok, good job, good start! The important part of this is to understand the opportunity you have to communicate with staff during a really hard time. It is going to be hard for all, and most of all to those that are impacted by layoff or furlough. Now is the time to live your values and build trust with your employees. Good luck, we support you!

-Team 360HRE