The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a number of changes in the way employees function in many industries. One of these changes is the reduction of direct contact with other team members, which also has transformed internal communication. What does it look like now? How to improve internal communication in an organization to maintain good relationships within a team? Below, you will find a couple of ideas and some practical advice which can be implemented right away.
How did the COVID-19 outbreak influence communication within companies?
EXAMPLE I: Stress and internal communication
The so-called information noise, accompanied by the hype surrounding fake news from unreliable sources, enhances social unrest considerably. You might be wondering why we mention that and what impact it could have on your organization… Well, the thing is that the teams that used to focus on theirs tasks successfully are now only able to retain 20% of the information they receive. That means that 8 out of 10 emails you send are lost on the addressees. This happens because the feelings of stress and anxiety drive out everything else.
EXAMPLE II: Leadership communication methods
While performing their everyday tasks at work, all employees are accompanied by their personal fears. They are worried about the health of their close ones and afraid of losing their job. That is why team leaders should be tactful and present only reliable information to their teams. Fueling their anxiety will not increase focus on their tasks. The responsible approach is to communicate only verified information. Any possible speculations about planned lay-offs should be made specific and based on concrete data, such as:
- the scale of the intended downsizing,
- the time of the workforce reduction,
- the planned system of termination payment, assistance in finding new employment,
- the guidelines for the team responsible for selecting employees for dismissal.
What’s more, this difficult moment may be challenging to the leaders as well, because they should not only look after the organization and estimate its chances of survival but also (or first and foremost) take care of the human factor: the emotions of grief, fear, or loneliness. One can safely say that this is one of the key challenges the leaders face in the times of pandemic.
Why is empathy a valuable and desirable quality in leaders?
Empathy is one of the essential management skills in leaders. In practice, it can be expressed in the ability of putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes. This means that even if the leader does not agree with the employee’s opinion or attitude, the willingness to understand is a value in itself.
Empathy builds connection. If the bonds within a team are strong, overcoming difficulties will be easier, based on the developed relationships.
Empathy displayed by managers does not mean they have to respond to particular employees’ views. Instead, it is based on unjudgmental acceptance and respect toward their behavior.
Empathy is not easy but it is profitable in the long term: it may result in the reinforcement of the skills of the employees who will not be afraid of being judged when taking decisions and choosing new paths.
EXAMPLE III: Internal communication – a perfect combination of intuition and understanding
All teams are composed of numerous individuals, as they consist of both introverted and extraverted persons. Every personality type requires different kinds of stimuli and favors different forms of communication. Experienced managers will find it easy to sense the moods and needs of their teams. Hence, applying various forms of contact guarantees effective and comfortable communication on both sides. When planning your approach to online meetings, you need to take various details into consideration: the age of particular employees or the nature of their departments. The meetings of young graphic designers will differ from the meetings of seasoned engineers.
Good relationships and high employee engagement are founded on regular information exchange. The lack of information results in the feelings of insecurity and fear, so ensuring systematic, frequent communication is the recommended strategy. Thus, presenting clear rules concerning the future meetings or internal newsletters for employees is the first step to successful, clear information flow and, in result, to overcoming unrest in the organization.
How to develop an effective internal communication plan?
- Representatives of all teams should take part in the meetings where internal newsletters and other forms of internal communication are prepared. This will help you respond to the questions that are relevant to all the groups.
- Managers need to develop an action plan presenting a variety of scenarios. They need to be always well ahead of the actual occurrence of the circumstances that will require the introduction of immediate changes. The tone and manner of communicating those changes are crucial as well. This is because if dozens of managers start to inform employees about something, each of them in their own individual way, the teams may end up with different interpretations of the same piece of information.
- Team leaders should always be the first to know about any new and untypical plans, before the other members of the team. This will enable them to come to terms with the upcoming modifications and to think of answers to potential questions that may be asked by team members. This preparation can give them a great opportunity to eliminate possible shock that employees may experience when they learn about the upcoming changes.
Communication timing and its value to the recipients
The end of the day, when employees feel tired, is not the best time to communicate anything. There is big risk that they will ignore the news or understand it superficially only. Early afternoon seems to be the optimum time for breaking news to employees – this gives them more time to understand the message, discuss it with their colleagues, and prepare questions.
EXAMPLE IV: Making use of new types of software used to organize meetings and assign tasks
Remote work naturally requires new forms of consulting particular tasks with the rest of the team. Facilitating communication is one of the main challenges of the remote work mode. Team members need to share their tasks and to follow their progress in real time, as well as to talk and take part in brainstorming.
Find out how effective internal communication can be in the times of remote work.
What are the benefits of such solutions?
- Controlling the organizational chaos within the company
Presenting a clear employee structure is not only useful to the new hires. On top of that, it will introduce a better order for the more experienced employees. When they, for instance, look for a solution to a new problem.
- Getting quick responses to your questions
No more emails if you need a clear and quick response. Online messengers are the new face of digital knowledge exchange in organizations.
- Digital database
Thanks to it, no more files, presentations, or articles will be lost in the maze of other emails. Well-organized knowledge will always be within reach anytime it’s necessary.
The delicate art of communication – this is what organizations rely on
Regardless of the personality of an individual employee or the characteristics of a particular sector or profession, everyone can feel demotivated or distressed by isolation. The monotony of home office may eventually lower employees’ spirits and their willingness to work; as a result, that may have a negative impact on the company’s overall performance.
This clearly shows how necessary it is to integrate online teams, using new forms of digital contact, adjusted to the needs of a given organization. By employing these solutions, you will certainly contribute to the realization of your company’s vision and goals. Establishing relationships based on partnership shows the human face of your organization and helps you achieve your objectives.