According to the National Weather Service, 2017 was a “hyperactive and catastrophic hurricane season”. With over 3,000 deaths and $282+ billion dollars in damages it was the costliest ever in death toll and destruction. We all remember the three major ones – Harvey, Irma and Maria and the harm they caused.
Just this week it was announced that another major storm will make landfall. Hurricane Florence is expected to hit the coast of North Carolina this weekend and with its arrival many millions of people will be displaced and there is potential for major damage to countless homes and businesses.
It’s important that in times of crisis your business is prepared with a plan of action to communicate with employees and stakeholders. Whether it’s a hurricane, tornado, blizzard or other natural disaster always ensure the wellbeing of your employees as they are your company’s most important asset.
Develop an emergency response plan with information for business offices with evacuation routes, emergency contacts, and safety procedures for your employees
Close your offices well in advance
Set up a crisis hotline or contact page where employees can get updates and stay connected
Make sure data backup systems are operational and fortify your office area before the disaster hits
Form a relief group to help recovery efforts or set up a relief fund for those effected by the disaster
I was watching a movie the other night (Jurassic Park III, underrated movie in my opinion) and there was a conversation between two of the main characters that stood out for me.
Billy “You have to believe me, this was a stupid decision, but I did it with the best intentions.”
Dr. Grant “With the best intentions? Some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions.”
Now in this case, Dr. Grant was talking about building a dinosaur theme park that ended up getting hundreds of people killed. On a smaller scale, businesses sometimes make decisions that end up backfiring with undesired consequences.
Business Insider published an article recently highlighting a perfect example of this. United Airlines announced they were making a change to their employee incentive program. Rather than using the existing quarterly performance and attendance-based bonus program they were moving to a lottery- based bonus program. Eligible employees would be entered into drawings for various prizes if the company hit performance goals during that quarter. The news did not go over well. Very shortly, United President Scott Kirby announced that they would be “pressing pause” on the new system after negative feedback from employees.
“Our intention was to introduce a better, more exciting program, but we misjudged how these changes would be received by many of you. So, we are pressing the pause button on these changes to review your feedback and consider the right way to move ahead.”
There was an obvious disconnect between the decision makers at United and their employees. In retrospect, this is something that could have easily been avoided. When introducing a new internal program, particularly one that employees are passionate about, be sure to understand what your employees value and take steps to prepare them for the change. Seeking input and instituting change management best practices will help ensure that new initiatives are launched successfully.
Conducting an employee survey is a low cost effective method to gather information on employee priorities and areas that need work. Conduct an employee survey annually or use spot surveys for immediate input before launching a new program.
Before rolling out new programs, test the concept through focus groups. This will give you a good idea of how new programs will be received and identify any potential problems before launch.
Institute a Soft Launch or Pilot Program
Test the concept in one functional area or with a user group over a specified period of time. This will give the pilot group time to ask questions and give feedback before the full program launch so the program can be tweaked before full launch.
Sometimes an idea looks great of paper but simply doesn’t work in practice. Being prepared will make the entire process easier. Get out in front of any potential problems and create a plan that simplifies the information with a clear and consistent message. How does your company communicate new programs? Please share your ideas and stories with me: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the wake of widespread media reports of sexual harassment, what is your business doing ensure a safe and accountable workplace? Consider this: the #MeToo hashtag was shared more than 1 million times in just 48 hours after being posted to social media. The public debate continues as others are empowered to share their stories.
This is not a new issue. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 94% of U.S. companies have harassment and/or bullying policies that outline conduct that is prohibited. But if you think having a policy is enough, think again. A 2016 EEOC study of workplace harassment revealed that policies alone do not encourage appropriate behavior. The study reported that approximately 90% of survey participants who experienced sexual harassment never file a complaint.
This is a unique, timely moment to be very clear about workplace harassment. It benefits everyone to make this a priority in your business. When employees experience a safe and welcoming workplace, they perform at their best and drive business performance. As you review this issue internally, consider these communication best practices.
Review and update the existing Harassment Policy
Start by examining the current policy. When was the last time it was reviewed and updated? If it’s been more than five years, it’s too old. The policy should, at a minimum, list examples of prohibited conduct, detail the process for reporting objectionable conduct, and be signed by the current CEO. Then ensure that the policy, and the reporting process, is accessible. Bottom line: let employees know where to go for help.
Time for leaders to speak out
Every leader must be accountable. Let employees hear directly from the C-Suite that harassment will not be tolerated. Human Resources can support this endeavor, but can’t shoulder it alone. Executives must step up and commit that when allegations are brought, they will be investigated immediately and that appropriate actions will follow. Convey that retaliation is prohibited since many cases are unreported due to fears of job loss or reprisals.
Train. Train. Train.
Most companies provide online harassment training, but do you mandate that training is completed? Is harassment addressed in new employee orientation? Training will ensure a better understanding of the behaviors that comprise harassment. Additionally, the HR team must be prepared and ready to conduct prompt, objective and thorough investigations.
Amplify the message through internal communications
If an employee experiences sexual harassment–or witnesses it–do they know what steps to take? Make it easy for individuals to report. Use multiple channels to share the harassment policy and reporting procedure. Talk about it in town halls, blogs, create a video from the CEO and put a link to the policy on the home page of your company intranet. Make it loud so that everyone understands that harassment is unacceptable in your company culture.
“Please take some time to familiarize yourself with the contents and policies of our Employee Handbook and feel free to contact your HR representative if you have any questions.”
Does that sound familiar? Probably not, because in all honesty, who actually reads through their entire Employee Handbook?
Most of the time your Employee Handbook is distributed, put in a drawer and then thrown away when the next handbook is distributed. They are often an afterthought to both employees and employers that are only brought out in when someone wants to check company policies.
I recently read an article about one such extreme situation. The company, Quicken Loans, was summoned to the National Labor Relations Board offices this past December. The case against them alleged that the Detroit-based company had violated the First Amendment rights of employees and their protections under the National Labor Relations Act to discuss salary and benefits information. The allegation claimed that company policies in their Employee Handbook restricted discussions to the formation of a labor union.
Whether or not Quicken Loans is found in violation, this is a perfect case of why it is important to know what is in your Employee Handbook and why companies need to periodically update and revise it. Attorney Daniel Schudroff made a great comparison when he said “It’s like taking your car to the shop every six months for a checkup, the preventative maintenance could save an employer a costly event.”
An incident this week strengthened my opinion that social media has a purpose beyond Kim Kardashian’s latest selfie or Taylor Swift’s love life. Used effectively, social media should become a plank in every internal communications strategy.
On October 5, the management of Here to Serve Restaurants in Atlanta announced that their ten restaurants would close immediately, putting 1,000 people out of work while the company explores reorganization. No notice, no severance, no return date.
By the next morning, the word spread through the Atlanta restaurant community. Social media became a life raft for impacted employees to connect with restaurants that were hiring. Open positions for back of house and front of house roles appeared on Twitter, trending under #H2H2WORK. Here’s just a sample:
“Lots of ATL resto folks are out of jobs today due to the H2S closings. Resto group—post your opps and I’ll retweet. #H2S2WORK” @ATL_Events
“H2H2WORK come get some fried chicken @WhiteOakAtlanta. We got enough for at least 15 of y’all.” @ChefTRichards
“As much as it hurts to see @H2SRestaurants going away, it’s awesome to see the #ATL food community coming together #H2H2WORK” @Christopherbw
The Giving Kitchen, a restaurant community non-profit, established a fund for Here to Serve employees and there were online job fairs on Facebook.
Think about this: These efforts mobilized within 24 hours of the announcement. Atlanta restaurants belong to a geographically dispersed community with none of the traditional internal communications vehicles (emails, town halls, presentation decks). Yet the response was fast and effective.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Is your social media plan established and robust? Would your employees go to your social platforms for information or in a crisis? Have you marketed your social media channels to internal audiences?
2. If you have an existing Crisis Communications plan, when was the last time you tested or updated it?
3. Does everyone with accountability in the plan understand their role? If there are new hires in key roles, do they know their responsibilities in a crisis?
You can bet that nearly 100% of your employees have access to their phones. Build internal traffic to your social media sites and then use social in your internal communication strategy.