COVID-19: 8 Tips for improving employee communication in a time of crisis

In uncertain times, clear and consistent communication is more important than ever. Now is not the time to go radio silent ― even if you don’t have all the answers. Frequent touchpoints can help decrease stress and provide reassurance during challenging times.  

Try these tips to stay in touch with your employees.

  1. Be open and honest. If there was ever a time for direct and down-to-earth messaging, it’s now. Provide answers if you have them, and be honest if you don’t.
  2. Update often. Sometimes less is more, but right now employees want―and need―to hear from leadership on a regular basis. Don’t wait until you have all the answers. Give updates as soon as you have them.
  3. Step outside your communication comfort zone. Your tried-and-true communication channels may not work. Look for new ways to reach employees.
    • Podcasts: People like to consume information or entertainment in short bursts. According to the New York Times, about one in three Americans listens to podcasts. Podcasts can be produced quickly, which allows you to respond nimbly to changing conditions. For example, Milliman released a podcast to retirement plan participants in response to recent market volatility.
    • Virtual meetings: With restrictions on group face-to-face gatherings and travel, people are turning to virtual meetings―especially those with a video component―as a replacement. When Milliman clients needed to cancel in-person group meetings and one-on-one consultations with our Retirement Educators, our Meeting Services team provided a virtual solution.
  4. Move quickly. In a rapidly changing situation, your communication needs to keep up the pace. Podcasts and websites are efficient ways to provide updated information. For example, Milliman added a COVID-19 resource page on our financial wellness website, which included:
    • Tips to settle nerves, stay informed, and make wise financial decisions
    • A link to download the “What To Do When … The Market Declines” podcast
    • A video that covered what to remember when the market takes a downturn
  5. Note the date and time. It’s a good idea to date- and time-stamp your materials. When things are changing on an hour-to-hour basis, people need to know what information is the most timely.
  6. Provide resources. Reassure employees that help is available. Direct them to resources like your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), mental health benefits, and financial education. Consider posting Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) updates, such as:
    • Are telemedicine visits covered?
    • How do I change my prescription to mail order?
    • Where can I get help to manage my child’s anxiety?
    • How do I change my 401(k) contributions?
  7. Change course if you need to. You may need to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming. Are the messages timely and do they still make sense in the current environment? Or do employees need to hear something else? In response to the market declines, we replaced the March retirement plan participant email with an email about market volatility.
  8. Cut through the clutter. Make your communication easy to understand and avoid business jargon. Break down complicated concepts by using bullets, charts, and infographics. For example, we helped retirement plan participants understand the impact of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act with a chart that organized the details into logical components―what you need to know, the deadline to request relief, and how to apply for help.

This blog post first appeared on Retirement Town Hall.