Monday 20 April, 2020

By Nick Hanlon

Across every sector, businesses are grappling with the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. And while many will be focused on operations, it cannot be at the cost of a company’s biggest asset – its people.

At Weber Shandwick Scotland, we are supporting a range of clients to navigate this turbulent period and prepare for recovery. And employee engagement is crucial to that effort, as the steps businesses take now will have a significant impact on performance in the weeks and months ahead.

Here, we’ve looked at five ways businesses can navigate trusted and useful information across their operation to ensure the safety and security of their staff – and build a better business equipped to deal with future challenges.

1) Build trust through transparency and empathy. Equipping managers and team leaders with key talking points for addressing employee questions and concerns will create an environment where your people’s wellbeing will come before business needs. That will give employees the peace of mind to come forward if unwell, take time off where needed and work to find solutions for fellow team members who are impacted.

2) Provide accessible, reliable and timely information. It’s natural for there to be a lot of speculation about coronavirus and employees will, understandably, be discussing this with colleagues. That’s why you should establish a source on your intranet or preferred group messaging app where your people can access links to trusted pieces of news and information, lists of contacts, support services and updates on how your enterprise may be affected.

3) Establish protocols for connecting employees with the support they need. It’s vital that you review and update any protocols for handling business disruptions, flexible working policies and approaches to protecting the health and wellbeing of others. You may need to allow greater flexibility and offer additional support to colleagues affected, as well as identify and address any gaps in remote working technology and mobile access as home working increasingly becomes the new norm for many organisations.

 4) Create a proactive communications plan and review internal communications. Prepare basic key messages and a plan to cascade them to employees along with ready-to-update materials so you have a pre-approved process in place should you need to communicate updates quickly to your people. If you think your internal communications channels need auditing to allow for accurate and consistent delivery of information, now is the time to do it.

 5) Give employees a way to help. Even if a person isn’t personally impacted, they may still feel helpless and want to get involved, so by creating a space for them to contribute, you will offer purpose and encourage positive engagement.

Above all, the potential impact of COVID-19 should not be minimised. Clear and timely communications about possible risks and associated mitigation strategies will be critical to limiting disruption – and ensuring the wellbeing of your people. Several resources are available to help support ongoing communication, many of which can found through the following organisations:

  • World Health Organization
  • Scottish Government
  • UK Government
  • NHS
  • European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

Please feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss how Weber Shandwick Scotland can help your business manage its communications around employee engagement at this time.

Nick is a Senior Manager, Employee Engagement at Weber Shandwick Scotland. He works across a range of sectors supporting clients with his specialist skills in employee engagement, media relations and consumer communications.  Contact Nick at