By nature we resist change but the Coronavirus is forcing massive changes to our work and personal lives. If you’re an executive, here are three suggestions when communicating about the Coronavirus crisis to your employees.
1. Use Multiple Channels
In 2013, Yahoo employees received a now infamous memo from the company’s head of HR that Yahoo’s work-from-home policy was ending. Telecommuting arrangements were abolished in order to encourage more face-to-face interactions. The memo caused outrage among Yahoo employees who felt blindsided by the sudden change.
A single memo from senior leadership is clearly an inadequate way of communicating a major change to the organization. As change management expert John Kotter says, it’s important for executive teams to use “all existing communication channels to broadcast the message.”
2. Explain WHY Change Is Occurring
While it’s obvious that social distancing and “flattening the curve” are combating the Coronavirus now, it’s still important to explain details and rationale to employees. A crisis of this magnitude means employees need an opportunity to ask questions and be heard. This will ensure they fully embrace working remotely and other changes.
3. Make it Personal
One of the main reasons Yahoo’s memo failed was it did not address the WIIFM factor. The memo focused solely on the benefits to Yahoo (increased productivity and collaboration), but failed to consider the impact of the change on employees and as a result came off as cold and uncaring.
CEOs today should understand the financial and personal impact the Coronavirus is having and will continue to have on employees. The biggest lesson learned from Yahoo’s famous memo is to show empathy.
Using different modes of communication, explaining why the change is happening, and making it personal are three tips to avoid embarrassing and costly mistakes like the one made by Yahoo. The stakes are high so make sure you’re ready.