COVID-19 news and updates change quickly and frequently. Some of the information in this article may soon be out of date. We will do our best to keep details updated during this challenging time. The article below reflects information as of May 14, 2020.
The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted every business and industry, on a global scale. Business leaders are trying to navigate the uncertainty of this crisis while shifting priorities and keeping employee morale steady.
A recent article from the Harvard Business Review was able to efficiently summarize the challenges being faced by executives during COVID-19.
“Before COVID-19, CEOs and other executives in high-growth companies were focused on fostering innovation, driving revenue, and gaining market share,” the article shares. “Today, many of those same leaders must make rapid decisions about controlling costs and maintaining liquidity. They may encounter unforeseen roadblocks — supply chain issues, team shortages, and operational challenges — that drastically alter the scope of their roles and priorities. All the while, they and their teams are navigating health and safety concerns, working remotely, and supporting their families through the pandemic.”
Leaders are under immense stress, as employees, clients, and stakeholders turn to them for guidance. An updated communication strategy during COVID-19 can help improve your processes, ease unrest, and uncover new ideas.
COVID-19 requires a crisis communication plan.
Crisis communication is a term usually reserved for public relations professionals, who help organizations or individuals defend their brand or reputation. However, the novel coronavirus is a crisis requiring a very specific communication strategy. We’ve previously shared articles on how to communicate your safety procedures with homeowners, but the following tips are to help leaders communicate internally.
Create a transparent communication strategy for your team.
Clear and frequent communication with your team is essential during normal business and paramount during a crisis such as COVID-19. News and information are constantly changing during this pandemic. You need to create an internal process to keep your team informed of new developments and changing strategies. Here are some considerations to keep in mind as you communicate with your team:
Consider your tactical communication plan. At Modernize, our executives send daily updates to their respective teams, including company updates, industry updates, and team updates. As we work and operate virtually, this helps keep everyone aligned. Additionally, our CEO, Jason Polka, provides weekly communication to our teams including a personal note on his thoughts of the week. In our interview with DeBella’s president, he shared that his executive team meets for one hour every morning.
The Harvard Business Journal recommends communicating no less than every other day.
Share your updates on different platforms. Your updates should reach everyone, and so you may decide to post on multiple channels. Consider email and your company’s private intranet, as well as text messages, Slack, and social media.
Be transparent in your updates. The Harvard Business Journal encourages leaders to “explain what you know, what you don’t know, and your sources of information.” Transparency into your decisions provides employees insight into the “why” of your decision. This is important during a crisis and helps build trust within the team. It helps ensure all parties are aligned so next steps can be achieved quickly and efficiently.
Keep your updates brief. During this stressful time, timeliness is most important. Your updates do not have to be long-winded or wordy. Don’t wait till you know all of the answers. Instead, continue to share brief updates, even if the update is “there are no major updates.”
Keep top-down and bottom-up communication lines open. During this crisis, evaluate all lines of communication and proper protocol. Upward communication is essential. Discuss the most effective way to manage bottom-up communication for your team, and make sure everyone is aligned.
Plan to pivot, and pivot boldly.
There is no clear path for weathering this pandemic. Pivoting is one of the most critical steps to surviving in a crisis, especially during COVID-19. In our interview with DeBella, president Donnie McMillan, Jr. explained how his team has to swiftly adjust the sales process to respect safety measures. “We made a hard pivot into virtual at the very first part of [the pandemic],” he said. DeBella’s agility paid off, and now their team is breaking records.
Speed is critical. But even after pivoting, it is important to ensure you are making sound decisions.
Create a COVID-19 task force. Assemble a team dedicated to organizing information for your executives. This is essential for helping you make informed decisions, quickly. Consider your different departments, and which business objectives need to remain effective in this time.
Consider using between five and 10 different key performance indicators to determine who should be within your task force. This team should meet daily to provide you updates through the company. Using those KPIs, prioritize the immediate coming days. You should also begin to scope a longer-term strategy, as you may find gaps and disruptions in different sections of your business.
Connect with your front line. Frequently check in with the team members who are at the front line, connecting with homeowners the most. It is important to understand your front line, and continue to seek, process, and develop information from it.
You will hear feedback from the end customer and will need to process this information quickly. Determine if you can create a network of local leaders who can distribute information daily (or weekly) from their local officials to your team. It will also be important to gather qualitative feedback from your customers.
This information can provide deep knowledge across your territories to understand the sentiments of prospective customers, customers, your suppliers, and your employees.
Consider the future and continue to plan for the uncertainty ahead.
There is still no timeline for when we will return to what was business as usual. With this uncertainty, continue to take time to consider different scenarios for your business. It is critical to lead your business back towards normality.
Continue to focus on the future with health and safety in mind. Within your team, and with homeowners, discuss how you will adjust to any unforeseen circumstances. Consider what scenarios could arise within the next four to eight months. Prioritize the safety of your employees and the health of your customers as you weigh decisions. Assess how to remotely operate for the foreseeable future, and consider experimenting with virtual tools and appointments.
Schedule time to plan. While you prioritize communication with your team, also ensure current business objectives are being met. Take the list of potential future scenarios, and block time to work with your finance teams to discuss possible solutions and outcomes. Plan for new KPIs based on your finance team’s insights. These scenarios and KPIs are designed to help you prepare you for any change in the upcoming seasons.
Be mindful of morale, and remain positive
It is difficult to briefly summarize our individual and collective emotions during this pandemic. This historic event will have a lasting impact on us all. We are all in this together. For leaders, remaining positive in both your communication and planning is essential.
Be empathetic. The COVID-19 crisis is one of survival. Everyone’s health is at risk, including your team’s immediate and extended families. As of mid-May, the US death toll due to the coronavirus has surpassed 80,000. Lead with compassion.
Connect with your employees on a personal level. As you work virtually, make new dedicated efforts to connect with individual teammates. Schedule quick meetings or pulse checks with individuals every week. Allow this meeting to have a loose structure. Spend part of this time checking in on a personal level, followed by work.
Share positive news and highlight successes. At Modernize, we host a bi-weekly all-hands meeting in the middle of the week called WINSDay. We provide a relaxed, virtual social setting where teammates can highlight each other and their accomplishments. Celebrate your unsung heroes. As the Harvard Business Journal writes, “Simply staying productive [and we’ll add, positive] in these times is heroic.” You can also share positive homeowner feedback during these meetings.
Take care of yourself. During this pandemic, you also need a support system as you lead your company. Take a breath when you can, and reflect. Reach out to mentors and your colleagues. Know that this unprecedented time will pass.