In the event of a pandemic, one of the most important things you’ll need to manage is internal communications with your staff.
They may be frightened, worried, or confused about what this event means for both their personal lives and work projects.
- How are they going to do their jobs?
- What do you expect of them?
- Should they come into the office or stay home?
- And what about your customers?
- Will their orders be delayed?
It’s up to your business to have a plan in place for internal communications during a pandemic, so you can answer all these questions for your staff and customers in a timely manner.
You need to have a pandemic communications plan ready to go before a pandemic ever hits your region. Here are a few things your communication plan should accomplish.
Crisis communications team
Often this team will include someone in management, someone from the marketing or public relations department, and the legal representative.
But you may also want to have some people from the frontline staff on this team who can communicate with your frontline employees. In the event of a pandemic.
There should be a lead spokesperson, but remember to also appoint a backup in case that lead person becomes ill themselves.
- Do you send staff notifications over email?
- Do you do the same for customers?
- Or will your sales or customer relations team be responsible for calling their customers for a more personal touch?
It’s good to remember to plan for the eventualities of things like phone lines being jammed. So you’ll want to have multiple avenues you can use to contact staff and customers during a pandemic crisis.
For instance, you may say the first mode will be emailed, the second will be text, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll have a good old-fashioned phone tree.
Whatever you use, make sure your staff is aware ahead of time about how they’ll receive emergency communications.
And finally, a pandemic communication plan includes contact information for employees, their emergency contacts, any vendor or governmental entities you might need to contact, and contact information for local media.
You don’t want to be scrambling to collect employee personal cell phone numbers for text messaging, for instance.
So make sure this is something you collect and have on file ahead of time.
While we’ve discussed that the preferred methods of contact may be through written electronic means such as email or text messaging, sometimes that may not be feasible.
If you do need to rely on a phone calling tree you should know ahead of time how one works and how to use it.
A calling tree divides the task of contacting employees equally throughout the group.
This is how it works.
The person at the top of the tree whether a manager HR representative or someone else calls to other employees, each person they contact calls to more people. This continues down the tree until everyone has been reached.
It’s a much quicker process than one person attempting to call everyone in the company or office with the same message.
When making a calling tree.
Keep these tips in mind. Make sure the calling tree is used in emergency situations only.
If the calling tree is used too often or used for low priority messages that could have been sent as an email, for example, it loses its urgency and sense of importance becoming a situation of the boy who cried wolf, only use your pandemic calling tree in the event of an actual emergency.
Make an employee contact list. When possible get two phone numbers for each employee. In the case of employees who have only a cell See if you can get a spouse, family member, or roommates’ telephone number in case they can’t be reached on their mainline based on the number of people in the list determines the branches for the tree.
A general guideline is to have each person contact two or three other people. The goal is to distribute the calling responsibilities so that no one is over-tasked. This will also ensure that the information is disseminated in a timely fashion. And finally, test the calling tree after it’s all set up.
Make sure everyone knows about this test ahead of time and knows that it’s just a drill so they don’t assume this is a real emergency instance.
A calling tree allows employers to distribute information outward, but how about if employees are calling in with questions? consider giving employees a number to call to hear a recorded emergency message.
If your operations are disrupted in any way or even if you want to communicate that your operations are not disrupted.
You should place a message on your mainline with the information for anyone including customers and vendors who might be calling you to get information.
With a pandemic communications plan in place, you’ll be ready to communicate internally with all of your staff, customers, and vendors in order to calm their fears and let them know what disruptions might happen to your business.