02 Apr Transparency in a Time of Crisis
What happens to innovative companies when disruption works against us instead of with us? How should companies respond in a crisis? In the tight networks of today’s extremely connected world, events occurring on one side of the world can easily have repercussions on businesses on the other face of the globe within no time at all. However, it is in these networks of knowledge that we can find our footing even after being disrupted, which brings us to our topic of the week: Communicating in a Crisis. What information should organizations disseminate to their people, how should leadership behave?
In a Harvard Business Review study where 195 global leaders were asked to choose what they personally believed were the most important qualities of leadership, the top two were having ‘high ethical and moral standards’, and ‘communicating clear expectations’, which, combined, shows that global leaders believe that the best leadership traits are ones that ensure a safe and honest working environment. Which’ll be important if a crisis hits!
Transparency will need to become one of your foremost values. In order to do so, your organization needs to have a centralized, regularly updated point of information that all your employees can take from and trust. Your employees will be confused and fearful. Customers and stakeholders will be anxious, and looking for answers. Your organization can play a major role in relieving that anxiety, and providing a beacon of hope; but only if you follow these following steps:
Communicating is important. Silence will be your enemy. The less employees know about an unfolding crisis, and the longer there is silence from the upper levels, the more fearful they will become. Worse still, they can potentially spread this fear to the community at large, which can include your customers and stakeholders. Therefore your first step must be to assuage their fears and bring them up to speed, and onto the same page as you. Do this by creating a central source of information, for example, your company’s linkedin or instagram page, and regularly disseminate information through your chosen channel of communication. Once the channel of communication is established, the communication of information must happen often, by sharing updated summaries of information regarding the unfolding crisis preferably at least once a day, from credible sources.
Having one source of information that your company shares updated summaries of the facts through is important. In such a crisis, some may capitalize on others’ panic by disseminating false news. People might have different interpretations of the facts. By consolidating them into swiftly updated summaries, your team will come away with the same takeaway. In times of crisis, it’s better to constantly update whenever new information is ready, rather than to wait for the full story to unfold, as the constant updating of information will reassure your anxious employees and consumers.
Your employees and customers will be anxious, and likely in need of the information you will disseminate. Agile companies are consumer centric, which means that customers lie at the heart of what your organization does, with your people being curious about their customers, and how they can improve their lives. In a situation such as this crisis, companies should act swiftly to improve their customers’ lives, by providing them vital information about the crisis at hand, and being a figure of reassurance at this time, by listening and being empathetic to the customers, while also having the flexibility to adapt to their current needs. For this to reach customers, leaders in an organization need to first reassure another circle of influence: their employees, who’re active members of the community around them, and will likely be ambassadors of the company’s values at the time. By having a centralized source of information in order to alleviate employees’ anxiety, they’re likely to go out into the world and interact with consumers in a way that’ll reassure them and reduce fear of the current situation.
Customers, as well as stakeholders, will like to see what you have planned for the future, so make sure that, even if you don’t have a plan for the future yet, that you’re aware of the challenges you’re likely to face in the near-future, and honest about them to customers and stakeholders. From then onwards, you can create a plan to tackle the challenges this crisis brings.