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Oxford based healthcare consultancy firm Grey Bear Consultancy has issued an eight-step guide aimed at business leaders, outlining recommendations for staying connected with employees in times of crisis, in light of the escalating Covid-19 situation.
Speaking to The Parliamentary Review about the eight-step plan, founding and senior executive director Emma Clayton, said: “The last couple of weeks have in no doubt been some of the most challenging for business, and we have been asked by many for support with corporate communications.
“Teams are afraid and anxious about the unknown and leaders even more so – and that’s okay. We are all experiencing this concern – it is a scary and bizarre time for everyone, including our government and world leaders. We thought that this list of quick tips may help people stay connected to their teams through the uncertain times.”
Clayton went on to discuss each recommendation in full.
Addressing the first, Clayton explained: “People will look to business leaders for trusted information and guidance. They will want information regularly [with timings clearly communicated] – without this they will fill in the blanks and that will lead to speculation and rumours.”
Grey Bear recommends that leaders in business use only trusted sources to make decisions, such as the NHS, World Health Organisation [WHO] and Public Health England.
Elaborating on the second point, Clayton emphasised that CEOs, directors and any others in a position of leadership should not concern themselves with having the answer to everything, but should have plans in place and communicate them clearly.
Clayton said: “It is okay to not know the answer to everything but you do need a plan – tell people what you are doing, who is involved and where they can ask questions. You can set up a dedicated email address or a group on one of your internal social networks if you feel it is needed.”
Thirdly, Clayton stressed the importance of clearly outlining to all employees where they may be kept up to date with future developments.
“[One must] make sure everyone knows how, where and when future updates will be provided”, Clayton said.
She added: “It is important that there is a single source of news and updates for the organisation and that everyone knows what this is. Have a clear channel for the communication so that people know where to get correct, accurate and up to date details. Make sure the message is consistent and if you’re making changes to the guidance, make it clear where those changes are.”
The fourth point in the Grey Bear plan shines a light on video messaging and how this can be put to effective use by business leaders.
Clayton elaborated: “Video messages are a great way to communicate messages from your CEO. At times of uncertainty employees like to see updates directly from leaders, it can help bring reassurance and clarity on the organisation’s approach”.
However, Clayton did take the time to warn against using the ongoing situation as an opportunity to rial new forms of communication, for example through different applications, tools and platforms, as covered in the fifth point in the Grey Bear plan.
“This isn’t the time”, Clayton said.
“Businesses should stick to what people already know and use. Traditional channels such as posters and leaflets can still be effective, especially in a large operational workforce with hard to reach workers”.
The final three points in the Grey Bear recommendations centre around three key things which the consultancy advises all firms to have: a business continuity plan, a policy for working from home, and a robust HR procedure for carrying out these plans.
The sixth recommendation explicitly advises that if a firm does not have a business continuity plan, that one should be devised now.
Addressing the point, Clayton explained: “If a firm has a business continuity plan, this is where to start. If one is not in place, then we’d advise CEOs to think about creating a core group.
“Key elements for this are IT, operations, HR and communications being kept together. These groups should meet daily each morning, even if only for half an hour. This is a fast-paced issue and the need to keep on top of it is key.”
Highlighting the penultimate point of the plan, Clayton said: “Businesses should seriously be thinking about their work from home policies now. It is important that employees can access the tools they need to do their jobs and that the technology is at their disposal to hold conference and video calls and maintain that effective communication that is so crucial”.
The final recommendation remains fixated on the issue of good and effective communication, urging business chiefs to work closely in co-ordination with HR in-house to discuss plans that will be enacted for those who wish to self-isolate and work from home, or are forced to.
Bringing this under the spotlight, Clayton said: “CEOs should be ready to provide an answer for when an employee asks to self-isolate, but they work in a customer-facing role.
“Here, there are no right or wrong answers, but business leaders will set a precedent with whatever their first decision might be on this. It is, therefore, of paramount importance that the decision made is a scaleable solution”.
For certain, the eight-point plan leaves much food for thought for those industry heads looking to plot a course through troubled waters in the current climate.