/ 3 tips for communicating change in a post-COVID world

In a previous blog post about Domo’s guide on how to safely reopen the workplace, we highlighted three apps that can help employers get the data they need to ensure employee wellness and business continuity. 

For anyone building a get-back-to-work strategy, those apps are important. But they’re not the be-all, end-all, according to Dr. Jeff Shulman.

“Change is disruptive,” said the marketing professor at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, “and how we communicate those changes is going to be the needle of the thread.”

To thread this particular needle, companies should think about three simple communication strategies.

1 – Get employees involved 

Consider, for example, what happens if an employee has tested positive for COVID-19. That information has to be communicated to the team right away. And no matter how well you deliver the news, there’s going to be a heightened level of anxiety.

The trick is in ensuring that anxiety isn’t exacerbated by a desire to assign blame, which is much more likely to happen if employees don’t feel like their needs for safety have been met, that their employer hasn’t demonstrated a desire to care, that they’ve been distanced from the process that makes decisions.

For organizations that do a better job of integrating employees into the data that drives decisions, bad news doesn’t carry quite as much additional baggage. Studies routinely show that employees are better at processing unfavorable outcomes if they understood and agreed with the process by which decisions were made and communicated.

As such, a post-COVID communications approach begins with a post-COVID data strategy. And Domo’s Get Back To Work apps provide easy ways to do this. The Safe Worker App, for instance, gives employees critical information about the health of their workplace without storing information that might violate privacy.

Ultimately, neither apps nor messaging alone can get workers feeling involved and engaged. Words and action must be combined so that employees hear the message and see it in practice.

2 – Emphasize

COVID-19 is a stressful time for everyone, and it’s important to communicate about the issue with clarity and empathy, so that employees can feel like an employer understands their particular anxieties.

In research focused on the uncertainty that followed a merger, Drs. David Schweiger and Angelo Denisi found that organizations that communicate caring and concern to employees may be able to expect increased employee commitment.

That same uncertainty generated by the merger is present today and multiplied because the stakes with COVID-19 are much larger than the organizational structure’s shift.

Consider the anxiety that comes from attending the workplace. An app that ensures that meeting rooms are cleaned prior to use, communicates to employees the recency of cleaning, or allows employees to request additional sanitation support, is crucial to showing that employers care and understand the stresses in the workplace. Domo’s Workplace Facilities App is designed to facilitate this.

3 – Help employees understand why

Employees also benefit from understanding why actions are being taken, or why data is being collected. Safety training is a key example. It gets workers on the same page, establishes company-wide protocols, and encourages an overall sense of security. 

At the same time, safety training can be difficult to roll out to an organization of significant size. As such, something like Domo’s Safety Training App becomes essential to track roll-out and compliance, so that employees can feel like the proper precautions have been taken.

Companies can reduce overall workplace stress if they can effectively communicate if they can pair the right messages with the right technology. 

“By providing more open and honest communication, empowering their employees, and removing roadblocks,” Psychology Today contributor Mark Bolino wrote back in March, “managers can help make this stressful time less overwhelming.”

To learn more about how to communicate change in a post-COVID world, download How to Safely Reopen the Workplace now. To participate in thoughtful discussions on the future of work, including best practices for reopening, join one of Domo’s upcoming virtual workshops.

BLOGGER’S NOTE: Portions of this post were taken directly from the guide, which was written by Ken Rufo, a Seattle-area PhD-holder and freelancer whose work has appeared in a variety of academic journals.

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