Communication and Connection: Their Integral Roles in Crisis Management
- By Gen Handley
- Oct 07, 2021
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the essential meaning of the word “crisis” is, “a difficult or dangerous situation that needs serious attention.” When you looking up the word “management” in the same dictionary, it states, “the act or skill of controlling and making decisions about a business, department, sports team, etc.” Do you see where we’re going with this? Crisis management is an area that some of us have dealt with and an area in which most of us have worked on at least a crisis management plan, policy or some similar iteration.
Do you sometimes wish that you had a crystal ball so you could see any future accidents and protect your employees? You’re not the only one. It’s this desire to anticipate any emergencies down the road that fuels crisis management with employers doing their best to proactively protect their employees before anything horrible happens.
Many believe, with the turbulent and unprecedented events of the past two years, that the future is becoming increasingly incalculable and teetering in the balance, resulting in workplaces with new, and sometimes-unknown safety hazards facing the workers. In a recent Harvard Business Review article titled “A Futurist’s Guide to Preparing Your Company for Constant Change,” change navigator and “futurist” April Rinne paints an intimidating picture, the future will not be more stable or certain. The future — whether that’s this afternoon, next week, next quarter, next year or the next decade — is now defined by more uncertainty, more unpredictability, and more unknowns.” The article looks at preparing for change and before it hits so that you can lessen or embrace for the advantage of your team’s well-being and safety.
This proactive approach is certainly applicable to crisis management which involves a number of important, preemptive steps such as safety hazard assessments, solution development and possibly most important of all, strategic internal communications amongst the organization. In order to obtain the safety-related control mentioned by the earlier definition and make important and correct decisions during a crisis at work, you will need to rely on strong internal and external communications, on a range of different channels, reaching a range of different people in need.
Internal Communications and Work Safety
Regardless of the industry you work in, crises and work emergencies are always a possibility. Crisis management is a structured set of processes and protocols that will reduce or altogether prevent harm to employees and the organization in the event of an emergency. It is particularly beneficial to vulnerable people like lone workers or those who face a larger number of safety hazards such as hotel and hospitality workers.
Strong internal communications is pivotal for the success of these processes and protocols, helping managers control messages and content so that employees are aren’t exposed to misleading and sometimes harmful misinformation. Because of this, strong internal communications can help organizations recover from an incident, psychologically and operationally, keeping team members up to date, informed, and most importantly, safe and secure.
“Crisis usually arises unexpectedly and triggers a feeling of danger and panic in the employees,” says recent research on the role of communication in effective crisis management. “Simply, crisis leads to doubt and causes major harm to the organization and its employees. It is, therefore, essential for employers to anticipate crises and forewarn their employees against the likely negative consequences that may emerge.”
Additionally, external communications and crisis management may be required if the public is impacted at all, requiring organizations to employ external channels such as social media platforms, press releases and email newsletters. (That’s a topic for another time).
Leveraging internal Communications for Your Team
A solid crisis communications plan:
The backbone of any prepared company is a solid crisis communications plan that outlines the process in an emergency that protects/will help the employees, and the organization, the most. When developing this document, it is important to involve everyone impacted – the entire organization, if need be – so that the plan reflects the different safety needs and perspectives of the team.
The essential components for such a plan include:
1. Mission and objectives
3. Key dates
4. Key messaging
5. Key contacts
Thorough Safety Hazard Assessments
Comparable to how a communications plan is developed, collaboration is an important element when conducting thorough safety hazard and risk assessments in the workplace. These assessments provide exhaustive documentation of any potential safety hazards the employees are facing so that the employer can then look at ways of mitigating or eliminating the hazards completely, potentially preventing from any crisis from happening.
When looking at safety hazards, it’s helpful to segment the focus into the different areas of workplace hazards which include physical hazards as well as those that we can’t see such as biological hazards and those that slowly sneak up on us like ergonomic hazards.
Speaking of hazard assessments, it is important to note that they must be performed regularly and/or as needed (like when new equipment is introduced or there is a change in work environment). We always recommend that employers and managers schedule these regular assessments into their calendars so that it becomes a habit and can catch safety risks that could lead to a frightening incident. Your crisis communications plan should also be updated on a consistent basis although not as frequently. The goal of these updates is to provide the employer with a more current and accurate picture of safety in their workplace.
Communicate and Connect
This might be an obvious one, but simple, regular communication and connection amongst employees and the team can build a framework where emergencies and crises are less likely to happen. Whether it’s a staff-wide safety workshop or training session, or it’s a casual online lunch hangout, these examples of engagement put the employees on the same page so that if or when a crisis does occur, they will be more prepared. Additionally, improved safety protocols and practices can result from the ideas and discussion that come from such connection. On top of that, a tighter team will be more productive and produce better work.
Still Want that Crystal Ball?
So do you still want that crystal ball? Of course you do, however, we hope that you feel more able to protect your people and plan for the unknown. Going into the unknown, especially these days, it can be daunting to prepare for what hasn’t taken place yet. However, by making internal communications a priority and focus, your organization will be much more ready for whatever comes their way.