Many successful small business owners are well-versed in clear and open communication with their employees, maintaining a sense of safety and morale in a variety of situations. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is unlike any other situation your business has likely ever faced, and even the most successful small business owners are still figuring out the best approaches to keeping their employees feeling as cared for and informed as possible during this Coronavirus age.
Below we’ve outlined three approaches that businesses can use to help communicate more effectively and sensitively with their employees as they adapt to this unexpected new normal created by COVID-19.
Approach #1: The utmost transparency
Building relationships with your employees begins with transparency. Be honest about the facts that you know and the plans you have, so that your employees know the same information you do and feel trust with your company. While lighthearted joking can be a way to put a smile on someone’s face temporarily, you need to maintain credibility by not downplaying any seriousness of situations caused by the pandemic.
You can promote transparency by providing or better maintaining an open door policy. Whether you have a small staff or a large staff that you can break into groups with designated leaders, you can find an effective way to ensure you and your employees can communicate quickly and directly when needed most.
Approach #2: The utmost empathy
Anxiety caused by these unprecedented levels of uncertainty can affect your employees in a variety of unexpected ways. Employees may experience frustration, anger, confusion or grief. While you’re not expected to become a trauma expert, you may need to understand new levels of patience and empathy.
Practice putting yourself in your employees’ shoes by asking questions and learning more about your employees to help yourself understand the different ways anxiety could manifest itself. For example, do any of your employees have kids? Do they work other jobs? Are they caring for family members with preexisting health issues? Once you understand what reality outside of work is like for your employees, you can achieve stronger empathy and remind them of your company’s humanity.
Approach #3: The utmost humility
You can earn trust from your staff when you show you aren’t afraid to admit to them that you are still figuring out how to navigate the age of Coronavirus and trying to understand the extent of what is needed from you for them. We all know there is no single person who has all the answers.
Try asking for their feedback. Show your employees that your focus is on looking out for them. When you get real, elicit information from your staff, act as their sounding board, and respond with a “thank you for sharing,” you’ll begin to establish a trusting relationship.
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