Over-communication is key during any crisis—but especially COVID-19

'We really want our employees to know that we've got their backs'

Over-communication is key during any crisis—but especially COVID-19

At the same time that many employees left the office behind to work from home, so too began a period of unprecedented change and uncertainty impacting every aspect of our lives. This situation could create the perfect storm for feeling disconnected, anxious, and confused.

HRD spoke to Carmelina Raimondo, Ultimate Software’s HR lead for Canada, who talked us through how “over-communication” might be the very best solution to our new unpredictable and constantly changing reality of work.

“When we say ‘over-communication,’ we mean going that extra mile to provide frequent updates to our people when and where they need it – more so than during normal operations,” prefaced Raimondo. “It’s a deliberate decision to make communication a priority and to do so with frequency, reliability, and transparency.

“With the COVID-19 situation what it is, we really want our employees to know that we’ve got their backs. We are here to provide all the information they need – making sure they’re comfortable and secure, as well as up to date with any changes that impact them, our business, and our communities. As most people are now working remotely, having various communication channels is key to ensuring our teams still feel connected and that they are part of something bigger than the current crisis.”

Staying on top of frequent developments requires a commitment
It started in March, with the leadership team participating in brief “COVID-19 stand-up meetings” each day to make sure everyone was up to date with local and company-wide developments. Daily bulletins were shared with all employees, keeping them abreast of the very latest news, changes, advisories, and support available.

“This initiative, as well as others – such as company-wide and departmental virtual townhalls, “Ask Us Anything” open forums, weekly video messages from the CEO, and a centralized intranet for all messages, documents, links, and resources – really helped cement our communications strategy across Ultimate,” added Raimondo.

Considering how quickly things were changing and how much new information was released daily, it simply wouldn’t have been enough to send out blanket emails once or twice a month. During the shutdown, workers needed daily updates with critical information that could really help them. Not only was this imperative for general housekeeping, it was also one of the best ways for leaders to maintain a culture of inclusion and belonging when employees are working remotely.

“Over-communication – that’s the best way to demonstrate, as a company, that you’re really looking out for your people, and that you’re there for them during these difficult times,” added Raimondo.

And this goes both ways. Employees were encouraged to ask questions (openly or anonymously) and were offered several channels through which to provide their feedback and express any concerns. Strategically planned employee surveys were executed to ensure everyone had the opportunity to be heard.

Employees pitch in with innovative ideas to keep the connections alive with colleagues
It’s not just the C-suite and management at Ultimate taking this hands-on approach. The company’s response has inspired individual employees to do their bit in helping to ease COVID-19 concerns.

“At the beginning of this pandemic, one of our technology team leaders here in Canada took the initiative to help his colleagues stay connected. He launched a virtual ‘Work from Home Morning Show,’ hosting it three days a week on Slack and inviting everyone to join in. People would volunteer for half-hour slots, talking about anything from their work routines to their personal hobbies and interests.”

“This ingenious idea came from one of our own people and it has grown organically across the company – it’s just a pleasure to see,” says Raimondo.

And, perhaps what makes this dedication to employee communication and connection even more impressive is Ultimate’s recent merger with Kronos Incorporated. Not only are Ultimate and Kronos navigating the industry-defining amalgamation of two HR tech giants, they’re also successfully manoeuvring through a global pandemic and keeping their more than 12,000 people informed, at ease, and connected.

And the employee reaction? Well, as you can imagine, it’s been overwhelmingly positive.

“People are really grateful for all the communication and all the information managers are helping to put out there. We’ve given our people the tools and the technology to help themselves. It’s all about having accessible and well publicized resources which are available to all members of staff.”

For more ideas on communicating and connecting with your people, check out Ultimate’s HR guide “Team Bonding from Afar.”

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