We are living in a scenario of total crisis in the health, economic and social fields. Faced with an unprecedented situation, there is no script that allows us to know what the right decisions are at any given time. In this context, the interventions of the Minister of Labour are a nonsense for the employers who are trying to keep their jobs and for the workers affected by an ERE or ERTE. Yolanda Díaz’s speech is confusing, clumsy, conveys insecurity and lack of preparation. Both the substance and the form are wrong because there is no point in smiling all the time when a message that is difficult for the Spanish business community to digest is being launched. That reality and message must be combined is a rule of crisis communication that will acquire even more importance when the coronavirus is remembered as a tragic experience.
Spanish companies have taken drastic measures very quickly to ensure their survival. The tourism sector, the entertainment industry, the educational institutions and their suppliers and contractors have not had time to design the preparatory phase of the communication; the immediacy and scope of the total crisis has occurred without a script to mark the steps to follow. I don’t know when we will see the light, but from now on we have to prepare the post-COVID-19 moment for those companies that have had to amputate a part of their body and here it is very important to have a well-defined communication strategy because it is as relevant to manage well as to communicate it adequately.
Sequels among employees
How to do it? The rehabilitation phase is vital. Employees who remain in the company after restructuring will suffer impacts that affect their performance: they will be anxious; they will feel guilty and insecure about the future and all this will be covered by a veil of loss of motivation.
These will be some of the consequences of an ERE or ERTE. To return to a certain normality in the period when the worst of this pandemic is behind, a professional team involved to the maximum will be a must. For its part, the company must have a business plan with realistic objectives and deadlines that must be communicated to the entire workforce. In the post-COVID period, the figure of the leader will be more necessary than at any other time: employees will need to see the employer at the forefront and will look not only at his professional competence but also at his personality. The top executive will need to be sensitive and empathetic to the team and will need to get involved, recognize the situation, explain the solutions and set the course. This responsibility cannot be delegated and must be assumed by the chief executive whether he or she likes it or not. This will not be the time to pull the Human Resources department.
Internal transparency will also be essential in the process of restoring normality. If it is always necessary for an employee to be informed of what is happening, it will now be critical. A transparent, clear and timely message supported by good management of the facts will be essential. The doors will have to be opened to genuine dialogue and questions will have to be resolved with answers and the option of cross-examination. Employees will need to know what is happening and where we are going.
Exemplarity will also be a fundamental requirement because after asking the staff to make great sacrifices they will have to perceive that superfluous expenses are being cut while making the strictly necessary investments. And, in order to leave the ICU, it will be necessary to focus on the client and get the whole professional team to see the satisfaction of the client’s expectations as the key to the survival and success of the company. This conviction will also have to be transferred to the rest of the relevant publics for the company.
The medicine that will best help accelerate a post-COVID-19 business recovery process will be positivism and instilling motivation in the most important asset of any company, its employees. And all this will have to be done with great patience and humanity. It will not be easy, but we will be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and, hopefully, we will have learned something.
This article has been published in Populi Voice. You can access it through the following link.
Managing Partner of Proa Comunicación