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Corporate Communications During A Crisis

It seems like the world is constantly changing day to day as we learn more about the global pandemic we’re facing with COVID-19. None of us know for sure what’s going to happen a week from now, or even a few days from now. But if you have employees depending on you, it’s important to stay in constant communication with them, even when you don’t have all the answers. Your employees want to know you’re in this with them, and at a time when you can’t exactly meet with them, communicating by video is likely the safest bet. But what’s the best way to do that, and how can you ensure your video is addressing the right points and not getting interrupted by technical difficulties, such as poor streaming quality? 

These four tips include the best strategies for employing corporate communications via video during a crisis: 

Communicate Early and Often 

You might not have all the answers right now, but that doesn’t mean you should delay communicating with your employees. In fact, if you waited until you knew everything there is to know about COVID-19 or other crises you might face, your corporate communications would be nonexistent. Your employees don’t expect you to have all the answers; they just want to be clued in on what you know. And considering that Gartner found that more people are listening to brands and corporations than politicians these days, it’s important that you get out your message as soon as possible. Your employees are waiting to hear from you. 

So as soon as you’re aware of the next steps your company is taking, communicate your plans to your team. Try to provide any updates by video every couple of days. And if you’re still working on solutions, let your employees know so they have some idea of what might happen. You might even want to let them provide their input on your decisions through a live video meeting that allows the whole company to watch and offer feedback at the same time. Just be sure you have the technology in place to handle this, to ensure your video streams smoothly without crashing any networks.  

Focus on the Facts

No matter how often you communicate with employees, be sure to stick to the facts that will affect them. This means you shouldn’t try to speculate on what may or may not happen. You don’t want to give unfounded or inaccurate information, and you definitely don’t want to cause panic among your employees, so avoid any doom and gloom talk. 

Instead, offer accurate information that directly affects your employees, such as what you’re doing to protect them, or which day your offices will be closing if that’s the plan. You should also steer them toward the websites of reputable resources, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the CDC. You want your employees to not only be properly informed, but also know where to go if they want to research further. 

Be Authentic and Engaging 

According to Recruiter, 33% of employees said a lack of open, honest communication has the most negative impact on employee morale. Experts tend to agree that the most trusted type of communication is face to face. This way, your audience can see your nonverbal cues and study your facial expressions to determine if you’re being genuine while you deliver your message. And that is very important for corporate communications during a crisis. Of course, in-person meetings are out while COVID-19 is a major concern, which is why video is your best option if you want face-to-face communication with your employees. 

The good news is that video is extremely engaging, and superior engagement is important when you’re communicating with an audience during a crisis. Consider the fact that the average video viewer remembers 95% of the message he or she just watched, but only 10% of the message he or she just read. Plus, employees are 75% more likely to watch a video than read an email, blog post, or other documents. So you have a better chance of getting your message across with a video when you want to reach your employees. As long as you and your team are authentic and empathetic during the video, engagement shouldn’t be an issue. 

Analyze Your Video Engagement 

You already know your engagement will be higher when you communicate via video. But exactly how much engagement did you get with your latest video, and how did it compare to the video you created before that? Is there a way to improve your video communications before you release another one? You’ll get answers to these questions when you start using analytics for all your corporate videos. 

Basically, you need to know how many people watched your video, how many people stopped watching halfway through, what the streaming quality was like, and more. Knowing these metrics can pinpoint how to improve the next video you release to employees. And considering that you need to be communicating often during a crisis, it’s helpful to get the metrics right away and quickly apply the insights to your next video. 

The easiest way to analyze your videos is by using an analytics service. This service should offer a range of statistics on your videos, like aggregated event metrics that can tell you details that include viewer participation, viewing time, quality of experience, network impact, streaming performance, and more. Analytics can also give you ranking lists, text and map-based filtering, and network visualizations that tell you how live streaming video has impacted your network. 

When you have the right corporate communications strategy in place during a crisis, you have the power to reassure your employees during tough times. This can keep company-wide panic to a minimum and ensure your employees can put their trust in your business. Video communications will help you inform and engage your employees, but your videos have to be of good quality to be effective. And video analytics will tell you if they are — or if you need to change a few details in order to better reach and reassure your team. 

Photo: Joshua Coleman

Going Agile: Beyond the Buzz

“Agile” has been a buzzword thrown around Silicon Valley, startup conferences, town halls and HR department meetings for years now. Additionally, in the past several weeks we’ve heard “agile” again in large volume as companies rapidly try to adjust to remote work and the new realities we’re all living in due to COVID-19. While it’s true that adopting an agile mindset may be more valuable to companies than ever, it’s much more than successfully managing a quick transition from in-office to work from home. 

Though the idea originated way back in 2001, there still is not a widespread understanding about what agility really is, and how it can benefit organizations of all sizes — especially now. From addressing internal dysfunction to helping a business overcome competitive challenges, to coping in a world filled with VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity), embracing agility can give businesses the edge they’re looking for, ultimately transforming the way they work. 

For the transformation to be successful, however, agile has to be more than a buzzword. If it’s just showing up in memos, on Slack channels and PowerPoints or mentioned in passing at meetings, you are doing it wrong. To go from just saying or writing agile to actually being agile, you need to know where to start and what to watch out for. 

Here are four of the most common barriers experienced when trying to implement the agile mindset, and how to overcome them to become a truly adaptive organization — and thrive in these uncertain times:

If Agile Is the Answer, What’s the Question?

In my work as a Scrum Alliance Certified Agile Coach and Certified LeSS Trainer, I occasionally come across teams that want to be agile just so they can say that they are agile. I call this “agile for agile’s sake,” and it’s a big warning sign. Too often teams haven’t sharpened their focus enough before attempting to embrace adaptive practices. This can lead to confusion, frustration, and ironically, the opposite of agility. Another large warning sign is if you see heavy slide decks and best practices books popping up all over about how you’re going to become agile. They often mean that DDT (Deck Driven Transformations) is underway, as it is usually instituted by a large consultancy. When employees are still tasked to work through the controlled process of long development and feedback cycles for a project, then they are using up their valued time and resources, and a growth in documents contradicts what agile is all about!

Instead, figure out what agile will fix for your organization. It’s imperative to understand your own organization’s priorities – to know the why behind implementing agile – if you want your transformation to succeed. Otherwise, you’re just using a new buzzword, without any true meaning behind it.

Agile is an OS, Not an App

Another common pitfall I see are teams looking to jump on the “agile bandwagon” and expect it to be a quick and easy process. These are organizations looking to put a check mark next to “agile” and cross it off on its to-do list. We often see organizations “buying, unwrapping and installing” a popular, commercially available heavy framework or producing an internal over-engineered operating model that resembles a traditional model, spiced up with agile buzzwords.

But that’s not how it works. It’s not an app that you can simply download, install and be up and running on within moments. Agile is an Operating System – it will impact how everything is done (remember, the goal is transformation), and it can take some getting used to. 

Setting realistic expectations about what the agile framework is and is not, and how long it will take to transform into an adaptive organization is extremely important. Without this mindset, team members’ commitment to the transformation may wane, undercutting everyone’s efforts to evolve, as full, company-wide buy-in is necessary for success. 

Swim a Lake, Don’t Boil the Ocean

Another problem I’ve seen when working with companies looking to embrace agile is starting off too broad and shallow – looking to overhaul everything at once. Instead, I recommend focusing narrowly but going deep in specific areas, and then expanding, for example, like in Large Scale Scrum, where the idea is to descale an organization, in order to scale agility. The bigger the organization, the more important this is. 

To do this, identify a product or function where impact can be felt in real terms quickly. This is your best bet about where to start. Oftentimes, HR is a great department to include in an agile transformation. This is because HR policies are incredibly important, as it involves changing the way employees are treated.

It is interesting, however although maybe not surprising, lean companies are having a less painful experience adjusting to the unprecedented conditions we’re currently in, because being lean helps with adaptive-ness (agility), and it is based on the degree of organizational “descaling.”

Urgency as the Catalyst to Change 

Finally, in my experience, there needs to be a sense of urgency for an agile model to really take hold and thrive within an organization. The team must know and feel that something is fundamentally broken, and that embracing new practices and methods is essential to survival. Without the understanding that something must be fixed, the likelihood of a successful transformation is significantly lower. This is because those without a sense of urgency are resistant to change.

This is true from the top to the bottom of an organization. Without buy-in from the entire team, creating real change, real transformation is impossible. When it comes to senior leaders, getting them engaged and invested can make all the difference. 

Contrary to how you may have heard the word “agile” used previously, it’s not about cutting costs. That has never been the primary goal of being an agile company. Agile is about moving beyond the buzzword to become more adaptive and nimbler. This allows a company to transform the way it works fundamentally, innovate quickly and ultimately become more competitive. This ability to adapt and innovate has never been more important than it is today, where the entire fabric of work is changing with unprecedented unemployment and entire industries turned upside down by the pandemic. The businesses that can adapt fast will have an edge on those that are moving slowly: ultimately, the faster you can adapt, the more economically feasible your business is in our rapidly changing world.

Violence On The Job: It Pays To Prepare #TChat Recap

“Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.” ―Gen. George S. Patton

This week’s #TChat events coincided with the anniversary of a difficult date in U.S. history — September 11. As our nation considered lessons learned from terrorist events 12 years ago, our TalentCulture community came together to crowdsource ideas about a topic that is vital every day of the year: How to prevent workplace violence, and prepare for incidents that may occur.

Workplace Violence Stats

Learn more – read “Stopping Workplace Violence” at CFO Magazine

According to OSHA, workplace violence includes a range of behaviors that put workers at risk while on the job — from verbal threats and abuse to physical assault and even homicide. How prevalent are these harmful incidents? Some notable facts:

• Each year, more than 2 million Americans report that they have been victims of violence in the workplace. (See details from the U.S. Dept. of Labor.)

• A surprising proportion of incidents are fatal. As the adjacent image illustrates, nearly 20% of on-the-job fatalities are associated with workplace violence, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

• Workplace violence is estimated to cost employers a whopping $120 billion a year. And of course, the human toll is incalculable.

For these reasons alone, workplace violence is a growing concern that deserves serious attention.

Violence At Work: What To Do?

To lead this week’s conversation, we welcomed two experts:
• Tom Bronack, President of Data Center Assistance Group, specialists in enterprise resiliency.
Felix Nater, Founder of Nater Associates, a business security advisory firm.

On #TChat Radio, Tom explained that companies can achieve more effective compliance and recovery through a strategy of enterprise resiliency — combining all recovery operations and personnel in a single entity that speaks the same language and uses the same tool set. Why is this important? As Tom noted during the #TChat Twitter discussion:

Felix emphasized the need for proactive violence prevention programs in the workplace, explaining that preparation can decrease incidents by improving problem solving and conflict resolution. He also noted that broader awareness is worth the investment of time, energy and resources to identify threats and mitigate risks. During the Twitter chat, he suggested a handy mnemonic:

He also cautioned us that results come from solid planning, in concert with effective execution:

Tom and Felix inspired many participants to join the conversation last night. Thanks to everyone who contributed opinions and insights! Highlights are captured in the Storify slideshow below, along with resource links from the week. We invite you to review these ideas and share them with others. Who knows? You could be a catalyst to make your organization a safer place to work!

#TChat Week-In-Review: Violence Prevention In Today’s Workplace

SUN 9/8:

Nater and Bronack_KK2

See the preview post and videos

#TChat Preview: TalentCulture Community Manager Tim McDonald introduced the topic, in a post that featured brief “sneak peek” G+ Hangout videos with both of our guests. Read the Preview: “Workplace Violence: Myth and Reality.”

MON 9/9:

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro outlined 5 ways that organizations can be proactive in maintaining a safe workplace culture. Read: “Is Your Workplace Prepared For Violence?”

WED 9/11:

TChatRadio_logo_020813#TChat Radio: As a prelude to our open Twitter chat, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman, talked with Felix Nater and Tom Bronack about best practices in workplace violence prevention and preparedness, while community members added their thoughts on the #TChat Twitter backchannel.

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, I joined Felix, Tom, Meghan, Kevin and our entire community on the #TChat Twitter stream for an open discussion focused on 5 key workplace violence questions. For highlights from the conversation, see the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Highlights: Workplace Violence & Preparedness

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Felix Nater and Tom Bronack for joining us this week. Your insights are raising awareness and providing solutions that make the world of work a more secure, productive place for us all.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about workplace safety? We’d love to share your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, we tackle another timely topic in today’s workplace: Creative ways to leverage big data in recruiting top talent. This promises to be a really interesting peek into candidate profiling. So save the date (September 18) for another rockin #TChat double header. And keep an eye out for details in the next few days.

Meanwhile, the World of Work conversation continues! So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, on our LinkedIn discussion group. or elsewhere on social media. The lights are always on here at TalentCulture, and your thoughts are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: Graeme Lawton via Flickr

Workplace Violence: Myth and Reality #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Are you looking for a full recap of this week’s #TChat events and resources? Read the #TChat Recap: “Violence On The Job: It Pays To Prepare”.)

9/11/2001. Who can forget that morning, 12 years ago, when the unimaginable unfolded before our eyes? Before that fateful day, few of us gave much thought to the impact of violence and disaster preparedness in the world of work.

But among the many lessons of the 9/11 attacks, we learned that no one should ignore the potential for workplace violence, in any form.

So this week as our nation remembers 9/11, the TalentCulture community is coming together at #TChat events to dispel costly myths and discuss vital realities about workplace violence and disaster preparation and prevention.

Making Sense of Risk Management

To lead this important conversation, we welcome two experts:
• Tom Bronack, President of Data Center Assistance Group, specialists in enterprise resiliency.
Felix Nater, Founder of Nater Associates, a business security advisory firm.

To kick-off the discussion, I spoke briefly with both Tom and Felix in separate Hangouts recently. Watch, and I’m sure you’ll agree that this topic deserves closer attention by all of us who focus on the human side of business.

First, Tom set the stage by telling the brief story of one company that paid a tremendous price for operating without a safety or recovery plan:

Next, Felix explained the steep cost of violence in business environments:

We have everything to gain by learning more from pros like Tom and Felix — and by sharing ideas with others in our community. So bring your questions and concerns, and let’s talk!

#TChat Events: Violence Prevention In Today’s Workplace

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

#TChat Radio — Wed, Sep 11 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT

Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with Felix Nater and Tom Bronack about why preparation is essential in preventing and recovering from workplace violence. They’ll help us rethink myths, and educate us on best practices. Don’t miss this special event — dial-in LIVE with your questions and input!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Sep 11 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, we’ll move the discussion to the #TChat Twitter stream, where Dr. Nancy Rubin will lead an open chat with the entire TalentCulture community. Anyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we address these questions:

Q1: How prevalent is workplace violence today? Why?
Q2: What costs are associated with workplace violence?
Q3: What top 3 things should employers should do to prepare for violence?
Q4: Who should be on your workplace violence preparedness team?
Q5: What technologies enable response planning and safeguarding?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Only Human: 7 Keys to Survival…Welcome Judy Martin!

(Editor’s Note: All of us in the TalentCulture community mourn the loss of our dear friend, brilliant colleague and mindful mentor, Judy Martin, who passed away unexpectedly on January 31, 2014. Her message and her life are a lesson for us all. Below is the first post Judy contributed to our blog. This reflects her spirit, which is captured in an extensive body of work across multiple media outlets and social channels. We will forever fondly remember Judy’s warmth, wisdom and humor.)

Hello, TalentCulture Community.  My name is Judy Martin, and I am the newest addition to the team. Below is my latest post from my blog.  I am very excited to be a contributor and look forward to what’s ahead!

I’m only human despite being a self-proclaimed work life pundit. Fess-up time. My life has been less about the work life merge, and more about life and survival lately. As an entrepreneur and freelance journalist navigating a sudden health care mishap, for a time I felt like the gal looks to your left; cloistered and wrapped in my own stuff, due to sudden partial facial paralysis. Now in the healing process, I’m hoping that this post might help others as work life flexibility was the greatest key to moving forward.

I had entered The Dark Night of the Soul, as the 16th century Mystic, Saint John of the Cross wrote about. No where to go but inside and surrender to the moment. Such a seclusion is simply the norm of human nature whilst enduring such episodes.

But even in this rapture of emotional turmoil I was reminded of the words of American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, the author of When Things Fall ApartHeart Advice for Difficult Times

If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation. This is the first step on the path. Without giving up hope that there’s somewhere better to be, that there is someone better to be – we will never relax with where we are or who we are.

http://www.worklifenation.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/iStock_woman-in-bandagesJPEG2.jpg

Radical Acceptance in the Moment

This is called radical acceptance; but it’s in the moment – and that moment changes as healing emerges. As we hit the depths of the chaotic waters of our being, some aberration occurs that shifts our perspective. For me, it was the realization that despite my appearance, I had a story to share that might help others in similar circumstances whose career was on the line.  I could not appear on Tv for a while, could barely see out of one eye, suffered with headaches and exhaustion –  and had to completely change my working scenario for nearly two months. But, there was a story.

I’ll spare you the gory and painful details. What happened is less important than how I dealt with it, toward maintaining some sort of work life balance. I haven’t blogged much because the collision of side effects was daunting. It was hard to get out of bed, let alone see. My work-life social media community checked in – from time-to-time – inquiring about the lapse in posting to my Work Life Nation blog.  Soon the questions were building like a house of cards about to tumble.

“Haven’t seen you on Twitter, what’s going on?”

“Sent you that book a while back, do you still plan to review it?”

“It seems impossible to get a lunch date with you. Why do you keep rescheduling?”

“You have cancelled three major work life conferences. Fess up.”

Surrendering to the Human Condition and Fessing Up

No – I wasn’t dying. But there were no guarantees the malady would not leave me with scars of paralysis or other issues. So…after some prodding by colleagues, I felt an obligation to share how I navigated the intersection of work life and sudden illness. After all, that’s what I signed up to do here at Judy Martin’s Work Life Nation, although it’s been more like Work Sleep Nation for a while.

I knew upon the occurrence that I was dealing with what could last a few weeks – to a potentially long term, even life-altering disability or deformity. My response involved lots of crying, surrender to the situation and then my survival instincts kicked in. I’ve been a reporter for 20-plus years and I was going to systematically figure out the fastest track toward healing while mustering up enough energy to work; albeit that workload was cut by 50-75% in the first few weeks of the illness. The first lesson – my work life scenario had to change and I had to adopt an even more flexible working model for the short term.

7 Keys for the Work Life Merge when Navigating Illness

This sudden illness brought me to my knees and forced me to tap a deep inner strength that coddled my sanity along the way. I sat down and gave thought to the most important priorities, everything else was put on the back burner in stages. There was no choice but to merge the work life scenario and become even more flexible that I was before.  It meant taking only certain assignments, even if they didn’t pay as well. Planning naps every day  – twice a day. And somehow fitting in doctors visits twice a week. As an independent contractor, I govern my work in a flexible manner. But suddenly, my workload and income was contingent on how well I was healing – and healing was contingent on how much cash I could spend on extra procedures (such as acupuncture) to heal faster. Catch 22. So I made ground rules.

Key #1: At all costs, health comes first: Even if it means dipping deeper into the bank account for a short period of time or asking for outside help.

Key #2: Keep stress levels to a minimum, and get plenty of sleep. Stress deters the healing process. Plain and simple.

Key #3: Financial Stability: As an independent contractor, cash flow might slow down – but it can’t stop.I had to take on less strenuous freelance work for the short term.

Key #4: Maintain business relationships: Check in with major clients to be sure everything is up to snuff. If you can’t get it done, delegate. Do you have a cache of colleagues you can call upon to help out short term?

Key #5: Transparency and communication: Close friends need to know what’s happening and important clients or your workplace should be informed to a degree.

Key #6: Understand your health options and insurance coverage: Read the fine print in the doctors office, ask questions and get a second opinion. Getting the wrong medication, having an unnecessary procedure, or not knowing the consequences of a health care choice eats into recovery time. I ran into all three conundrums.

Key #7: Inquire about your workplace guidelines regarding illness: Every workplace is different. Read up on the Family Leave Act and ask your Human Resources department about your options. Some companies have their own policies for long-time employees. What are the consequences of taking a leave of absence or time off without pay? If your management is receptive, ask about more flexible working arrangements. Most of all be honest about what you can and can not do.

The 5 Rules for Engaging on the Grid when Navigating Illness

Due to this health issue I had to head off the grid to recover while working in spurts. My blogging stopped, my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn updates were no more than sporadic. But I tried to check in at least once a week and made an effort to read a few articles or other blogs a few times a week. But participating in “the grid” was important to fuel business, my brand and my work life content, so I had to manage my time efficiently during the little time that I was functioning with my eye open. Here were some rules that I instituted:

Rule #1: Determine how many hours a day you can work on the grid. Give yourself a limit.

Rule#2: The hours that you are able to work should be spent on goal-oriented projects not web surfing unless research is part of your responsibilities.

Rule#3: To keep my presence on-line, I scheduled a few blog posts to hit a few times a month. These were evergreen posts that could be run at any time – but I could not keep up and should have adopted the following rule sooner than I did.

Rule #4: Call on your social media community in your niche. You’ll find support in that group and they might be willing to do guest posts while you are recovering.

Rule #5: Use an aggregator like Hooter or TubeMogul to post to Twitter, LinkeIn and FaceBook simultaneously.

A Conscious Approach to Recovery and Enduring Work Life Hell

I think the most important key to recovery is to find some serenity in the healing process. Sometimes we’re brought to our knees in tragedy, but how we endure that journey can either speed up our recovery or render it more daunting. My greatest gift this lifetime is that I’ve paid attention to the chaotic episodes I’ve endured in my work life and health, and have turned them into learning experiences. As such, I cultivate resilience through meditation, contemplation and exercise daily. A regular practice to cultivate serenity gives you a bit of an edge when tragedy hits. But that’s an individual choice.

Illness can break one down. It’s very important to be kind to ourselves when we get sick. We tend to beat ourselves up. At its core, health care issues force change. Unwanted change takes us out of our comfort zone and makes us vulnerable to our own self critical thinking and the judgment of others. Such challenges may erode our patience and ego, but inevitably, conquering them leads to growth.

When faced with illness how do you manage your work life merge?  What do you do when you get so sick that working takes a backseat? Please share your wisdom!