What Your Company Culture Says About Your Brand In a Time of Crisis

Six ways your company can communicate caring to employees during this time.

 

No doubt things are hard for every business right now and particularly difficult for small businesses!

The last report I read stated that about 6.6 million had already filed for unemployment as a result of the social distancing policies mandated throughout the country.  And that was last week!

I am a big believer in being intentional when it comes to organizational culture and inspiring trust when things are normal. But what is a small business to do now, in the midst of a global pandemic? Mark Cuban best known for his role on Shark Tank and owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks recently stated that how your company responds to this crisis could “define your brand for decades.”  So, in essence, not only is your safety and that of your family something to worry about right now, you need to be concerned about your brand as well.

Truth is, most businesses are not paying attention to organizational culture when things are normal, so why should they start caring now? Well, because it is in times of crisis that people and organizations show what they are made of.  Crisis brings the good or the bad already present in individuals and companies out into the light.

At this critical moment, employees do not trust their leaders to do the right thing for them. A recent poll by Eagle Hill Consulting revealed that only 32 percent of employees trust their leaders and organizations to navigate this crisis. Employees have good reason to be concerned. Aside from the fact that Covid-19 seems to be disproportionally killing those in communities of color, particularly, African Americans and Latinos, everyone’s job is on the line, if they haven’t lost it yet. Employees are wondering what this pandemic will reveal about their company and their perceived value?

If your company has been clear about its culture, purpose and values, its choices and actions will be a bit easier to make. If it hasn’t been so clear, a few Zoom meetings are in order before you make more choices that will impact your brand and employees. In fact, it’s been inspiring to read about what some companies have been doing during this time. Some businesses have put employees on a part-time schedule to avoid lay-offs. Leaders have taken pay cuts themselves to ensure they could pay their staff and some employees have banded together to be the ones to take the pay cuts to ensure that their company survives.

So how can your company communicate caring to employees during this time?

1. People before Task.

That’s right. This is the time to focus on your people. A previous boss of mine would always tell me this when I wanted to get the work done at the expense of the humans behind the role. That lesson stayed with me. You can still do the best you can to get the job done but your mindset should be one of mitigating risk and exposure for your people.

2. Sustain in Support.

You can show you care by making a call that is not simply work related. At least once a week, call your people to see how they are holding up and if there is a need for anything that you can help with. Let your staff know you are accessible via phone, email, text, etc.

3. Authentic Updates.

Communicate proactively and considerately as much as you can. The fear is real during this time. Acknowledge it. Rumors about what a company is going to do to its employees take on a life of their own in the absence of timely information. My husband’s company Orthotic Prosthetic Centers of Florida has done a wonderful job of showing its human side during this crisis. In a recent email to its employees, the founder of the company addressed myths that were circulating, his own sacrifices for the sake of the business, and his concern that employees not put themselves at risk while doing their job (as they are an essential business). I loved how thoughtful his message was and that it opened the door for any staff person to do the same. Transparency and proactivity are always greatly appreciated by employees.

4. Be Consistent.

Unlike the inconsistent information we’re getting from press briefings in the White House, be consistent in what you will or will not cover and what you expect during this time. Inconsistency adds to the fear employees are already experiencing. Help them trust you by keeping your word.

5. Ensure Your Actions Align with Who You Say You Are.

Every action you approve and every move you make shapes how employees will view your company and the brand you represent. Every moment matters, but in a crisis every moment matters much more. Essentially, answer the question no one will dare ask. How are your actions during this crisis safeguarding the organization, its people, its culture for when we get the green light to return to normal? If you can answer that question, your people will appreciate it.

6. Keep up the socialization.

If your company had weekly gatherings or monthly happy hours, keep it up. There is no reason not to have social distanced socialization via Zoom or other technological platform.

Culture is what holds an organization together, so it is even more critical to lean in hard into culture during a crisis. The Covid-19 virus is putting company cultures to the test. Hopefully, your company will be one that passes with flying colors. Adelante!

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