Natalie Myers

Make Employee Relations No. 1 Priority in Economic Crisis

What are the most pressing issues facing PR professionals today? Garnering better internal communications should be one of them.

New research suggests that 71% of working Americans feel the leaders at their companies should be communicating how the poor financial state of the U.S. economy might have an impact on them. 54% say they’ve heard nothing at all so far.

Other stats:

-70% expect current economic conditions to have a negative effect on their company during the next year

-62% say their company will have trouble meeting its goals

-26% think their company will have layoffs

Layoff rumors can be particularly damaging to companies. Rumors evoke anxiety, which can affect the productivity of the workforce.

Here are some basic steps to counteract rumors and general unrest:

->Step #1. Encourage leaders to speak candidly to employees about what’s happening

When I spoke with PR pro Jonathan Bernstein about how to manage a PR crisis, he told me that in any crisis – whether it’s a fire, natural disaster, mass layoff, or legal matter — employees will act as spokespeople for the company whether you tell them what’s going on or not.

Telling them could actually help the company in the long run because it fosters a better relationship with employees who could develop more trust and loyalty to the company. This could help shape the reputation of the company in a positive way should layoffs occur.

->Step #2. Choose a channel through which to communicate

Sherpa advises to have managers in business units hold small meetings or one-on-one chats with employees. Of course, that means first creating the message that company leaders want to communicate. But one-on-one or group chats are much more personal than an email or memo.

->Step #3. Communicate changes the same way

The original method of communication should continue if the message from leadership changes.

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