Any good leader understands that communication is critical in a time of crisis. Employees are thirsty for information, with a desire to know what’s happening, how it’s being dealt with, when everything will return to normal, and what it means for them.
Strong communication typically encompasses three core elements: an urgency that helps people adjust and react; transparency that solidifies trust and respect; and empathy that demonstrates understanding and fosters resilience.
But going deeper than these general guidelines, what should leaders communicate in a crisis? And how do they ensure that the message reaches all of the right people—in the places they’re receptive to it and in the timely ways they want it?
This is a challenge gaming industry leaders continue to face in managing the coronavirus, particularly considering the makeup of their workforce. Not only do non-desk workers (dealers, waiters, etc.) comprise the majority of the workforce, but nearly nine in 10 don’t have access to corporate e-mail.
And 84 percent of non-desk workers, according to a tribe survey, say they don’t receive enough information from top management.
There are five key points that leaders need to focus on.
- Frequency—Leaders need to communicate more often than they think they do. Some employees may hear it the first time, while others may need to hear it multiple times in order to absorb it. A heavy cadence reduces fear and uncertainty and decreases the speculation that emerges from the unknown. It allows you to highlight the positives where possible and mitigate some of the negatives. This frequency, when reinforcing the message, can have a significant impact on an employee’s commitment to that organization, thus reducing the threat of turnover and cost of replacement.
- Focus on your employees—Give people what they need, when they need it and where they need it. As a situation progresses, employees’ information needs evolve. But all along, your messages should be tailored to your audience, depending upon their level and their location. One of the challenges for casino operators is that regulations differ significantly by state, so communications platforms should easily segment information against a number of factors.
- Candor—It can be tempting to paint only the rosy picture. You want employees to know you’re headed in the right direction, despite the rough waters that may be ahead. But you must remember that trust is paramount. Your people must believe in you, which necessitates a level of transparency that can also reveal some vulnerability. It’s this humanity that builds connection, loyalty and belief in leadership.
- Perspective—A level of panic is inevitable, on a collective and individual level. A leader’s message must provide a layer of perspective—making sense of what has happened while providing a clear vision for the path forward (however difficult that may be).
- Feedback—There are bound to be endless questions—some that employees feel comfortable asking publicly and others they don’t. Make sure that employees understand there are communications channels available to them—and that they are safe and private. This is particularly important for non-desk workers, given that they likely can’t pull aside a leader or don’t have the corporate email access that provides for clear, one-on-one communication. In an ideal world, companies have invested in platforms that don’t just serve everyday communications, but are particularly useful during times of sensitive communications.
Crises are inevitable. Preparation is what determines how effectively leaders and their companies emerge from them. And communication is the foundation of that preparedness, and ultimate execution.