Ukraine: What Can Internal Comms Do?
If you’re like me, then today you’ll be distracted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And rightly so — this is the largest land war in Europe since 1945. I know our comms-rades in Europe are rattled. The enormity of it all is hard to fathom. It feels so trivial, so inappropriate to do everyday work when people’s lives and livelihoods are being disrupted and destroyed.
Your employees are distracted too. Employee engagement is low — 36% in the U.S. During times of crisis, workers will further disengage.
- Around the time of the murder of George Floyd, for example, employee engagement dipped to 31%.
- The war in Ukraine is one of those crises, especially in Europe.
Right now many of our peers are engaged in crisis comms, working deeply with HR and Security to stay in touch with employees in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and surrounding areas…making sure people are safe and accounted for. While work might be the last thing on many of their minds, knowing that someone cares for them is meaningful.
Crisis comms is about 5% of what internal comms does, but when it happens it’s the most important work you’ll do. Godspeed to those involved in these efforts.
For the rest of us, there are a few things internal comms can do to help with the stress.
- Check your tone. If you have messages scheduled to go out today and tomorrow — rethink them. Double-check the wording so that it doesn’t sound tone-deaf to what’s happening in the world. Rewrite the top if you have to. Reschedule the message for next week if you can.
- Ditto to the above if there is a meeting. Have the speakers acknowledge the situation in Ukraine and have them point to company resources that are circulating to help employees manage the stress. Be kind.
- If you have employees in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, (Poland, Moldova, etc.), consider a short note to all employees from a senior leader that lets the company know that steps are being taken to ensure employees are accounted for. No need to go into details — a paragraph can do. Employees want to know that their company cares about their colleagues and is taking action. Post the message in an all-company chatroom or send via email.
- Remind employees about company resources that can help with stress, such as counseling and employee resource groups. Remind them that their wellbeing is important to the company.
- Make space for employees to connect with each other, whether that’s in-person (a dedicated conference room) or in chatrooms and video conference rooms. Be sure to have some sort of monitoring in place to ensure the conversation is respectful.
- Consider pausing all external content. Some internal comms employees also manage social media profiles and corporate blogs. Today and tomorrow are probably not the best days to send rah-rah tweets and look-at-me LinkedIn articles.
For larger companies much of the above can’t happen without close coordination with your peers in HR, Security, Exec Comms, and other stakeholders. Lead where internal comms should (with communication) and let them do their thing.
For the consultants reading this, your internal comms contacts might be overwhelmed today, or might not be thinking about doing any of the above. Consider a proactive move in helping them get through the next couple of days.