How Gas South is Managing Organizational Communication During COVID-19
The past few months have upended the modern-day workforce. Entire organizations have moved to a work-from-home model, employees are learning to collaborate while they self-isolate and leaders are tasked with building culture via video chat. It is understandable that these times of change have left many employees with concerns about the future and a desire for certainty in the workplace. As leaders, we may not be able to guarantee what the future holds, but we can help ease fears among employees through thoughtful, empathetic and transparent communication.
At Gas South, the following four tenets for communication have proven to be a successful guide in the time of COVID-19:
Clearly Communicate Key Points
In the age of digital communication, every word matters. This is even more true when miscommunications can cause undue fear or worry and negatively impact your corporate culture. To ensure our intended message is as clear as possible, we take care to identify and highlight the key points for employees. This includes bolding statements that communicate dates or changes to previously communicated policies. We also keep the statements to short, uncomplicated sentences at either the very beginning or very end of paragraphs to prevent them from getting buried in other messaging. We also vet our content with other leaders to ensure all employees are receiving the same message about our intent, without room for error.
Frequent and Transparent
One of the first procedures we established when we shifted to working remotely was a clear schedule for when employees should hear from leadership. Our president and CEO, Kevin Greiner, records a video every Friday that updates employees with information about our organizational wellbeing to assure employees that the company is running smoothly and effectively. Employees also want to understand how state decisions around shelter-in-place orders or closing schools may or may not impact our plans, so we communicate with employees within 24 hours of key government announcements to provide employees sufficient information to make family decisions. We also created space for employees to ask and receive real-time answers to questions through periodic virtual town halls conducted on Microsoft Teams where they can hear company updates to keep them informed about Gas South, and the decisions our leaders are making to continue putting the health and safety of our employees and customers as a top priority. In addition to scheduled communications, our human resources team periodically checks in with our employees to see how they are managing during these challenging times. This offers a unique opportunity to connect on an individual level with our employees, and helps us respond to their needs the best we can.
Validate All Employee Experiences
This time at home has impacted everyone differently. For some employees who have children, pets or other potential distractions awaiting them at home, the office may provide a desired reprieve compared to employees who find themselves thriving in the solitude provided by working from home – we’re aware that both situations exist and we’re constantly working to accommodate all employees to the best of our ability to ease the transition out of the office. One way we’ve been able to do this is through employee pulse surveys. An early survey revealed a significant portion of employees felt less productive working from home because they needed an additional computer monitor. We were able to swiftly respond to the needs of our employees by ordering and shipping monitors to those who needed them. While we cannot physically accommodate requests to return to the office early, we’ve been intentional about asking employees to prioritize their families. In some cases that has meant flexibly scheduling meetings around childcare or home-schooling obligations, and for others it means shifting work amongst the team so people can guiltlessly prioritize their lives how they need to.
Root Your Message in Your Values
The most important part of any communication is not the words used, but the impact it leaves. For us at Gas South, it was important that our team knew the current health crisis wouldn’t change our commitment to our employees, community or customers. Our company purpose is to Be a Fuel for Good, and that statement has been the single most important decision-making factor for us during this time. We communicated our largest ever philanthropic donation of $1 million to organizations that are directly helping families impacted by COVID-19, halted all involuntary service disconnections and resolved not to lay off any employees for the duration of the crisis. By aligning each of these actions with our purpose, employees know that we are the same company that we were before COVID-19 came to our shores.
These guidelines have proven to be an effective and invaluable way of ensuring our Gas South team feels supported, informed and cared for throughout this time of transition until we can see each other in person again.