Managing Shift Worker Communication During a Crisis

Employee communication strategies generally play an integral role in supporting the needs of workers. However, with the rapidly developing and dynamic situation that COVID-19 presents, communication with your workforce is more critical than ever before.

According to studies, employees are 12 times more likely to be engaged with their company when the communication they receive is open and honest. However, even under normal circumstances, most employees feel under-informed, proving that transparency is key as the pandemic further evolves. Having the ability to clearly explain how your company is prepared for, and actively addressing the needs of employees – and the public you serve – will not only put your team at ease but also help avoid the need for damage control at a later time.

Communication Challenges Due to COVID-19

The business challenges presented by the pandemic have heightened the need for real-time communication channels that can be quickly leveraged to inform employees of shift changes, safety alerts, or new workplace policies. Where paper announcements in break rooms and phone trees systems were once the norm, they may now be considered liabilities, because information is changing constantly.

We’re seeing this to be especially true for our customers in the healthcare industry. These facilities are rapidly adapting staffing schedules to meet surges in demands across metropolitan areas. Communicating schedule changes to staff in real-time is essential, yet it often falls apart when manual processes are involved. In the hardest-hit regions, where hospitals are in grave need of help, they are struggling to efficiently onboard, schedule, and communicate with the hundreds of workers and volunteers eager to lend a hand.

These communication challenges aren’t limited to healthcare, however. Other essential businesses are facing similar challenges. Worker safety concerns are paramount to address, with many facilities implementing new safety strategies such as health screenings, and new entry and exit rules. All of these (and future) changes must be communicated to employees to launch these new processes and keep workers informed, however, that’s easier said than done unless automated systems are in place.

Keeping Employees Informed

Even with automated tools, communicating with your staff cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach. While tensions are running high during this difficult and unprecedented time, the goal of communication is to share information about changes in the workplace and provide resources that empower employees to make informed decisions about their job, health, and safety.

In working with customers, we’ve gleaned several best practices for communicating workplace and scheduling information to employees. Although each organization has its unique needs, these guidelines provide a solid framework for keeping your workers well-informed.

  1. Connect communication to work processes. Communication from managers to employees should be specific and purposeful. Outreach that reinforces new processes helps employees understand what is expected of them. Be sure to indicate how employees should communicate back with questions.
  2. Enable employees to self-serve. Many times, the biggest barrier to communication is poor timing. Create an access point for important information. This type of communication frees up reliance on the manager, lowers error rates, and empowers employees to seek needed information on their own.
  3. Target communications in a timely manner. The most useful messages deliver information as close to the moment of need as possible. Instead of painting with a broad brush, timely communication that targets only those affected is the best way to ensure workers hear your message and take action on any necessary instructions.
  4. Establish a cadence and standards. Establishing predictable communication helps employees find the information they need when they need it. Of course, this isn’t always feasible in times of crisis, but it’s a good general rule to follow. Establish communication templates and standardize on a regular cadence to help employees develop a routine around consuming important information.
  5. Facilitate two-way communication. The most effective communication acknowledges when the message has been heard. Managers and workers need to know they’re on the same page. Communication is greatly improved when feedback for both managers and workers are integral to the communications process.
  6. Don’t limit communications to one channel. Worker surveys show that 85% of employees use more than one device to communicate at work, with 32% of those workers using three or more devices. It is clear that for communication to be successful, managers must adapt to the tools and devices used by their employees.

Tools to Help

Technology is a business’s best friend when it comes to managing dynamic workforce environments, such as the one we currently find ourselves navigating. Especially in essential industries where the needs of the workforce and the workplace must be balanced continuously to keep business operations running.

Workforce scheduling technology is a helpful tool for managing change. Automating workforce scheduling processes enables organizations to rapidly adapt to varying labor demand, ensure shift coverage when workers suddenly call-off, communicate COVID-19 worker readiness regulations, onboard large numbers of new workers, and keep employee contact information up to date.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in many organizations’ workforce operations, but technology is readily available to provide solutions to help manage changing dynamics quickly. If you are a Shiftboard customer, learn more about the functionalities that can help you better communicate with your workforce.