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Everything Is Different Now: Communicating in the Time of Covid-19 (Pt. 2)

by Suzan McGinnis and Tricia Cornell

Part Two: Five Steps You Can Take Today

Last week we talked about tough new realities and how your employees’ lives and outlooks have changed. Now let’s take a look at how your compliance program —  and, specifically your communications — will need to change, too.

Here are five things you can start doing today to adapt your compliance communications to the current reality.

Be Human

You’re human. Your employees are human. This should be the easiest step of all, right? Well, not necessarily. First, it requires you to see your employees and their needs in a new, very different light.

It may also require a shift in your tone, communicating more personally, more empathetically, more transparently and perhaps with more vulnerability than is typically seen in a compliance email.

Most importantly, you must authentically acknowledge the current reality. In the best of times, canned communications will be ineffective. In today’s world, they can backfire and tank your whole point.

Change Your Time Horizon

You may be used to thinking in terms of one- or three-year calendars. It’s not time to throw those calendars out, but you may need to put them aside until we all get a better handle on what the world will actually look like in three years.

It’s time to start thinking in terms of this week, this month, this quarter, then this year.

Ask yourself, “What do people need to know right now?” Then, “What are our priorities this month? This quarter?” Line up what you need in order to put out those communications and be ready to pivot when the situation changes again.

As situations change, you may be communicating with your employees more often than you ever have before. Keep it short, keep it focused and make your message crystal clear.

Reevaluate Your Risks

The risk assessment you conducted before the pandemic probably doesn’t look anything like your current reality. Take a hard look at how a remote workforce, an uncertain supply chain or the risk of future furloughs might shift your risks.

People who are scared and feeling insecure may not always focus on ethical behavior. People who are feeling distant or disconnected from their employer may start putting their own needs and wants above their employer’s. This isn’t an indictment: Humans are human.

The risk assessment you conducted before the pandemic probably doesn’t look anything like your current reality.

It’s our job to understand the human dimension of risk and plan for it. The pandemic and economic downturn are going to put pressure on all sides of the fraud triangle: Remote working and distracted leaders may increase opportunity, while personal and financial struggles may increase pressure and rationalization.

Speak With One Voice

Now, more than ever, it is vital that your employees hear the same message in the same tone from all levels of your organization. Conflicting signals will confuse and scare people, and any kind of empathy and understanding communicated from one department will be canceled out by hard-nosed messages (or actions) from another.

And if personnel or business changes are needed (and they likely will be), lines will be even blurrier than usual. Your compliance team needs to communicate with internal communications, HR and business leaders to ensure that your company’s commitment to ethics is clear from all corners and at all levels.

Don’t Stop Training

I know. We said training and communications are separate things. They are. But they are also inextricably linked, as touchpoints between you and your audience.

It may be tempting to put your training schedule on hold or pare it down to the barest essentials, but the pandemic has increased compliance risks, not decreased them. If you find yourself dealing with a legal situation in six months or a year, “We weren’t training on it because of the virus” won’t be an excuse.

If you find yourself dealing with a legal situation in six months or a year, “We weren’t training on it because of the virus” won’t be an excuse.

At the same time, you need to make sure your training feels current and relevant to the moment. While you may not be able to change a whole course, even editing the message in the training rollout email could increase that human connection between you and your audience.

Ready to communicate with bigger impact? We can help. Schedule a free consultation with the Rethink Compliance experts.

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