Navigating the 24-Hour News Cycle with Transparent Employee Communications

On June 29, the Supreme Court ruled the admission programs at the University of North Carolina and Harvard College can no longer take race into consideration as a specific basis in admissions, effectively striking down longstanding affirmative action programs at universities across the country. In response, many legal experts and civil rights advocates shared how this decision could impact students, workers, and other groups beyond prospective university students.  

The consequences of this ruling are still being determined, and employees may be experiencing increased anxiety as they wonder what this means for them, their families, and their workplace. Moreover, this isn’t the only issue on employees’ minds, as they are constantly being pushed stories and news updates about topics with real-world implications—legislation decisions, climate discussions, healthcare concerns, and more.  

The Relationship Between Employees and the News  

 For most people, a job or career is a significant part of their identity—but only one aspect of how they define themselves. Employees have other roles, duties, obligations, and hobbies outside of their work, which means they may be dealing with stressful events that have nothing to do with you as an employer.  

The constant, often troubling news cycle may also exacerbate any worry employees already feel, as they follow stories with potential outcomes that could affect themselves or their loved ones. This stress is amplified when political or social events happening outside of the workplace can potentially affect their experience inside of the workplace.  

 That’s why it’s more important than ever for organizations to acknowledge how the news relates to your industry, understand how it affects your employees, and convey this in open and honest communication to your workforce. Demonstrating empathy and allowing your employees to show up as their “whole person” on the job can be a release to the pressure valve. 

How to Support Employees in Times of Uncertainty    

 Supporting your employees in times of uncertainty starts with making sure leaders and managers are aware of what current events could be impacting employees inside and outside of the workplace. This means following national news, as well as trade news that relates to your sector or industry. While this may feel like adding yet another thing to your to-do list, it can be as simple as taking 10-20 minutes each morning to read credible news sources. Often, your organization’s media relations or corporate communications team monitors issues that may affect both your industry and your employees. We recommend working closely with these teams to be sure they are aware of any niche topics they should keep track of. 

When news breaks that could affect your employees or how your business operates, it’s important to quickly bring your leaders together to evaluate the immediate and long-term effects, determine your organization’s next steps, and then communicate openly and transparently with your employees. If you are not filling the information void on critical topics or addressing lingering uncertainties, you can be certain your detractors are – including labor unions. In fact, recent research shows that employees trust their CEO more than many other sources

Leaders must be prepared to have conversations and answer questions from employees. Today’s workforce, especially those in younger generations, is more open than ever about daily stressors, so it’s important for managers to lead with empathy and understanding.   

Prioritizing Transparent and Authentic DE&I Initiatives 

 Back to the recent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action: while it may appear to be an issue isolated to higher education, effective leaders are thinking now about how it will affect the future of their field. For example, in healthcare, this ruling may limit the diversity of healthcare providers entering the field – a concern for hospitals and care providers who are not only facing widespread staffing shortages, but who are also committed to hiring a workforce that represents the vast diversity of patients they serve.  

 This is an excellent time for organizations to prioritize their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives, which must be authentically embedded into their culture and long-term mission. Companies should not take for granted that employees will be as immersed in the company’s corporate values as leadership is, so consistently communicating with employees the steps they are taking to increase diversity will not only add value to the employee experience, but will help companies attract and retain the best talent. In fact, young employees from Generation-Z, for example, often evaluate a company’s values, like DE&I, when making employment decisions. 

Here are some ideas on how to incorporate transparent and authentic DE&I initiatives into your organization’s communications:  

  • Review all your primary communications, including your website, mission statement, and social media platforms, to ensure you are using inclusive and unbiased language (tip: ask for a fresh set of eyes to review longstanding messages)  

  • Audit your hiring practices and confirm all stages of your interview process are standardized and unbiased  
  • Host safe and open discussions about diversity and inequality, ideally with the help of a professional mediator or speaker  
  • Plan inclusive social events that celebrate employees of all backgrounds  
  • Implement regular diversity trainings (every quarter, for example) to help bring meaningful change to your organization  
  • Importantly, regularly share updates on these efforts with all employees and reaffirm the value that each employee brings to your organization 

 At the end of the day, employees want to feel empowered and supported to show up as themselves and do good work. Communicating with employees in a timely and thoughtful way about major news events and providing additional support where necessary, whether it be making time for open conversations or educational resources, is a great way to help employees feel confident in their employer and in their ability to contribute to their full potential. 

 At IRI, we’ve helped clients across industries communicate current events effectively with their workforce. We believe every business is different, and each requires its own holistic and customized approach to communications. Whether you need an internal communications assessment, guidance in developing your internal communications strategy or social media strategy, digital media intelligence, crisis communications services, media relations, or media training, we have expert communications consultants who can quickly provide a specialized solution. Contact us using the chat on the right to discuss the next steps, or give us a call at (313) 965-0350.

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