Facing Sequestration: How to Communicate with Employees
Much has been made of the ramifications of the looming budget cuts, or sequester in Washington parlance. Little appreciated are the potential personal impacts on the federal workforce and related contractors and industries whose jobs are on the chopping block. Organizations have a special responsibility to communicate well with those who may be affected by cuts or furloughs, and to those responsible for keeping their teams apprised as the impact becomes clear.
Unless rapid action is taken by Friday, March will mean, at best, a period of uncertainty or at worst, layoff notices. Every employee whose role is in any way related to federal funding will continue to be reminded as they see and hear about the fiscal cliff in the news.
What action should leaders and managers take to assure business continuity, retention and engagement of their staff to support their business goals? Over the last weeks and months, we have advocated for communicating clearly, often and with respect during a confusing time as the best course of action. It reinforces leadership as the point of contact for addressing employee concerns directly.
Based on our experiences helping clients across sectors communicate during times of change, H+K shares the following best practices:
- Communicate transparently and reassure employees. It is imperative that employees know that leadership is aware and concerned. Share the high-level results of risk assessments and provide employees with an overview of the strategic plan to maintain existing or secure new revenue sources.
- Provide weekly updates to employees. Highlight and provide relevant news, external updates and potential impacts to the company. This continued communication reinforces a commitment to transparency and openness. Equip your managers with tools, such as talking points and FAQ documents, to respond to employee questions.
- Identify potential outcomes and develop scenario plans, including internal AND external communications. Companies should coordinate with their government affairs and management team to plan for all potential scenarios and to prepare internal and external communications strategies that will best preserve business operations.
The issues that come along with sequestration have been described as a fiscal cliff - a precipice that we will plummet over uncontrolled unless something dramatic is done. While the repercussions of the fiscal cliff may be drastic and dramatic, companies cannot and must not approach this as a scenario that is entirely beyond their control. Proper preparation, coupled with a strategic communications plan, can help leadership successfully navigate funding cuts, continue operations and retain employee trust and confidence.By Kathie Boettrich, SVP, Change & Internal Communications and Greg Hitt, SVP, Public Affairs