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If your household energy bills are too expensive, what do you do? Find ways to become more energy efficient, maybe switch suppliers for a better deal. You don’t turn off all the lights, walk around in the dark, and hope for the best!

I’m surprised at the number of companies that have already switched off the lights! Sometimes this is without even realising it. These are the companies deciding to say nothing to address employee concerns and not sharing their plans for recession survival, some even freezing comms all together to save money.

The fact is, not communicating is communicating. You’re essentially declaring to employees you’ve made a conscious decision not to tell them anything. This will breed distrust and disengagement. When it is vital to improve performance and the need to go the extra mile is paramount, poor communication has a knock-on effect on positive discretionary behaviour workforce-wide.

Contrary to money-saving expectations, communications ‘lock down’ can also prove expensive long-term: drops in performance need to be compensated for, and there will be ground to be made up – re-educating and perhaps fire-fighting after a worrying period of silence, maybe even re-launches of key initiatives that have lost momentum or been denied budget for follow-up.

The economic situation demands better return than ever on comms so communicating wisely for maximum impact is key, especially given possible budgetary restraints. So, if you feel your hand edging towards the metaphorical light switch, consider taking these practical steps:

1. Audit your comms and be ruthless. Look for ways to improve efficiency and cost effectiveness without compromising on quality – employees will notice and worry, especially on communications they are used to receiving. Consider doing less but for better impact and value. Take an holistic view of your HR comms output and look for opportunities to implement a more joined up approach.
2. Segment your workforce and consider how you will keep core talent engaged. Ensure they know who they are and do everything within your power and budget to keep them on board, including sharing plans for recession. They will be the future of your business during recovery and your ambassadors among the wider workforce.
3. Don’t overlook comms basics such as tone of voice and messaging – these have never been as important as they are at this moment. Agree your stance then use it consistently to communicate key messages – employees will trust you a lot more if they feel you are in control.
4. Consider quick comms wins to set minds at rest as well as long-term strategies. Put yourself in your employees’ shoes – how much do they really know about your company’s position and plans for survival? Do they understand what part they have to play? How can you tell them about this?
5. Don’t stop and start – keep comms momentum to maintain engagement and performance, and to avoid costly re-education and fire-fighting campaigns down the line.

Now, more than ever, companies need employees to perform. To achieve this, they need to make a noise about it. Audit, prioritise, act and DON’T switch off the lights!

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