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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

Tough Times, Same Resources, More "Touches"

in a changing economy, you need to reach employes more often

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

There's a good chance you need to step up the pace of employee communications, given current economic conditions. At work, employees are bombarded with questions from customers, suppliers, investors, and co-workers about what is happening with your business. After work, relatives, friends, and neighbors do the same. Leaving them to make up their own answers just feeds the rumor mill and kills morale.

So it's wise to "touch" your employees more often in turbulent times. But that doesn't mean that you have to find additional resources for training. You can have an especially significant impact, in these tough times, with a little effort applied through simple, low-cost delivery channels.

The important thing is to make an explicit effort to help employees address questions and concerns. Don't just tell them what they themselves need to know, coach them in talking to others about what is happening to your organization.

Fortunately, most organizations can guide employees through the current economic troubles without tapping new resources. You will have to find a little time, as a company -- manager time, HR time, whoever may be involved in delivering key messages about your approach to today's environment.

But the real key is frequency, staying in touch. The news is changing very rapidly, and every day your employees, customers, prospects, suppliers, and investors hear something different about where the economy is headed. You have to keep up with that information in your communications to employees.

Update them with weekly e-mails. Make this discussion a standard item in staff meetings and regular departmental communications. Establish accountability for delivering these messages and giving them the weight they deserve. You can even use a weekly voice-mail broadcast, or something tied to your intranet. Every organization has simple, and basically free, channels of communication available already, so tap into what makes sense for your company.

The content of these frequent touches should include:

  1. Realistic, objective updates on how external events are affecting the company. Give it to them straight.
  2. "Talking points" for everyone, guidelines about how you want questions from customers, suppliers, investors to be answered. Tell them what topics are most likely to arise, and what the appropriate response is for each one.
  3. Quick tips on any new practices, or adjustments to existing ones, the company has developed to respond to current conditions. (This is one area where, if major shifts are at issue, developing new training may be necessary.)
  4. Reinforcement of existing standards and values. With all the distraction and worry associated with a bad economy, this is a crucial time to bolster your core beliefs and vision, to make sure that employees don't cut corners because management forgets to talk about the fundamentals of your business.

About the biggest mistake you can make in these times is leaving point #2 above, the response to questions from outsiders, exclusively in the hands of your official spokesperson, or your public relations firm. The key players in your survival -- the people you sell to, the people you buy from, the people who invest in you -- attribute a lot more credibility to what they hear from the average employee than to what they get in official pronouncements.

If you are not actively guiding your employees in dealing with the current crisis and in handling conversations with outsiders, you are just feeding the worst possible stuff into the rumor mill.

Apply a little effort, a few resources, a lot of commitment, and a dash of creativity to make a huge difference to your organization's reputation, and ultimate success.

© 2008 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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