Blogroll Internal Communication

Communicating Strikes and Office Outages Successfully

As organizations came to grips with the most recent strike that paralyzed the country this week I noticed an innocuous post on a Linkedin community from a fellow communicator asking peers if they planned to shut shop, run operations or mitigate risks.

I found that post interesting since it came up on the evening before the planned strike. Did the organization have a plan to go by the poll results on Linkedin? If yes, they would have been off the mark considering I was the only one who responded!

Did they know who needed to be informed and how employees could continue work? What about transport for staff who need to get to office?

For the uninitiated, strikes (bandhs) in India can be quite difficult to predict and that puts organizations and internal communicators in a spot while communicating with stakeholders. There isn’t one source of information to gauge the final decision, there are multiple players who need to be consulted to understand the situation ‘on the ground’ and affiliations to political parties and state governments can determine if a bandh will impact business completely or partially.

Organizations with global operations can’t afford downtime and are often tempted to try getting their staff in on the previous day and make arrangements internally for stay and food during the bandh period. Often this can run into rough weather if the bandh callers witness staffers in the premises – as some organizations have discovered to their dismay.

To begin, having key leaders connect with local authorities and the police administration helps to take an informed decision. It makes sense to understand what other organizations in the vicinity are considering. However, you need to appreciate that an organization of 50,000 employees in a city will have a different strategy to one with about 500.

By ensuring all employees have updated their records on the company database you have a way to knowing if they are reachable and safe in case of untoward incidents.

List out your stakeholders apart from your employees. Do you need to inform your clients, business partners, travellers to the offices or leadership who have planned work? Consider all audiences who access or plan to access your premises. It can even be employees’ parents since they will be as concerned about their welfare as your organization is.

Create a set of messages that align to the company’s decision and what you expect your employees to do or say. For example, why is the bandh called, why the organization is closing the office, when does it open for operations and whom can staff contact if there is an emergency.

Have a set of standard templates that can be tweaked for recurring messages which go out – be it updates or alerts.

Ensure the business continuity initiative, if you have one, is activated and the key people involved in ongoing decisions to move premises or change operation timings.

Lastly, be sure to have a feedback session once the event is done and over so that all team members can share lessons and best practices not just in the organization but from people they know of in the industry.

Have thoughts on how else organizations and internal communicators can be effective? Please share them here.

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