Communicating in a slowdown Internal Communication

Sharing tough messages with employees in a downturn – the Indian perspective


By now, the industry has witnessed a host of communication ranging from measures to mitigate risks, improve efficiencies, pay cuts, reduce staff strength, revisit talent pool, unpaid holidays, closure of offices and freeze on hiring.  


The toll on employees is already showing. High depression and job insecurity among them is forcing them to seek counseling.


What differentiates the best companies from the mediocre is their ability to consistently deliver hard news honestly, directly and proactively. I think companies in India need to grasp the power of internal communication messaging to avoid eroding market value, morale and talent. According to research, the 200 ‘most admired’ companies spent more than three times as much on employee communications as the 200 ‘least admired’ companies. Weber Shandwick’s research points to expectations from employees to receiving increased communication during these difficult times.



Here are my recommendations which I believe works from an Indian perspective – to improve connection and credibility while communicating tough messages.


a)      Craft a messaging plan before sharing any communication with employees. Recently a large Indian IT services organization’s campus hiring message ended up misconstrued when they asked 5000 engineers to switch careers to BPO if they wanted their jobs to stay. Could the organization have provided more business rationale and been a bit more concerned for these new recruits’ frame of mind in a downturn?  Can employees be given the choice of making a decision after they are provided all the relevant business decision thinking?

b)      Focus on the positives without downplaying the bad news: In India, job security and compensation are key drivers for engagement. Even if there are messages which talk of lay-offs, reduction in pay, forced holiday plans and office closures it still makes sense to highlight success stories among people, projects, offices, collaboration, new ideas (such as green initiatives). If you have been communicating consistently through the year, sharing more will not surprise your employees. I am sure due to the slowdown there might be better ways of managing work or sharing communication with your employees.

c)      Enlist the strength of your managers: Research indicates strong connection with your immediate supervisor and communicator needs to leverage this key factor. Provide all relevant information and resources for managers to share the news in a constructive manner. Research trends also point to a lack of trust among senior leadership and their messages. All the more reason to work peer to peer or manager with supervisee.

d)     Applauding credible effort of your employees: Most organizations have reached out to employees seeking their support and ideas to improve efficiencies and reduce costs. How many of these have lionized employees whose ideas were considered and implemented? How many were included into key organizational wide decisions or positions for future action?


 e) Giving your employees responsibilities and stretch assignments: Are your employees keen to contribute more? Have you checked on their interest in delivering on work over and above their routine assignments? Employees honestly want to give back more if engaged. Read the pulse and provide the right opportunities.

shot of a person running along the beach
shot of a person running along the beach

2 thoughts on “Sharing tough messages with employees in a downturn – the Indian perspective

  1. Long overdue post. I suppose the first step is to entrust this job to an expert and not tag it along with HR/ Corporate Communication or worse, marketing communication.

    Its baffling to see some of the best Indian (IT, especially) companies bungle on their employee communication and stick to the most inane modes like email (can it get any more top down?) from the CEO, to communicate news. Ramalinga Raju’s mail after the Maytas fiasco was made public by one of the leading newspapers – if only he had put up an equal effort to communicate with his own employees as he did with investors and FIIs.

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