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Effective Communication in the Midst of a Crisis

Liane Cheyne |
May 26, 2020

When an unforeseen event or situation occurs, people can experience a range of emotions; confusion, fear, and frustration being just a few of those. This can happen to anyone, in any walk of life. These emotions can be compounded when someone is in an already unfamiliar or alien environment, away from their usual support networks and systems that we all rely upon in times of uncertainty.

This is certainly the case for international assignees who may find themselves in an array of situations that lead them to lean on their organization for advice and support. In such instances, it is important not to underestimate the importance of timely, clear, and regular communication, not only to advise and assist but to reassure assignees at a time of heightened anxiety.

During the ongoing COVID-19 health pandemic we have seen a variety of responses in different countries based on the degree to which they are affected, as well as different local norms, infrastructure, and constitutional arrangements. It is important, therefore, that employees assigned to roles outside their home country are given clear guidance on how to respond in terms of following local guidance, but also in understanding the organization’s expectations and protections regarding risk to the wellbeing and safety of overseas assignees. With this in mind, there are three key aspects of communication that organizations with overseas assignees should be mindful of:

  • Communicate your plans.

    Most organizations will have some well-documented emergency plans, but how effective are these without good communication? It is important to make sure that key players at all levels are aware and have access to the policies and plans they need to effectively manage situations as they arise. It is also important that assignees are aware of the support that will be available to them, and who to approach for support, before undertaking and international assignment.

  • It is better to say something, than nothing at all.

    As an international assignee perhaps the worst scenario is to feel forgotten or abandoned by your organization at a time when you expect them to step in and help. When extraordinary and unforeseen events occur, it will naturally take a little time for any organization to put into practice any necessary measures or procedures, and often no communication is made until the time which everything has been figured out. However, it is important to communicate in a timely fashion. Not only does it demonstrate that the organization is taking action, it also provides reassurance to employees.

    Being transparent and acknowledging that you don’t have all the answers right now is preferable to radio silence, and helps to instill a level of trust between assignees and their employer.

  • Be effective, be consistent.

    Ineffective communication is almost as bad as none at all. Ensure that you are reaching everyone by utilizing multiple communication channels, formal and informal. Email lists, for example, can quickly become outdated, but if you use social media too, you might catch anyone who falls through the net. Effective communication is also two-way — it is important also that assignees are able to easily make contact with their organization with questions or concerns. Without this, organizations cannot effectively address the issues that require their attention.

    Has the global health pandemic had an impact on how you communicate information to your employees, either at home or overseas? Going forward, these challenging circumstances will provide a benchmark for organizations to assess their performance and refine their emergency communications strategy and plans to support overseas assignees. Whether you are looking to expand or improve how you manage international assignments, we can help.

    Please contact us to schedule a call or virtual meeting to explore the potential options available to you.

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