By Chris Gilmour

The importance of a healthy employee relationship during a crisis 

Forgetting about staff is the dumbest thing you can do in a crisis.

They are your greatest ambassadors.

They are the biggest stakeholders in your company.

Your organisation’s most precious asset is its people.

So when crisis calls, employee relationship management is paramount.

And the greatest impact – both positive and negative - usually comes from people.

The potential for staff to make things worse is high, if channels of communication are not open and a brand has failed to work on healthy employee relations.

Think disoriented staff who do not know where to go after an evacuation.

Think employees who make ill-advised comments to the Press.

Think angry trade union protests outside business headquarters.

In fact, staff could very well cause the crisis.

These potential nightmares can be avoided by effective employee communications, as part of a crisis management plan.

Equally, employees can calm a crisis and help turn things around - by carrying the message about the good work an organisation does every day, by reminding people why a blip won’t derail the brand’s mission.

After all, staff are the most affected by damage to their company. And yet their statements and opinions are probably the most trusted by outsiders.

Gain their loyalty and willingness to defend the company and your crisis response will be much more effective.

Treat Staff as your most important stakeholders

Employer-employee relationship needs to be nurtured at all times. Not just during a crisis. Effective employee relations are an investment in the future of your brand.

Give them a role in your crisis strategy

Whether they’re in the thick of it, or helping the brand recover once the flames have died down, make employees responsible for the company’s comeback. Relationships in the workplace will be strengthened if everyone pulls together to rebuild reputation. Helping to handle a crisis will empower them.

Provide media and social media guidelines

Or training if you can manage it. This should cover how to handle reporters or bloggers, ideally asking staff to refer enquiries to one media person within your organisation. Give them phrases to use when cornered by the Press. Rather than the damaging “I’ve been told not to speak to you” they could say “We have someone handling enquiries about this. Here is her number. She knows all the details.” Don’t just give orders, explain why certain actions are best for the company when it comes to crisis response.

Give them a safe space to vent

Anyone who cares about their workplace is going to take a crisis personally in some way. Staff are less likely to go off on a social media rant if you give them a chance to communicate how they feel – within the safe confines of the organisation. Encourage staff to speak out and tell them there is no shame in emotional outbursts at work. Hopefully that way, they will respect requests to stay tight-lipped outside the office. 

Post information in a central place

Your company’s intranet is probably the best place, but make sure all press releases, letters, office guidelines, minutes of board meetings are easily accessible and updated regularly. Communication between employer and employee should be as clear and open as possible, so staff don’t feel like things are being hidden from them.


For help with crisis PR and communications, get in touch with us.