By Jim Preen, Director of Crisis Management a YUDU Sentinel
Two recent news stories vividly illustrate how there’s no such thing as internal and external comms. These days it’s all one, but consistent communication remains of critical importance to an organisation and its reputation. If anything, the pandemic is amplifying the mistakes.
Virtually no communication, if it’s deemed interesting, can be kept under wraps or targeted at just one group and be expected to remain there. Once the comms cat is out of the bag it likes to roam free.
Recently JPMorgan Chase sent some of their staff home after an employee tested positive for Covid-19. He was an equities trader working on the 5th floor of their Madison Avenue HQ. The firm sent a memo to all those working on that floor saying they had to go into quarantine.
Staff working elsewhere were not informed and only found out about the case when it was reported in the media. Some were pretty upset and started questioning why they had heard nothing from their employer. “Why did I have to read about this in Bloomberg?” said one trader.
Despite a UK government U-turn with workers now once again being asked to work from home, some hardy souls are making their way back to their offices. Inevitably a number of these staff will be nervous and will want to know if anyone in their building has contracted the disease.
Firms may desperately want some of their people to get back to the office, but staff safety has to be paramount. If companies are not forthcoming and honest with their staff, they will vote with their feet and march straight back home.
Perhaps JPMorgan justified their decision to keep the Covid diagnosis under wraps because they didn’t want to alarm staff, but knowledge is power, and employees need to be in possession of the facts so they can take informed decisions that might not only affect them but their whole family.
The Financial Times recently highlighted an instance where another major firm came a cropper.
A member of staff, who had worked at the company’s HQ throughout the pandemic, was idly scrolling through Twitter when something caught her eye.
A tweet indicated that the boss classes were so delighted with the productivity and can-do spirit of staff working from home that they were sent delightful gift hampers as a thank you for all their hard work. Unfortunately, the woman and other colleagues who and had actually made it into the office at some potential cost to themselves received, you guessed it, zilch.
How rotten and unloved did those staff feel who had slogged through the pandemic back at the office? And what did the JPMorgan staff, who may have been agonising over whether or not to return to their HQ, feel when they uncovered the covered-up case of coronavirus?
But I guess the big question is: did both firms not think they would be found out? Be open and honest, treat staff equally and don’t let them find stuff in the media that you don’t want them to see, because find it they will. You can’t trap the comms cat for long.