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Picking the right technology platform for crisis management

(Image credit: Future)

Crisis management should be an essential part of every business organisation.

Having a plan for when worse comes to worst — and especially knowing how to communicate the right message to the right people at the right time — is critical for ensuring the wellbeing of your company, not to mention influencing how your brand appears to the outside world.

For effective crisis management, companies need to have a plan for the three main phases of any crisis, and ways to ensure such a plan can be shared to all concerned.

This latter part requires a focused approach when it comes to choosing the right technology platform.

In this article we share the steps your organisation should have in place, and how each of these impact on your choice of technology.

1. Pre-crisis

Even before a crisis happens, companies need to be well prepared. There are certain situations that can be anticipated, like recurring issues such as extreme weather, or those that are more industry-specific, such as oil/chemical spills or first-aid situations on the factory floor.

The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic is an example of crisis management in action that is impacting business of all kinds. And while these type of unforeseen circumstances can never be fully prepared for, there are a number of good processes a business can have in place including:

Have a team

Have an assigned leader who can step into action when a crisis hits. Having a uniquely responsible person who can immediately take action will save time and provide employees with a feeling of security.

Establish a preferred channel

This is where tools such as an employee app come into play. How are you supposed to reach everybody if you normally communicate with a newsletter or email or an intranet? All of these channels lack reach and immediacy.

In comparison, a native employee app enables push notifications, which are of critical importance in times of crisis, when sending and receiving information at a moment’s notice can be the difference between a minor incident and a major catastrophe.

Push notifications are a game changer in internal communication. On average, push notifications are read within 3 minutes of receipt.

Have a plan

Having a team and a designated channel are part of that plan, but also think about how to best craft the messages you want to send, focusing especially on their wording (which should create urgency but not panic) and the timing.

2. During a crisis

During the crisis there are also a number of key disciplines, each of which impact on the technology platform you use to communicate with your workforce. Capabilities that organisations must consider include the ability to:

Act Quickly

In order to avoid panic and injuries, immediate action is key.

Reach everybody

How do you make sure that people have gotten the message and that everybody is alerted? Apart from sending your messages to your employees’ smartphones, and facilitating push notifications, you can also take advantage of the acknowledgement function available in the most effective employee apps. This again highlights the importance of a consistent approach to the technology platform you use. Have an unclear mix of technologies in play and a percentage of your workforce may miss out on the latest updates.

Control your messages

Avoid this mistake by proactively implementing your technology as a source for internal updates and addressing internal issues directly and immediately.

Organisations should establish themselves as a trusted source of information. Employee apps in general are seen as a credible channel for all information concerning a company. Such a reputation is increasingly important when competing with Facebook, Twitter, and other questionable sources of online news. An app allows you to influence the news and messaging being consumed by your workforce.

How employees react to an incident (negatively, neutrally, or positively) will greatly determine whether or not the incident becomes a full-blown crisis.

Despite this, related research has found that managers often communicate significantly less with employees during a crisis.


3. After the crisis

While this is understandably a time for businesses to breathe a collective sigh of relief, it’s important to take time to consider how you crisis management strategy played out, and if there are any requirements to improve the technology platform you used to communicate throughout.

Here are some areas to consider:

Evaluate successes and failures

Having a crisis sucks. But having one give you a great opportunity to improve your response for the next inevitable emergency. Analyse your outcomes with an eye towards not making the same mistakes twice.

Ask employees for feedback

One essential part of the learning process is to listen to your employees. Did they feel well-informed and reassured by the communication they received? Did certain employees feel left out of the loop? Did communication fail at some point? This might require a review of the communications technology you used. Were enough features present? Did employees receive notifications promptly?

An effective way to evaluate your crisis management is to offer a short survey to your employees (an employee app makes impromptu surveys a cinch) and ask them how satisfied they were with the overall execution and follow-through of your crisis management plan. It can be as simple as choosing between three smileys with a text panel for further suggestions. Again, your choice of technology can greatly simplify this process. Whereas surveys collected by email will require additional hours to collate and turn into meaningful data, the use of a native workforce communication app can allow you to set fixed questions and analyse these results within one platform.

Be sure to give credit where credit is due

A crisis is handled best when everyone lends a hand. So don’t forget to say thank you to everyone involved in the effort. Celebrate your supporters and make sure they are emotionally prepared for future occurrences.

Crises happen. It’s inevitable. How effectively you deal with them can be one more quality that elevates your organisation above the norm. This means having the right technology platform in place to facilitate timely, clear and inclusive communication with your workforce.

Frank Wolf, co-founder, Staffbase

Frank Wolf is the co-founder of employee communication company Staffbase.