When emergencies arise, safety communications strategies are especially critical. Well-considered and effective messages not only keep people informed, but they can also improve safety, protect employees, safeguard property, facilitate cooperation, and even create goodwill among your teams, clients, customers, and the public.
While the impulse is to stay fluid and react to changes as they happen, Flagger Force’s safety communications team followed their foundational procedures to respond to the company’s needs as they adapted to the conditions of the crisis quickly.
This approach can be divided into four steps:
Staffing Limitations Lead to Creative Solutions
Safety Leadership is Important
Keep Your Field Crews Motivated
Don’t be Afraid to Experiment
Staffing Limitations Lead to Creative Safety Communications Solutions
While it’s tempting to be all things to all people, when faced with an emergency, it’s smart to table non-essential projects and initiatives so that all team members can focus on the emergency. While the safety communication needs of Flagger Force exploded during the crisis, the communications team remained nimble. However, the Flagger Force team recognized early on that the scope of this crisis would be sweeping. They conducted a quick “triage” on existing projects and prioritized under this new dynamic environment. Suddenly, the perspective of what was traditionally critical took on a whole new meaning as safety communications became a pivotal key in business continuity. Information needed to be reframed and disseminated with new types of urgency and implication.
Safety Leadership is Important
The CEO quickly embraced safety communications as a leadership priority. During the COVID-19 crisis, the daily involvement of president, founder, and CEO, Mike Doner, was crucial. As the early stages of the crisis evolved so did the level of employee anxiety and need for information. Reassuring messages directly from Doner not only provided additional credibility to the information, they also demonstrated leadership’s commitment to rolling up their sleeves to help employees get through this challenging time.
The safety communications team produced a regular series of video messages and statements from the CEO that updated employees on processes, procedures, and contingency plans. Doner and other members of leadership continued their regular site visits throughout the company’s footprint, speaking to employees directly about the crisis, providing them guidance, and posting positive messages on the company’s internal communications platform.
Keep Your Field Crews Motivated with the Right Safety Communications
The size and severity of the pandemic and related economic crisis created uncertainty. In that vacuum, many people were forced to develop their own narrative to make sense of things the best they could. The safety communications team’s first step was to start a new focused level of communication executed with a consistent cadence. Further, the messaging was direct but polished and familiar to the employees and clients. They used punchy graphics and an engaging tone to instruct people to take on the new protective practices to sanitize hands, practice social distancing, clean worksite equipment, and wear masks. Instead of rushing, the team’s consistency and tonality created a calming effect on the employees by demonstrating the company was on top of the situation and giving them instructions and information they could take action on. The morale at Flagger Force remained positive with calm, positive, and at times, even playful messages, for instance, a song list (with lyrics) to help employees track the length of their hand washes.
A series of candid safety communications reminded all employees that no matter which part of the company they work for, that they’re all Flagger Force and play a significant role in continuing to keep our communities moving. Flagger Force shared the CEO’s photos from the field and congratulated workers on a job well done. These personalized shout outs fostered optimism and enthusiasm. Relying on the brand platform, We Keep Our Communities Moving®, was a no-brainer and not only helped them show their relevance among essential workers but also kept their teams in good spirits and encouraged positive brand recognition.
Flagger Force’s brand platform was a guiding light to external efforts as well. In order to evoke similar positive attributes amongst clients and communities, they utilized tactics to showcase togetherness and that Flagger Force will continue to be here on the front lines keeping neighborhoods safe, contributing to the economy, and helping to maintain crucial infrastructure.
Don’t be Afraid to Experiment to Find out Which Safety Communications are Most Effective
Flagger Force already had an approach focused on innovation and improvement in place. This culture encourages team members to look for better ways to do things. This allowed their safety communications team to act quickly and decisively to find the best ways to get important messages to employees. As the situation changed from day to day, the group moved quickly to address challenges, create solutions, and bridge the gaps.
Some solutions worked better than others, but they were not slowed down by a fear of perfection. Instead, the CEO was on board to find the best ways to keep the teams informed, motivated, and reassured. Senior management heavily supported safety communications efforts as well. As a result, they were able to create messaging quickly and discard outdated communications just as rapidly.
As this article is being written, the end date of the crisis remains open-ended. However, as the situation changes, and mandates are revised or removed, Flagger Force will continue to reference and review this four-pronged approach to emergency response. As the COVID-19 situation stabilizes and the world returns to “normal,” they’ll build on their successes, relying less on trial and error, and more on hard-won experience. They may even incorporate some of the lessons learned into future projects.
Times of crisis always force us to create new processes, innovations, and approaches that make us even better at what we do and how we do it. We know that experiences and lessons learned during this time are going to make us better communicators going forward.