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Workforce Strategy During A Crisis: Employee Communications

This article is the first in a series of posts we will share about the support we have provided to our clients as they respond to the challenges presented by the coronavirus. After all, workforce management continues to be the key to your company’s success, and how you respond to this crisis can build your reputation and encourage ongoing loyalty from your employees and your customers or clients.

What a time to start a new job! On March 12, our newest senior human resources consultant, Stephanie McMorris, was in the RSJ/Swenson office to complete her onboarding. Just one week later, California’s governor issued a safer-at-home emergency order in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Stephanie, like all of RSJ/Swenson’s employees, has been working from home ever since—a home shared by her husband and their two sons, and, temporarily, by her stepdaughter, son-in-law, and their two toddlers.

One of Stephanie’s first orders of business was to help our client, a California biotechnology firm, craft a letter to its employees about what it was doing in response to the business and personnel challenges presented by COVID-19.

“The CEO was firstly concerned with reassuring his employees,” said Stephanie. “He wanted to make sure that they understood that the main focus was the care for his employees during the pandemic. This meant protecting their safety and protecting their jobs.”

He also wanted to let employees know that the company intended to exit from the pandemic as a strong unit, which meant that for the time being, it might need to postpone planned expansions and purchases of non-critical items.

“His more important goal was paying employees’ full salaries and benefits throughout the pandemic,” said Stephanie.

“The assignment was not a big, huge, complicated task,” she said, “but it was valuable work. The CEO’s commitment to making sure his organization survived and that his employees were taken care of was heartening.”

At RSJ/Swenson, we believe the two keys to successful employee communication are:
1) Transparency; and
2) Frequency.

Be upfront with your employees about your intentions so there are no surprises. If you know you can pay the full labor force through the quarter, but the future is uncertain thereafter, tell them as much—and then follow up with them as soon as you have more information.

As the situation unfolds, be the first to initiate conversations about how your company plans to respond. This way, you are leading the conversation and setting the tone instead of scrambling to respond to speculation and office rumblings.

If your company has any questions as it drafts its communications to employees, please contact us at


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