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Webinar: Communicating with Furloughed Employees- Getting It Right

The coronavirus pandemic has created an unprecedented situation for businesses around the world. Due to stay-at-home orders and shelter-in-place ordinances, thousands of businesses have temporarily closed. These temporary closures in service industries like retail, hospitality, and food service have led to millions of frontline employees being laid off, furloughed, or put on indefinite leave. 

These furloughed workers are hungry for information, connection, and a solid support system. Communication is more important than ever, which is why our recent webinar focuses exclusively on how to communicate with a furloughed workforce.

This webinar includes a panel of industry leaders from Marriott, Cornell, Jones Day law firm, (and of course Beekeeper). These experts share their top tips and insights on how to communicate with furloughed employees. 

In this webinar, our experts discuss the extreme challenges that companies are now facing when it comes to communicating and engaging with furloughed employees — and how crucial it is to get it right.

You’ll discover how the VP at Talent Point by Marriott uses Beekeeper to connect with their hospitality employees. You’ll also hear from a renowned Labor & Employment Partner at Jones Day law firm, as she shares her advice on how to use digital communication tools in a way that’s legally compliant, and much more. 

Here are just some of the insights our experts shared. 

What Is a Furloughed Employee?

The term “furloughed employee” has become widely used in recent weeks, but what exactly does it mean? According to our moderator, David Sherwyn, Academic Director of the Cornell Center for Innovative Hospitality Labor and Employment Relations, furloughed employees are, 

“Folks who are working less. Folks who are not working at all, but have a date to come back to work. Or they’re people who are not working and they don’t have a date to come back to work, but the employer is promising that they will come back. We want these employees to know and believe that they’re still on the team, and we want them to be ready when the world comes back.”

– David Sherwyn, Academic Director of the Cornell Center for Innovative Hospitality Labor and Employment Relations

If you want your furloughed employees to believe in the company mission and be ready to ramp up when it’s time to reopen, here are a few tips our experts discussed. 

1. Send Targeted Information to People at Different Levels of the Organization

As our Head of Hospitality, Andrada Paraschiv, explains in this webinar, “You don’t have to over-communicate to everyone.” A digital communication tool allows company leadership to send pertinent information to targeted groups of people within the organization. Management can segment their audiences by department, job title, location, etc. This ensures that all company updates are relevant, timely, and tailored to a specific audience. 

2. Follow Up with Employees Who Haven’t Read the Information 

Traditional corporate communication between company leadership and hourly employees has historically consisted of cascading, in-person communication, which is not possible with furloughed employees. Using a digital communication tool is the most effective way to reach employees who aren’t on-site

In times of stress, employees (especially furloughed ones) do not always see or respond to every message or update from management. It’s important for company leadership to have a reliable, scalable way to quickly see who has received and read information and be able to follow up with employees who haven’t. Quick follow up shows your furloughed workers that you are committed to keeping them updated and informed, even when they are not at work

3. Encourage Open Dialogue

Sharing updates and keeping your workforce informed is only half the battle. In order to truly show furloughed employees that you’re committed to them, it’s important to create opportunities for bottom-up communication as well. 

Furloughed workers have questions. They want real, human answers on the other end, not a boilerplate, canned response from corporate. Show your furloughed employees that you’re here to answer their questions and address their concerns by providing them with a channel for direct, two-way communication. 

Communicating with Furloughed Employees — How to Do Right By Your Team

There are countless reasons why communicating with your furloughed employees is essential for business operations. Doing so builds employee loyalty. It will also streamline operations when it’s time to ramp back up. Finally, it will build employee engagement, which increases productivity

But above all else, furloughed frontline employees deserve open, honest, and transparent communication from their employers right now. Clear communication is the antidote to confusion and chaos. Use this time as an opportunity to provide empathy, support, and appreciation. Show them that even though they aren’t physically going into work every day, there is still a place for them at the company and you care about their well-being.

Watch the full webinar replay for more insights from our experts on how to communicate with your furloughed employees.