Employee Experience in Times of Crisis

Leading with Empathy and Open Communication


It is easy to be overwhelmed by the pressure as the current COVID-19 pandemic descends, resulting in reactive management. However, this is by far the most critical time that you, as a leader, take time to pause and mindfully plan the course of action.

Leaders know that acting from a strong, calm, and focused position, rather than reacting to stress, betters ensures your position to relate to your employees. As a leader, you set the pace and example for those who report to you or look to you for guidance on how to manage any crisis at hand. The good news is that you can ask your employees for their guidance, too. Preparing a well thought-out engagement strategy can help you better navigate through this crisis, and any to come.

Get to know the current circumstances first. Here are some key things for you to ask yourself about your team as you craft your engagement strategy:

1. What is their stress level?

Do they have kids, are they looking after seniors, are they alone? What are their circumstances? This will help identify the support mechanism needed to get through times of crisis.

2. What is the environment surrounding each employee?

This is going to impact how she/he does her/his work, and their morale. Finding out the details of their physical environment will help you determine what specific needs they might have in this arena. What other things besides technology enablement do they

3. What personalities and strengths do your team members have?

Individuals on your team have different strengths that come from their personalities and life experience. Understanding their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Enneagram, etc. makeups can help you know more about what type of support they may need. Some individuals have previous life experiences that have prepared them to deal with future crises, but for others, this may be their first time walking through this type of challenge and they might need more guidance.

4. Who do they call for support?

Go beyond the technical issues surrounding times of crisis, and think about employee morale and wellbeing. Ask yourself, what are the resources that you’re going to make available to them? The situation is constantly changing so you’ll likely need to brainstorm on a consistent basis on what might be needed.


There are communication tactics that can help you mitigate impact in times of crisis. Here are just a few that can help:


1. Employee surveys:

One of the strategies that our clients are using is an employee survey specific to the crisis and transitions being experienced. If you want to know where the employees and your teams– whether it’s a small team or company wide– employ a mass data collection effort that gives you a big picture on where everyone is right now, and if they are feeling supported.

 2. “Pulse” surveys:

A quick 2-3 question employee morale survey provides a mechanism for employees asking for help and support and lets you know how they are doing. You can even provide a number to employee assistance providers if they need to call for help. Keep a cadence on how you’re listening during crisis times and show employees how they are going to be supported. If you are using tools such as Qualtrics, for example, they already have some employee experience pulse kits that you can very quickly implement.

3. Communication plans:

Once you move from ideation to design, you must commit to internal alignment with other leaders about what is going to be implemented and communicate it back to the teams. One-way communication is important, but two-way communication that creates a sense of true collaboration and being heard. Empathize with the struggles, and address people’s fears and needs during this time. It can go a long way in helping everyone cope positively.


These questions and tools were provided to better understand how you can best support your team members during a time of crisis.


Need help creating employee or “pulse” surveys? We’ve put together some guidelines complete with a checklist for initiating your employee feedback. Add your email below and we’ll send it straight to your inbox!