I think we all remember exactly what we were doing on 9-11 when we first heard the terrible news:  Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon.  Most of us were at work when it happened.  Confusion, anxiety, anger, fear and more was prevalent that day.


What was happening at your workplace during this time?  How did you react with your employees?


 I know of one CEO at a small company that clearly reacted in the wrong way.  Concerned about the lack of work being done, he went around turning off radios and briskly telling employees to get back to work and do what they are paid to do.   The CEO clearly did not understand the longer term consequences of these types of action.  People were concerned about friends, relatives and fellow countrymen.  They were worried about more attacks, what was going to happen in their city, what their commute home was going to be like.  The anxiety level that day was extremely high.  The reaction of that CEO spread across the company to every department and every shift.  The message loud and clear was “I don’t care about you”.  As you might imagine, the employee engagement at that company was very low.


A different approach might have garnered a totally different reaction.  What if the CEO called an employee wide meeting and communicated the most recent news, while urging everyone to stay calm?  Even offer that people could take extra time to make phone calls if they were worried about their loved ones. What if he promised that the company would be monitoring the situation and let everyone know if anything else happened?  Finally he could have shared his concern and emphasized with the employees.  This behavior clearly would show the work force that he cared and hopefully reduce the anxiety level. 


While we hope a terrorist attack will never happen again, current events that potentially effect the well being of your workforce create important opportunities to improve engagement with your work force.  Not every event deserves a special or urgent meeting, But brief written or verbal communications can go along way to show your workforce that you care about their well being.  With just a little bit of effort, a company can:

  1. Ensure that the workforce has accurate information
  2. Communicate  what the company is doing relating to the event (if appropriate)
  3. Share concern
  4. Insure that employees are aware of resources available (company and non-company)
  5. Offer flexibility if circumstances provide hardship.


Here are just a few recent events that offered some opportunities for communication


  • The 35W bridge collapse (if company was local to Minneapolis MN)
  • The salmonella outbreak from peanuts
  • The swine flu outbreak
  • The recent economic downturn

MG Assessments just published a white paper on employee engagement relating to the stock market downswing called Panic is not an Investment Strategy.  I recommend that you read this paper as it gives important incites on employee engagement and what a business can do during times of crisis.  While this recession may be showing some signs of recovery, there will never be a shortage of important events that impact your workforce. 


Click here for more information on employee engagement.