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Furloughed but not forgotten: How to engage people through the furloughed-employee lifecycle

It’s important to build an effective furloughed employees communications strategy that adapts to all stages of the furloughed-employee life cycle.

The three stages that make up the furloughed employee life cycle are:

It’s safe to say – the last thing you want is a group of employees who’ve lost their sense of identity and affiliation with your business. And let’s face it: none could be more disconnected and distracted, than your furloughed employees.

But what if you could help these employees actually feel more connected and engaged with your organisation when all this is over – more than they ever have before?

The good news is, this is absolutely achievable…

Creating a furloughed-employees communications strategy

The key thing to remember is that furloughed employees are a comms audience in their own right. And as a distinct audience, they have a specific set of needs:

• To be kept in the loop with company news and updates, especially in relation to COVID-19
• To be supported through a potentially challenging period of isolation, which could have a negative impact on their mental and physical wellbeing
• To be continually connected to the organisation through non-work-related stories and information.

And like any audience, they will go through a series of stages within the wider furloughed-employee life cycle – each requiring a specific series of communications and messages at each point along the way. In summary:

Stage 1: Active Furlough – ensure that your furloughed employees communications mix has a constant supply of fresh content to keep colleagues informed, entertained and ‘in touch’.
Stage 2: End-stage Furlough – give furloughed employees all the information and resources they need to hit the ground running once they return to work.
Stage 3: Post-furlough – support furloughed employees with resources and guidance to help them settle back into working life.

So let’s take a journey through the different stages of this life cycle and give you a few ideas and strategies to help you create a winning furloughed-employees communications mix.

So without further ado, let’s dive right in…

Need a way to connect and communicate with your furloughed employees?

We’ve developed a streamlined, easy-to-navigate and customisable digital tool to help you manage all of your furloughed employee communications.

A employee tool for communicating with furloughed-employees.

Alongside our expert team of copywriters, strategists, designers and digital developers, we can lend specialist support to help you deploy all the comms content you need to share your key messages with your furloughed employees – fast.

Stage 1 – Active Furlough

Your furloughed employees have now been officially ‘paused’ and have begun their leave of absence. At this stage, it’s helpful to break your furloughed employee communications strategy down into three chunks, focusing on the following key themes:

Furloughed employee communications strategy.

1.  Keeping connected

Share key business updates and information as soon as they become available.
This will help to build trust and will prevent damaging false rumours taking hold on the grapevine.

Segment the information you share specifically for this audience.
You’ll likely have different messages for ‘still-live’ employees than for furloughed colleagues – so only focus on the insights that are relevant for furloughed employees to know.

Focus on the positives.
Your furloughed employees are likely to be feeling anxious, confused and concerned about the future. So in everything you share, tease out the positive angle to provide a spark of hope and keep morale on the up.

2. Looking after yourself

Share useful health and wellbeing tips.
Giving furloughed employees regular advice and guidance on how to take care of their mental and physical wellbeing will help them stay happy and healthy throughout their time on furlough. As well as demonstrating that you care about them as more than just numbers on a spreadsheet!

Set regular wellbeing challenges.
Encourage people to complete a set physical challenge every day, like going for a run or doing a quick cardio workout in their living room.

Adding an element of challenge and competition into the mix (perhaps through a leaderboard) will inject a sense of energy and excitement that will help get the endorphins flowing and stave off any potential boredom.

3. Visible Felt Leadership

Share weekly leadership video updates.
Did you know that only 13% of employees strongly agree that their senior leaders communicate effectively with the rest of the organisation?

Encouraging senior leaders to be at the forefront of your furloughed-employees communications strategy is a great way to make them present to the workforce, whilst also ensuring there’s a constant stream of information that will build trust and confidence in their ability to steer the business through these unchartered waters.

Stage 2 – End-stage Furlough

At some point, your furloughed employees will need to prepare to return to work.  And one thing is for certain – no matter how we look at it, the way we do things in our organisations will likely never be the same again.

So this stage will be about ensuring furloughed employees have all the information and resources they need to hit the ground running once they’re back in the fold.

Here are some ideas to get you started on thinking about your Stage 2 furlough communications strategy:

Give furloughed employees a sense of what work will look like.
This is the time to familiarise employees with the ways of working and environment they’ll experience when their furlough period comes to an end.

So explain thoroughly how the organisation has flexed and adapted through the crisis, and what these new ways of working are. Perhaps you’ll be making more use of homeworking. Or maybe you have a whole new way of approaching a particular organisational process.

Whatever it is, your furloughed employees need to know about it.

Avoid email if you can.
Managers and employees will probably have their inboxes bursting at the seams at this point – which can lead to important communications being missed.

Use other channels like social media (you could share ‘teaser’ posts with short pointers or reminders of things to think about) or a furloughed-employee intranet to keep communications in one place.

A employee tool for communicating with furloughed-employees.

Furloughed but not forgotten

Our specially designed tool enables furloughed employees to access all the information they need – and nothing they don’t.

Stage 3 – Post-furlough

This is the employee life cycle where things will start to get a bit more back to ‘normal’ – with your furloughed colleagues back in the workplace, and no more legal restrictions on how you communicate with them.

You might think of this stage as a recalibration process, where your furloughed colleagues will be refamiliarizing themselves with the organisation and adapting to the new ways of working.

Here is some inspiration to get your imagination whirring:

Focus on contribution.
Remember, your furloughed employees have had a significant stretch of time where they haven’t been able to make any meaningful contribution to the business. So when you’re exploring the new ways of working, really place emphasis on how they will enable these employees to make a genuine difference towards helping the organisation achieve its goals.

Support employees through the new ways of working.
This can be done through interactive learning sessions, where employees can explore how well they’re adjusting to the new ways of working, what they’ve done successfully and where they can improve.

And to spread the inspiration and motivation, provide plenty of opportunities for now-not-furloughed employees to recognise and celebrate each other’s achievements.

Hopefully this blog has given you some good ideas as to how you can communicate and engage your furloughed employees as they go through the furloughed employee life cycle. Just bear in mind that during furlough, there are certain restrictions about the information you can,  and can’t share – so always involved your HR and legal teams in reviewing content.

And don’t forget, you can find a range of other useful resources and tools on our website to help you engage your workforce and become a more confident communicator.

Happy communicating!

Meet the author

Danae Gardner

The best thing about H&H is that we dig deep into how IC can really help organisations to achieve better results. We focus resolutely on the role internal comms plays in improving employee engagement, productivity and performance, and translate this understanding into IC programmes that always leave our clients beaming. That's what gets me up in the morning: because happy employees lead to equally happy customers, and at H&H I've got a unique chance to really make a difference to employees across the globe. Who wouldn't be happy about that?Speaking of communication, I'm not just adept at talking to people - I'm a trained in classical opera! When I'm not obsessing over internal comms, you'll likely find me on the road travelling around Europe, getting up close and personal with nature, or browsing supermarket aisles (don't ask - food and wine takes up a lot of my time).