The role of internal communication in times of labor crises

That will not happen to me! This phrase is heard recurrently when companies work on their labor strategy planning.

Nota publicada el 11 de octubre en El Economista, sección Capital Humano por Blanya Correal Sarmiento.



We think that strikes, stoppages, and conflict are part of the nature of another industry, a different sector, or even another state of the Republic because accepting that times have changed and that the signs are showing us an increasingly complex Mexico worries us and puts us a little on the defensive.

Given the foregoing, we seldom find protocols for handling labor crises. From the attempted entry of a union to the management of an inter-union certification or a collective dispute, we seldom are one step ahead in identifying clear signs, defining actions and, above all, preventing the impact.

One of the key elements of this preparation strategy is related to communication. In the midst of a work stoppage, a conflict, a strike or any other high-pressure situation, the connection with people and the strategy for informing, having an influence or listening become vital.

Various analyses in the world of labor confirm that major labor disputes arose from small unconformities that grew as complaints that did not find a satisfactory response, destroying the connection. This is why workers listen to what companies have to say with a strong bias of distrust: Why should I care about your company if you do not care about me as a person? If I want my people to wear the company’s colors, the question is whether I have worn their colors!

In this sense, communication plays a fundamental role. In fact, this is almost the only tool to defuse a crisis or to recover the possibility of reaching agreements. To achieve this, it is necessary to take three fundamental elements into consideration:

» 1. I listen, then I solve

In the midst of a crisis, it is more important to listen first and then solve. For example, we normally have very little time when a strike is being called and this is why we act very quickly to find solutions; nevertheless, these actions often fail to create an actual benefit and the conflict only continues to escalate further. Do we have effective channels to identify and understand the real interests of workers?

» 2. Participate in new ways of communication

Today things are no longer expressed through graffiti in the bathrooms, conversations are digital now. Do we have mechanisms for monitoring and participating in this conversation? Many companies have corporate pages that nobody looks at. Additionally, the power of social networks is made use of by new actors who strive to have an influence over workers’ minds. Does our communication adjust to this reality?

» 3. Enroll the internal “influencers”

People do not trust their bosses as much as they trust their colleagues. Various measurements show that between 30 and 40% of the workers in Latin American countries trust their colleagues and peers more than they trust their supervisors. Are we making good use of this force to communicate?

Crisis management: Prevention vs. Action

Strategic communication in times of crisis involves 80% prevention and 20% action. Additionally, it is a key capability for company leaders to have; therefore, developing this competence becomes crucial in an increasingly difficult environment.

Along these lines, labor crisis management protocols should answer key questions such as:

  • What symptoms or trends are we identifying in the digital conversation or at the workplace hallways?
  • Are they specific isolated cases or are they related to a state or to a group of workers?
  • Who is responsible for identifying these symptoms and who should be notified?
  • When should we act? When are these signs prevention signs and when are they reaction signs?
  • How to measure the impact of preventive actions?
  • How confident are we in our preparedness to prevent crises?
  • Have we identified the most likely crisis scenarios, whether in the negotiation or the consultation of a CCT [Collective Bargaining Agreement], a demand for certification or a certificate of representativeness?

Somebody else will capitalize on the space that we do not fill in terms of information and connection. Today, any industrial, commercial, or business sector is exposed to conflict and to collective risks; thus, developing a robust preparation for the prevention and management of labor crises is a priority for all companies.

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