Keep your cool when the heat is on: how to deliver difficult news to employees

Frustrated by the slow pace of vaccine uptake among certain segments of the US population, the Biden administration has announced that roughly 100 million federal workers and contractors will soon be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Although the executive orders appear to impact the public sector most, it’s a far-reaching decision that may extend to other industries and even nations. What does the announcement mean for communicators and how should you deliver difficult news to your colleagues?

First, what does the US vaccine mandate mean for business?

Fewer people will quit over the mandate when competitors are subject to same requirement.

Other countries are already making COVID inoculations compulsory

Internal comms and HR teams need to understand, relay, and deal with potentially controversial decisions.

How you can use your intranet to deliver difficult news

The company intranet is not just a central information point for top-down messages.
  • Update Homepages and news feeds: Share important news and information with employees in a top-down cascade, ensuring a single version of truth in a centralized location. Reassurance, guidance, and ‘next steps’ from senior management help employees feel calm and informed. Having a centralized, constantly updated source of information may embed important information faster and provide better context than a single email or video message from your CEO.

    Best of all, updated homepages allow you to obey the number one rule of keeping people onside, avoiding making people wait for messages they’re already hearing through company whispers.
  • Individualize through Personas: Although we may structure our organizations by locations or departments, this often doesn’t reflect the reality of how team members operate and need to be communicated with.

    Similarly, not all challenging decisions will apply in exactly the same way to all user groups within your organization, so, rather than manually contacting each person, or blanket messaging people it doesn’t apply to, modern intranet software allows you to group your employees according to multiple criteria. This will allow you to achieve one of the goals of delivering successful communications, which is tailoring your message to the audience. Perhaps one user group will need to hear a softer message than another: it’s possible with Interact’s unique Personas feature.
  • Reach every employee: When it comes to choosing comms distribution channels, remember that not every employee has access to the same computer equipment or mobile devices. Distribute information across Digital Signage channels throughout your global footprint of factories, retail outlets, and more, by posting key content on multiple screens that can be seen by an even wider cohort of colleagues. This has the power to encourage employees to delve into the information surrounding the decision and drive higher engagement.

    It will also be important to alert individuals through a feature like Broadcasts, which enables messages to be composed within your intranet and broadcast to staff via SMS, email, a blocking notification within the intranet, and/or a display banner.

    Broadcasts can be tailored to persona, department, location, or team, enabling you to target messages appropriately. Where you have a message that could spark speculation, rumor, or even panic, broadcasting regular updates as the situation changes or develops can keep employees informed and prevent things escalating unnecessarily.

    This multichannel messaging approach is crucial when it comes to ensuring clarity — another important rule in controversial communications and delivering potentially bad or difficult news.
  • Create an ‘employee toolkit’: Thanks to the instant connectivity offered by social media and rolling news, information shared within an organization can become public fast. Why not support employees and help align the message by giving them the right tools?

    A ‘toolkit’ with items such as prepared or official statements, quotes, FAQs, shareable information, a Q&A forum, or any images, videos, or collateral the organization is happy to share, equips and empowers staff. This can help prevent speculative or incorrect information entering the public domain, reducing the associated risk of unpopular or controversial decisions being mispresented.

After the darkness comes the dawn

Providing the right support and showing employees you’ve listened and understood will make for a smoother path.



Interact is a complete intranet solution that connects enterprises all over the world. We power internal communications.

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Interact is a complete intranet solution that connects enterprises all over the world. We power internal communications.