Two-Way Communication: Making Sure Employees and Franchisees Are Heard During the COVID-19 Crisis

In the past week or so, all of us have been working around the clock to figure out how to navigate the uncharted waters of COVID-19 to keep employees, customers and our families safe. This is first a health crisis, but it is also quickly becoming an economic crisis. Some well-prepared organizations already had crisis management plans at the ready, while others are scrambling to make decisions, implement remote work policies, identify communication channels, and manage franchise locations that are feeling the most immediate impacts - like travel, food, retail, and child and senior services. 


As always in the franchise community, people are ready to help in any way possible, and within days, a number of resources have become available to guide us through this. See our list of COVID-19 franchise resources.


Most of us are aware that communicating - and communicating quickly and often - is critical. But while most of us are focused on outbound communication to employees, franchisees and customers, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that communication is a two-way street. Make sure you have planned for a way for franchisees and employees to communicate their needs and concerns to you. 

Evaluate your current communication channels and make sure support teams are available, respond quickly and have the resources available to them to be able to provide immediate support or relief - whether that means answers to FAQs about business operations, how employees or franchisees can request help (or what they can do to provide help to others in need in the community or within your organization), and empowering them to make decisions in the best interests of their franchisees. 

Not all employees or franchisees are willing to proactively communicate needs or concerns to you as a franchisor, but this is a crucial time to proactively reach out to them. Implementing quick, short (one or two question) pulse surveys is one way to make sure to check in with those in your system and show your support.

Some ideas for questions: 

  • What is your biggest/most immediate concern? 
  • Preferred method of communication/frequency to receive updates? 
  • Are there other ways we can help communicate with your employees and customers? 
  • Are you aware of the following crisis management resources we’ve made available:
    • Resource 1
    • Resource 2
    • Resource 3
  • What additional support from your FBC would be helpful?
    • Employee communication guide
    • Loan relief programs
    • New marketing / customer discount programs
    • Other
  • What other concerns or feedback do you have?

This article from the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) has some valuable tips for communicating with employees during a crisis, but it also points out one important piece that you may not yet have considered: part of an effective crisis communications plan is planning for post-crisis assessments. 

We don’t know how long the immediate COVID 19 crisis could last - it could weeks or months, with the economic implications likely to continue rippling long after. It’s important to start planning now how you measure and evaluate the effectiveness of your communications and support efforts. 

Again, short pulse surveys can help you get feedback from your system on what you did well and what you could do better next time. If you currently measure franchisee satisfaction or employee engagement with an annual survey, we can work with you to implement custom questions that ask for feedback on your crisis management, and if you aren’t currently conducting satisfaction surveys, now is the time to start putting a plan in place to gather feedback once the immediate crisis is over. Not only will this give you valuable business intelligence but showing employees/franchisees that you care about creating an open dialogue can build a ton of goodwill.

Questions to consider adding to your franchisee satisfaction survey: 

  • What was your best personal news over the past 90 days?
  • What was your best business news over the past 90 days?
  •  Did you achieve your top 3 business goals for the past 90 days?
  • What was your biggest business challenge over the past 90 days?
  • Did you receive any support from HQ or your FC that you found particularly valuable?
  • My business goals for the next 90 days are... [ Top 3 goals ]
  •  How optimistic or concerned are you about achieving your business goals in the next 90 days?
  • Can you give any specific suggestions for how HQ or your FC can better support you?

Questions to consider adding to your employee engagement survey: 

  • What was your best personal news over the past 90 days?
  • What was your best work news over the past 90 days?
  •  Did you achieve your top 3 work goals for the past 90 days?
  • What was your biggest challenge over the past 90 days?
  •  Did you receive any support from your manager that you found particularly valuable?
  •  My work goals for the next 90 days are... [ Top 3 goals ]
  • How optimistic or concerned are you about achieving your work goals in the next 90 days?
  • Can you give any specific suggestions for how your manager can better support you?

Franchise Business Review is here to help you adjust or implement channels to proactively gather and measure feedback from your franchisees and employees during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. We understand these are uncertain economic times, but we encourage you to contact us now and we will work with you to develop a plan that works for your system.  

About the Author:Michelle Rowan

Michelle Rowan

Michelle is the president & COO of FBR, chair of the International Franchise Association Women’s Franchise Committee, and a Certified Franchise Executive. She has facilitated CEO Performance Groups and Executive Networking Groups and is also a mentor of UNH college students. When she is not at work she is usually reading, playing outside, or hanging out with her husband and daughter.