The Role of Employee Engagement in Crisis Management

Aug 14, 2023
Jacqueline Edwards
Enhancing Organizational Planning, Risk Management, and Crisis Response

Employed Americans are increasingly concerned about crises at work, with 78% worried about future pandemics, 65% about severe weather, and 64% about cyberattacks. 38% also say they’d feel unsafe at work following a crisis, while 25% would start looking for a new job. So, whether you’re hit with a natural disaster, data breach, or business emergency, employee engagement is essential during a crisis. When employees are prepared and kept in the loop once disaster strikes, they’re ultimately reassured. Your employees will be driven to stay loyal to the business and motivated to react and adapt to the fluctuating conditions as needed. By prioritizing employee engagement in crisis management, you can instill confidence, boost morale, and prepare them to withstand the harshest conditions.

Provide Crisis Training Sessions 

Preparing your employees for a crisis will ensure they have the skills, knowledge, and confidence to handle a real crisis. A variety of methods and formats — such as videos, simulations, games, case studies, role plays, and discussions — can be used during training to better engage employees and ensure you cater to everyone’s learning styles. Always wrap up each session with key messages and takeaways so employees retain what they’ve learned. So, if you’re teaching natural disaster preparedness, for example, you’ll need to cover topics including basic first aid, where to locate emergency exits, and how to use the fire extinguisher. On the other hand, a data breach crisis can include topics like how to protect your computer and smartphone, setting strong passwords, and common types of malware attacks. It’s also useful to ask for feedback on your sessions via surveys; this can help you identify any weaknesses and strengthen your training sessions. Crisis management training can also be provided on an ongoing basis to regularly reinforce your employees’ engagement, knowledge, and skills — whether this takes the form of webinars, newsletters, podcasts, or articles, for instance.

Be Transparent in Times of Crisis

Don’t keep your employees in the dark. Transparency fosters trust, and trust is the foundation of every strong employee-employer relationship. In fact, poor workplace transparency negatively impacts employee morale and engagement, with 50% of employees saying a lack of transparency holds their company back, Forbes reports. Transparency is all the more important in times of crisis when you need to move fast to keep the business operating as usual as much as is currently possible. So, don’t hesitate to provide your employees with a complete picture of the situation in order to maximize engagement and build trust. Clearly and concisely explain the crisis at hand — why it happened, how it will potentially impact their current roles, and whether their current work arrangements may be reassessed. It’s also important to detail the crisis response strategy moving forward. Providing your employees with accurate and reliable information ensures everyone remains on the same page. 

On the other hand, holding information back, covering things up, or sugar-coating certain elements — particularly if you’re considering restructuring and implementing a redundancy program — will only end up backfiring on you when the truth eventually comes to light, as it always does. Similarly, avoid overpromising on what you’re able to deliver. Failure to be transparent can also force employees to make assumptions and fuel rumors, which may negatively impact your professional reputation. 

It’s also important to be transparent with your business partners during times of crisis. Transparency and trust are key to smooth and successful business relationships, too. So, think about what your partner needs to know at this time and communicate that to them. Even if it isn’t good news, you need to inform your partners so they can make changes to their operations as needed. 

Have Strong Communication Practices in Place 

Effective communication goes hand-in-hand with transparency and is essential for maintaining a cohesive and engaged workforce. Effective employee crisis communication, in particular, should never be a one-and-done task. Since your employees play a key role in the success of your business, they should be kept front of mind during your crisis management period. By providing regular updates on the ever-evolving situation, you’ll ensure your employees remain motivated and focused at work, as well as engaged with how the crisis is being managed. So, establish strong communication routines — whether that means holding regular team meetings or catchups or using instant messaging tools like Slack. A specific internal page can also be used to display regular updates for employees. 

Effective communication should also center around balanced, calm, and professional messaging — you want to be careful not to spark needless panic in your employees. Similarly, don’t make the mistake of failing to align your internal and external communications, resulting in different narratives being conveyed to your employees vs. the outside world. For instance, you don’t want the press and investors to be told something different from your employees. Information moves fast in our interconnected society, and you’ll only face a greater challenge trying to get everyone on the same page. It’s best to be honest and transparent from the get-go.

Involve Your Employees in Decision-Making

Involving your employees in decision-making is a great way to keep them engaged during times of crisis. In fact, Harvard Business Review reveals that 15% of surveyed employees said they “appreciated leaders who sought out, and acted upon, their input” during specific crises. These employees also reported improved job satisfaction after being encouraged to raise questions and concerns in open forums and participate in group discussions and “what’s your opinion” sessions. By involving your employees in decision-making processes following a crisis, you can better show them that you value and trust their input and consider them an integral part of the team. 


Employee engagement plays a key role in effective crisis management. By providing training, prioritizing transparency, communicating effectively, and involving your employees in decision making, you can boost engagement, productivity, loyalty, and morale during tough times. 

Jacqueline Edwards formerly worked in crisis management and HR - though she's now semi-retired. Her career trajectory has evolved and she's now working as a writer part-time and pens pieces on the topics she knows most about, though she's also happy to write and research on news and current affairs too. In her free time she's a mental health advocate and also likes long dog walks with her whippet, Charlie.

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