HR have had a rocky start to 2020. It started with Brexit chaos and adjusting to new IR35 guidance; now HR must tackle the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) and its implications for workforce planning, health and safety, risk and employee engagement.
The Government’s coronavirus action plan includes workplace measures to help manage the spread of the virus within the UK and warns that up to one fifth of employees could be absent from work during peak times of an outbreak.
Of course, it’s a moving picture, with daily changes. With all of this to juggle, how can you keep your employees engaged, maintain your culture and reassure staff during this uncertain time? Here are our tips.
Uncertainty requires authentic, human leadership
During times of uncertainty, employees look to the CEO, for consistent, confident communication. Business leaders need to show they are human and understand change is difficult. Change can be scary for many people. Supportive and understanding leadership can make a huge difference in this area. Senior leaders and line managers need to demonstrate compassion and empathy to guide their team through obstacles and change.
Your line managers are a key comms channel during coronavirus
Employees are more likely to have frank conversations with their line manager. So, when communicating new processes or ways of working make sure line managers as key stakeholders are well briefed. Provide them with the opportunity to ask questions, so they are fully equipped to support their people. Remember:
“When everything is up in the air, the majority of people feel insecure and unsettled. They look, more than ever, to their leaders to give them reassurance that all will be well.”
— Nigel Girling, The Babington Group
Give managers guidance and encouragement on their role in living the behaviours, talking to their team and keeping the communication flowing — in both directions.
If your organisation adapts to more remote working in response to the coronavirus, this might mean managers checking in with team members more regularly, clearly communicating how changes to working practices will affect individual roles or setting aside 5 minutes at the start of team calls for social chat.
Learn more about empowering managers to support your people through change.
Be the voice of reason in alarming times
Amidst declining trust in UK government and media, people’s trust is shifting towards relationships within their control. Topping that list are their employers, with 75% of employees trusting ‘my employer’ to do what’s right.
Employees also expect CEOs to take the lead on change rather than wait for government rulings. So put a business continuity plan together, communicate it clearly and show your employees you’ve considered how the crisis could affect them.
We’re surrounded by alarming updates about the coronavirus spread, and the media will continue to scaremonger. Amidst this, your employees need you to be the voice of reason and explain what guidelines about travel, remote working and time off work mean for them.
Consider workplace wellbeing for remote workers
Part of the government’s action plan outlines what will happen if ‘unnecessary travel’ (i.e., your daily commute) gets banned to manage the outbreak of the coronavirus.
We could see this as an opportunity to really make success of working from home. Of course, there are things to consider. Not just around productivity and resource; if employees work from home for extended periods of time, it gets lonely. This has a negative impact on employee wellbeing, with 68% of employees who have felt lonely at work saying it increased their stress levels. It’s bad for business too; employees experiencing feelings of loneliness are less engaged, more likely to take time off and less likely to make ‘discretionary effort’.
While technology allows us to work from anywhere and stay in contact with our colleagues, it doesn’t guarantee the quality of these interactions. New research confirms that if interactions between colleagues are not meaningful, they can actually increase feelings of loneliness.
Client Services Executive Liana Persico shares her MSc research into workplace isolation and what you can put in place to recognise and prevent this among your employees.
Communicate clearly, but take the time to listen too
In changing times it’s tempting to keep telling your people what you are doing to help. That’s great, but even better; involve people in change, rather than do it to them. As Nigel Girling says, “volatility is only scary for the powerless.” One of the key ways of reassuring people about change is giving them a voice to express their views by developing a comprehensive listening strategy.
When introducing business continuity plans (BCP) (like extended remote working, revised IT policies or limits to work travel) ask your employees how this will affect their experience – and use their feedback in your BCP.
When your people raise issues, ask them to help create solutions —again demonstrating their views matter. A listening strategy takes your peoples’ feedback, suggestions and concerns on board at every stage. It incorporates a range of employee surveys, focus groups and pulse checks with specific purposes and timings. Critically, the data will help you monitor if your people across the organisation are with you as change progresses — allowing you to take quick, targeted action.
Not sure where to start? People Insight are trusted by many leading organisations to help listen to their staff with our employee survey programmes powered by our team of expert organisational psychologists, supportive project managers and sophisticated survey technology.
Get in touch today to find out how we can help you develop comprehensive listening strategies.
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