16th Apr, 2020
, , Designation
‘We’ve got this’.
An employee needs to hear and know this in heart when the crisis blooms. And the corona crisis, given its unpredictability demands more of it. And frequently.
Communication, via all available channels – messages, notifications, emailers etc, at most visible location – laptop screen etc and at all the times providing information about what is happening within the company rather than going radio silent is the most effective way of keeping the employees together.
Dedicated team for centralized communication
Business continuity planning is not only for business, but employees are as much part of it. A dedicated team made up of representatives each from HR, corporate communication, legal team and operations are important to formulate initiatives, understand the legalities and brand impact and ways to roll-it out. At the end it is a unified message that reaches to the employees that takes care of rumours specially in the ‘work from home’ situation which is a battleground of isolation. The team should ideally meet frequently to closely monitor situation and plan accordingly. The team should be the main source of information and that message need not to be ‘know-it-all’. Lets face it that we do not have history to go back to for reference. Hence, a regular update which is as much transparent as possible underlining pointers that the company knows and even that company doesn’t know and still working around it projects the company’s honest efforts towards employee’s well-being. Most important to remember is that a timely and regular communication with informed gaps is more important than a delayed communication with all answers.
One of the important ways to battle isolation is to ensure that employees – across geos and offices feel connected. Unified crisis communication as mentioned above goes a long way into bringing teams together in the times of crisis. Leadership need to strategise together with due consideration to the uniqueness of each area and their requirements. the requirement bit is little tricky as there is no precedent to fall back upon given the uniqueness of the ground realities and a fast changing one at that.
Quick regular surveys across how the employees are doing and what they are feeling is good tool to gauze employee’s pulse. The survey can throw important observations around HR initiatives and its efficacy in achieving those objectives. The results can also be mapped to kickstart newer initiatives or realign the initiatives to better suit the employees. It is all the better if the results and communication on actions taken around them are disclosed to employees to drive home the point that organization is listening, and it cares.
Looking from the lens of HR, the survey can help understand employee’s sentiments around leadership effectiveness, operational sentiments, client engagement and gauze its own performance in terms of employee engagement. The results also can help pinpoint the areas of utmost attention, most prevalent concerns and prioritize areas that need immediate attention. Building an action plan then becomes easy and is bound to be successful as it is then actually based on the pulse of the employees.
Dealing with the global pandemic calls for support to employees that goes beyond the regular policies. Corona infection requires almost a fortnight to recover and post that there is mandatory fortnight quarantine to capture the spread and also to ensure that the disease doesn’t rebound. In this context, regular leave policies don’t suffice. Policies around medical leaves that provides the flexibility to employees to rest out the disease and recover completely before hitting the ground without worrying about existing leave policies is one of the most intelligent ways organisations are realigning their leaves programs.
An all-time accessible and free medical support system, like medical app Dr.Insta or ready list of helpline numbers for hospitals that provide corona diagnostics & care ensures that medical help is on the finger tips of employees. An anonymous helpdesk, accessible at all the times providing for an unbiased platform to red flag any concerns related to COVID19, remote working, team management situations etc is also one of the ways that employees feel connected to organisation. Frequently sharing details of important help line numbers, grocery outlets, hospitals covered under organisation’s insurance schemes etc is one of the important ways for organisations to show they care and that is a nurturing ground for organisational trust.
Through all this the learning and development of employees is also one of the cornerstones of HR practice. While the businesses have already started actioning out continuity plans, a continued focus on the upward curve in employee’s learning and skilling is important factor to keep employees motivated through the crisis. A prolong cut-off from office work space is unavoidable, however stepping into the new normal would require rejuvenated and realigned enthusiasm towards work.
In today’s fast moving and unprecedented situation, we may not have answers to everything but that shouldn’t step in the way of communication – Communicate early, communicate often. Organisations need to put themselves into the shoes of the employees and then strategise on programs that best suit employee’s requirements. It may not always be right but at least it will be as transparent and trusting as an organisation can get.