I was on a call last week with a group of chief HR officers,
nearly 80% of whom indicated that they were spending at least six hours each
day addressing issues related to COVID-19.
With economic indicators pointing in the direction of a
significant global recession in the next few months, workforce issues (e.g., layoffs, staffing, etc.) will surely multiply in an accelerated fashion.
Amidst this all-consuming time of tumult, I implore you not
to lose sight of four important elements:
1. An accurate and holistic skills
In the world of IT, redundancy in systems, networks, etc. is
essential to prevent disruption and maintain business continuity.
What’s the equivalent in HR? I suggest it starts with an
accurate and complete picture of the skills/capabilities of the entire
workforce (e.g., exempt, non-exempt, contract, gig, etc.).
This in no way is to suggest the corporate version of Noah’s
ark. Rather, think in terms of capability, capacity, and agility when your organization knows what it can leverage, where it can leverage it,
and the gaps it needs to fill both short-term and in the longer-term.
Focus first on your own workforce. With that understanding,
extend your efforts into your enterprise ecosystem (i.e., trusted partners).
Organizations with this capability in place are much better positioned to:
- Upskill/reskill talent in ways that benefit both the
organization and the individual.
- Cross-train people who have adjacent skills
(i.e., key foundational skills) so they can provide additional capacity—or
substitute for others with key skills who are unable to go to work.
- Borrow or leverage talent/capability from
2. The narrative of your workforce
How your firm and its leaders react and respond to this
crisis will dictate how your workforce talks about the organization internally, externally, and across social media. And that narrative is what
will shape your firm’s reputation as an employer.
As your organization continues to communicate its evolving
policies related to important issues such as remote work, flexible work
arrangements, child care, sick leave, etc., it's also essential to
understand how—what it is you are communicating—is actually landing (being
heard by) your workforce.
At its core, this is about your organization’s culture. Borrow
a few tips from high-performance organizations that have been able to
Gather ongoing sentiment and related data from key stakeholders (e.g., your
top suppliers and customers) as well as from influencers across your workforce
(e.g., leaders of your employee/business resource groups, project team leaders,
those designated high-potential, etc.). Not only will you glean helpful
insights, but these people may also be (or may become) your next true culture
isolation effect on workforce well-being
Don’t allow barriers to physical proximity among co-workers derail
the well-being of your workforce.
New research from the Institute for Corporate Productivity
(i4cp) and Professor Rob Cross (Babson College) makes this very clear: The participation
of your workforce in social activities, including volunteering/community
programs, as well as its overall sense of belonging, are both positive indicators
of your firm’s market performance and the overall level of workforce well-being.
Social distancing may seem like
the new corporate buzzword. In reality, it simply presents a different way to
describe the spatial barriers that are already present in your remote workforce to include those who work as part of cross-geography and/or virtual teams.
The key for employers is to ensure that barriers to
physical proximity do not manifest into feelings of isolation, loneliness, or
lack of belonging.
Make sure your people are equipped to lead others and operate in virtual
Prioritize and find creative
ways to help your workforce establish and nurture purposeful and meaningful
connections across the enterprise (e.g., virtual hang-out meetings or virtual
celebrations). Also, provide outlets for
employees to express how they are feeling and share ideas (e.g.,
hotlines, focus groups, pulse surveys, etc.).
We are all parents, partners, and friends as well as leaders; many are looking
to us for guidance, compassion, support, and
confidence. Remember that it’s hard to be a positive
influence if we are not first taking care of ourselves.