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COVID 19 – HOW TO KEEP YOUR PEOPLE ENGAGED DURING AND AFTER THE STORM

Your company is probably facing its biggest challenges in decades. While your head is busy with urgent problems to solve, there is one dimension that you should not neglect: the wellbeing of your people. The Ministry of Manpower has already highlighted guidelines to ensure fairness and relevance of the cost-saving measures implemented by companies with 10 employees or more. This is the time for your HR Team to step up and find innovative ways to take care of your employees but also for line Managers to reinforce their leadership and presence despite the social distancing.


WHY IS IT CRITICAL?

Nobody can predict how the crisis will end nor what the final impact on your business will be. Everyone is on a day-by-day reactivity mode even those who had tried to anticipate the most. None of your employees ever had to cope with a similar situation before even those who were impacted by the SARS-CoV in 2002 and 2003. People are scared by the uncertainty of the future, scared of getting sick, scared for their family members and friends, scared of losing their jobs. This is when your employees need your support and empathy the most. They will never forget how you have been treating them in those months. It will shape their feeling and engagement towards the company, no matter what you did before. Showing understanding and compassion is the best way to capitalize on the future and keep your employees on track.


HOW TO ENGAGE YOUR TEAM?

1. Increase one-to-one catch up calls

It will help you keep your people on board, boost your team’s morale. You will understand how your collaborators are feeling and how you can support them. The stress level varies a lot from an individual to another in crisis situations and some might even need psychological assistance.

2. Make sure that your team’s basic needs are fulfilled

- If your company is providing a limited Health Insurance, you might want to top up the salaries with an allowance.

- Working from home should not create additional expenses or the team members should be able to expense them.

- Your employees should be equipped to work from home: some may not have a laptop nor a proper Wi-Fi connection. The company should take care of this.

3. Dispatch the work in an agile way

- Reassign workload among the team members based on individual’s capacity. It will reinforce the collaborative spirit.

- Be as flexible as possible and identify when is a good time to send messages, catch up over the phone or make a videoconference.

4. Be realistic with your expectations

Flexible work often means trying to work from uncomfortable places with wifi or at home with the kids in the background. How many hours of real productive work can you expect from your team members in their current situation? By when do you really need the work to be completed? Is it the right time to launch this or that initiative?

You will need to review your priorities and adjust your targets for 2020.

5. Do not let the team go blind

Be transparent and share as much information as possible about the company’s financial situation and strategy for the next months. Sharing information regularly will prevent your people from making wrong assumptions about the future and help lower the stress level.

6. Show recognition

More than ever, you will have to stress out how critical their work is for the business and be thankful for the efforts put by the team. You might be tempted to stretch your employee’s hours but remote working does not mean that your employees are available anytime.

WHAT’S NEXT?

How do you plan to support your employees after the virus /and lockdown?

According to a recent McKinsey Global Institute analysis, “The shock to our livelihoods from the economic impact of virus-suppression efforts could be the biggest in nearly a century”. The shock is already impacting the way we live, work and use technology. It will create a “discontinuous shift in the preferences and expectations of individuals as citizens, as employees and, as customers”. After going through the RESOLVING and RESILIENCE steps where much of the population will have experienced uncertainty and personal financial stress, companies need to get ready for the RETURN to rehiring, training and attaining previous levels of productivity.

Going back to the office will be a great challenge. After isolating and distancing ourselves from each other and being suspicious in public places and transports, we will need to find a way back to normal life, team gathering and community. Have you ever wondered what you would be doing with your team on that first “back to the office” day? You should start thinking about it and plan ahead. For sure you should focus on TAKING CARE and giving your employees some time to recover, share their emotions and settle back at their desk.

Will you be organizing some gathering the evening before? Will there be any Ice breaker session or an address from the CEO? Will you ask an external coach for help? Will you have a team “re-building” event? Will you be conducting a survey to measure the employees’ morale? How will you be dealing with the trauma? You should have a customized approach with each team member too.

You will have learned a lot about yourself, your adaptation skills and your limits but also about your collaborators. You will probably feel much closer to them now so try to make the best of it. Do not underestimate the emotional impact of the last months, it might impact their motivation and work performance but only temporarily. It is critical to give some positive perspectives to your collaborators. Take their personal concerns into account and refine their targets and priorities for the next 6 months. More than ever, remain compassionate and use your soft skills to generate a welcoming and constructive working environment.

*Beyond Coronavirus: the path to the next normal, by Kevin Sneader and Shubham Singhal, McKinsey & Company article, March 2020

Estelle DHERINE


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