Uncertainty, the unknown, change – all of these things can feel really scary, and the speed at which things have evolved regarding COVID-19 has meant your employees have had to adapt very quickly to an unexpected and frankly, shocking situation. In response, Impact Recruitment teamed up with BOMA BC to host a webinar that offered strategies on employee engagement; retention and re-purposing staff; communication best practices; and insight on how to take your organization forward from a financial aspect.
We encourage you to watch the recorded webinar (here), but if you don’t have an hour to spare, we’ve outlined some of the key takeaways below!
- Sean Ingraham, Vice President, Community Development, First Service Residential;
- Dax Sardinha, Director, Talent Acquisition, QuadReal Property Group;
- Michael Scott, Vice President, Building Division, Impact Recruitment;
- Moderator – Damian Stathonikos, President, BOMA BC
COMMUNICATION: THE COMPANY
Let’s be clear: there’s no such thing as over communication right now. It’s crucial to provide your employees with clear, frequent communication to help alleviate some of the anxiety and fear they’re undoubtedly feeling. Ensure your organization’s management, at every level, is on the same page and able to deliver clear, organized and consistent messaging and information to staff.
Be as transparent as possible, communicating not only the positive news but also the difficulties your business has faced over the last six weeks. Let them know what you’re doing and what you’re up against. Your team needs to hear from leadership, and they need to know that they are part of the organization’s strategy for weathering this storm and coming out the other side not just in tact, but strong.
Provide forums for open discussion and encourage your team to come with questions. Answer as honestly and with as much clarity as you can. Regular company meetings and check-ins will help to minimize anxiety and keep staff motivated and focused on the future.
COMMUNICATION: THE INDIVIDUAL
There is no blanket approach to communicating with your team members. While one employee might need you to be available almost constantly to speak with and reassure them, another may be more comfortable on their own, and fine with just a once daily check-in. To figure out the best way to communicate with each member of your team, you’ll have to ask them what it is they need from you.
Try and ask open ended questions, as a standard, “How are you?” will likely be met with one word: “Fine.” To get a better idea of how your team is handling the transition, be clear with what you’re asking and allow them to be candid with their feedback.
We suggest starting the conversation with something along the lines of, “What’s been your biggest challenge so far?”. Listen and empathize, the feedback they provide will be extremely valuable to you and your company as you figure out how to best support each of your employees individually and get more connected with your workforce.
Gone is the typical 9 – 5 job, and right now there’s no such thing as a ‘standard work environment’ – which means you’re going to need to be understanding and flexible. Each of your employees will have to face their own obstacles and challenges as they adjust to their new work from home set-up – for example, some of your team members will be juggling work while also taking care of their kids (even teaching home school, in some cases). For others, exercise is a huge outlet, and with gyms and community centres closed, they may need to take breaks throughout the day to get outside for a walk or a run, or even just to stretch.
It’s crucial that you practice empathy right now. This is a difficult time for everyone, and we’re all doing the best we can to continue to be productive, positive and engaged amidst so much disruption. If one of your employees wants to take an early lunch, a late lunch, a break in the middle of the day and then work later into the evening, give them the flexibility to do that.
Vocalize to your team that the most important thing is the outcome. If they’re meeting deadlines, showing up to virtual meetings on time and doing good work, it really doesn’t matter if they’ve been glued to their computer for the full eight hours. Be patient and available, and willing to work with them on a plan if they’re struggling with working remotely.
ENGAGE AND SOCIALIZE
When we were in the office together, socializing was easy – so easy that most of us probably took it for granted. It’s more difficult to create opportunities for your team to socialize now that we’re all working remotely, but it’s just as important as ever. As a manager, it falls to you to do what you can to be the catalyst for team bonding. It might be a little awkward at the start, but continue to encourage the idea of virtual socialization – and expect people to be a bit hesitant.
Give your team different ways to catch up, get involved with one another and to feel like a part of something that isn’t work related. You might try a Beer Friday, a virtual morning coffee or even some sort of weekly game or challenge (if your team is more motivated by competition than they are by alcoholic beverages).
Keep it light, informal and yes, optional. The only thing more uncomfortable than attending your first Zoom happy hour is being forced to attend a MANDATORY Zoom happy hour by your boss.
Mental health is a topic that’s become significantly more prevalent in the media over the last few years, and something that people are starting to be much more open about discussing. During this crisis, mental health needs to be something your organization is ready and willing to address.
With financial concerns, worries about the health of themselves and their families and a looming feeling of uncertainty, people across the country are struggling with the weight of trying to balance it all. There’s added pressure from work, interesting family dynamics and the loneliness of isolation – and your people need you more than ever.
Ensure your team understands their benefits and the resources available to them, and encourage them to put up their hand and say if they’re not okay. Be sure they know that there are people for them to speak to and that every one of us is in this together, communication goes a long way in helping to ease feelings of anxiety.
TALENT ACQUISITION AND RETENTION
How you treat your employees right now will leave a lasting impression, not only on them but on you and your brand moving forward. People are very aware of how organizations are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and the strategies they’ve implemented to ensure their staff are taken care of.
If at all possible, re-purpose your employees rather than laying them off. Talk to them about new roles they may be able to transition into temporarily, and skills they’ll be able to use or develop in this position. By being as open and transparent as possible, it’s much more likely that you’ll have the support and buy-in of your team members as you restructure and move forward.
However, for many businesses, layoffs are, unfortunately, inevitable. Be sure you connect with each employee individually and ensure they understand why this is happening, what they can expect in the coming weeks and the financial support made available to them by the government.
And, if you’re in the position to hire right now, be sure to read our remote onboarding guide to set your new hire up for success from day one!