The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed an unprecedented crisis. Businesses are staring at an uncertain future and the physical and mental wellbeing of people is under threat.
Business organizations, large and small, are responding to this crisis in different ways, depending upon the nature of the business, size of operations, and financial standing.
Startups and SMBs that rely on monthly cash-flow for business sustenance and growth are among the worst hit. In most organizations, HR executives are leading the crisis response efforts.
Regardless of whether you have a dedicated HR department or not, it is advisable to think of ways to maintain business continuity and provide workers with the support they might need through the pandemic.
Here in this post, we will discuss seven important HR lessons while responding to COVID-19.
1. Build Confidence and Provide Direction to Employees
Employees at startups and SMBs look up to the founders and HR managers for direction and confidence.
People in leadership roles can set the tone by communicating effectively with all team members.
The founders or the top management should ideally prepare an action plan in consultation with the HR department to ensure business continuity amidst the pandemic while clearly prioritizing employee health above all.
For instance, plotting the next quarter, month, or year, and communicating the plan to team leaders or supervisors at various levels within an SMB can be very helpful.
It can help instill confidence amongst workers who might think they are staring at an uncertain future.
2. Offer Flexibility on When Employees Return to Work
We cannot be in a lockdown forever.
Sooner or later, most commercial activities will resume.
Whether living with the COVID-19 amongst us is accepted as the ‘new normal’ or the curve flattens in your area, you will eventually need to prepare for the eventual return of your employees to the work.
During this time, it is important that you allow your staff to make choices as per their comfort level and personal needs.
For instance, some workers may need to spend time at home as schools and daycare centers are closed.
Others may be caring for a sick family member or can’t risk stepping out of their homes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic as they have a family member who is at higher risk for severe illness due to COVID-19.
SMBs also need to consider other factors such as the availability of public transport, the possibility of community transmission in the area, and whether workers feel safe traveling to work or returning to the job site.
When possible, business owners can also procure rapid COVID-19 detection kits and make arrangements for testing in the workplace. Besides reducing the possibility of getting infected in the workplace, this can help in boosting employee confidence.
3. Encourage Workers to Ask for Help
Whether your organization employs a dozen or 100s of people, it is a good idea to encourage everyone to ask for the resources or tools they might need to remain productive.
This is especially important if some or all of your employees are working from home.
HR professionals can speak with supervisors or ask for inputs from each employee by emailing a form.
You can use Google Forms to collect such inputs.
It is possible that your staff needs an online collaboration tool or a better file-sharing service.
4. Communicate Information and Concerns Related to COVID-19
HR executives and managers can become trusted sources of information on COVID-19. However, you must be careful not to share unverified news reports, fake news, or rumors with your staff.
Always rely on sources such as the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and public health departments for accurate information.
5. Prioritize Employee Well Being
The pandemic will affect your workers in more ways than you can possibly imagine at the moment. Your organization can become a pillar of support for the employees by offering benefits such as flexible work schedules, mental health support, financial counseling, health coverage, etc.
By extending such benefits, a fledgling startup or an SMB can demonstrate its compassion towards the workers.
6. Update Your Leave Policy
Startups and SMBs do not have the bandwidth to accommodate highly-flexible leave policies. But, given the unprecedented situation we are in right now, it is advisable to consider making some accommodations for your employees.
For instance, employees who are going through 14-day quarantine may be offered paid-time-off (PTO) leave. Others who are sick or caring for a sick family member and cannot risk coming to work may also be given a choice to make up for sick leaves later in the year.
How you handle absences during the pandemic can have a serious impact on your employees’ morale and their willingness to put in their 100% efforts to keep the business afloat.
Startup founders, business owners, and HR executives should examine leave policies of their competitors to know what’s considered ‘normal’ during the pandemic.
7. Talent Acquisition
While most businesses are on a firing spree or have frozen hiring due to the steep fall in revenues resulting from little to no commercial activity over the last three months, many are keen to use this opportunity to fill key roles in their organizations.
Yes, given the economic turmoil and uncertainty on when we will really move past the novel Coronavirus, it is difficult for most to even consider hiring more people. But if it is a possibility, now is the best time to scout for the talent.
Your existing workforce will almost certainly perceive it as a sign of courage and strength on part of the company.
About the Author
LeonReingold is the Editor-in-Chief at DrugTestsInBulk, a nationwide supplier of drug and alcohol testing products online.