Change can be difficult to manage, even when it’s carefully planned out. There are so many stakeholders in both large and small organizations that it can be difficult for HR departments to keep incentives aligned while making major changes to the business.
Prepare for Change
America is at an inflection point, and it’s requiring all businesses to think on their feet and implement change, whether they had planned for it or not. The challenge with sudden change is that it brings uncertainty and questions.
Is it safe to travel to work? What will the new office environment look like? Will all employees be expected to return to the office at once? And the question on everyone’s mind: When will things go back to normal?
The unsatisfying answer is that nobody has a crystal ball that says exactly what to expect next. What we do know is that the new normal for HR professionals around the globe will be vastly different from the pre-COVID-19 world we had grown accustomed to. Offices and businesses will not reopen all at once. Rather, employees will be phased back in and begin with a hybrid approach, with remote work continuing.
Businesses will, by and large, be reopening in a phased approach in order to minimize the potential for spreading the coronavirus. A new approach to HR management will be required, as employees will have new concerns, environments, and lives.
During these uncertain times, it is even more important for HR managers to consider how employees are feeling. Keeping employee morale high can mean the difference between survival and failure.
Here are five keys to keeping employee morale high as offices begin to reopen:
1. Chart a path. Tell employees the next steps the company is taking to adjust to a new set of norms. While working from home, employees are more siloed than ever. It is important that HR leaders explain how other teams are operating, winning business, and engaging both internally and externally. Reiterate how the company’s mission statement and values will continue to drive the strategy of the business.
2. Engage and communicate effectively. The number one thing remote employees have said is missing from their work-from-home status is the personal connection with coworkers. While employees will slowly start coming back to offices, the same level of interaction will not be possible for some time.
Organizations need to engage workers beyond the normal course of business. HR managers need a two-pronged strategy to engage and communicate with employees: reaching employees at the office as well as at home as many employees continue to work remotely. This can be done in a variety of ways, from personal notes, organized Zoom happy hours, and an open forum for discussion.
3. Promote happiness! According to a study conducted by Oxford University, happy workers are, on average, 13% more productive over the average employee. Businesses need to think creatively about how to foster an environment of positivity and joy as employees work both from the office and remotely. This could mean fun and inclusive events for employees traveling into the office. For those working remotely, creative gifting and care packages going straight to employees’ houses is a great way to keep them engaged and let them know you care about their happiness.
4. Compassion. We never know what the person next to us is going through. This has never been more true than at this key moment in time. Let employees know their HR leaders are compassionate about what they are going through, whether that has to do with their family, their friends, or themselves. The past several months have impacted everyone differently. Showing your team you care and are supportive of the extraordinary nature of the current situation provides comfort.
5. Be prepared to adapt. Things are changing rapidly, and if we have learned anything over the past several months, it’s that we must be willing to adapt to the evolving landscape. Businesses may need to draw upon the same nimble and flexible attitude that allowed them to survive the worst of the pandemic. So be prepared to change course again if necessary!
Nick Chen is the cofounder of Snacks n Chill. Chen has worked in CPG for the past 8 years, serving as brand manager for Evian Water and Pernod Ricard at China Distribution & Logistics from 2011 to 2015. More recently, Chen has been the Chief Operating Officer of Branded Spirits USA, a craft beverage supplier. He was responsible for launching over 25 SKUs, from concept to market, across 20 states in the country.