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Tips & Resources

Taking Care of Employee Experience during the COVID-19 Crisis

Caio Barroso photo
Caio Barroso
04 May 2020

“Are we human or are we dancer?”

These lyrics, from the Killers’ 2008 hit single “Human”, seem to me to have meaning now more than ever. It has taken us a while to process that we are vulnerable. Not individually, but humanity in its entirety. We are the same species, all living under the same roof.

My answer to the Killers’ question is that we are both. We are humans dancing to a changing rhythm. As the world changes around us, we will need to update our rhythm, fast. As governments, industries, and individuals begin to discuss the way forward regarding the ever-present Economy vs. Virus question, it has become clear that things will not go back to normal. 

Rather, a new normal will be established. We will see a re-evaluation of roles and responsibilities as well as our interaction with technologies, begging the question: 

Were we creating unnecessary workplace complexity before?

In a crisis, all HR topics get slammed onto the table at once. Normally gradual campaigns all of a sudden require immediate solutions. Employer Branding, Talent Acquisition, People Development, Performance Management and Compensation are just some of the issues that every company is now placing higher on the agenda than ever before. 

However, rather than assessing these topics separately, the most important point lies in understanding exactly how the macro context impacts people individually. This is the most crucial step in re-thinking the Employee Journey and applying that context to each topic.


4 Steps to Look After the Employee Experience Through a Crisis

1. Employer Branding and Talent Acquisition

TRANSPARENCY

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I usually say that everything communicates, even silence. So, where does your company want to be? I suggest you communicate. If you still have Talent Acquisition processes let the candidates know the context and how you are dealing with the situation, while keeping your social media updated by showcasing the internal activities the company has with its team. 

Yes, you can have virtual after-works, get-togethers, goodbye meetings with the group if someone is leaving the company, open chats and other actions. Communicating creates positive memories for your team and for potential candidates.


2. People Development 

DEVELOPING NEW SKILLS

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There is never a bad time for your employees to hone their skills. More time spent away from the office means that there are more opportunities to develop specific skills that can bring value to the business, both now and in the future. 

There is a multitude of fantastic platforms such as Coursera, EdX and Udemy that employees can use to develop professional skills ranging from photography to finance and everything in between. 

Work with managers to understand which areas specific employees could focus on, and speak to the individuals to understand if this development is in line with their personal interests. We may not find a better opportunity than now to develop ourselves, let’s not waste this opportunity.


3. Performance Management

CONTEXT AND EXPECTATIONS

Yes, the context has changed, and yes, this means you need to adapt. What this doesn’t mean is that performance management cycles and metrics should be totally ignored. 

At OneCoWork we use OKRs as a way of defining and following people’s achievements and results. We want to make sure we are all going in the same direction with clear goals. 

Should we erase what we did in the first months of the year, before COVID19 appeared on the scene? Should we forget the OKRs we carefully set for the quarter or semester? Clearly the answer to both questions is a resounding “no.” 

Rather, I suggest you have checkpoint meetings to review the employee’s OKRs. This is a great opportunity to check if your people and your organization were heading in the right direction and review what needs to change considering the actual context. 

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Yes, I know we live in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) context and that´s why recalculating routes is also important. Prioritize the company’s (new) objectives and your team will be more confident and aware of what really matters both during and after COVID-19.


4. Compensation

KEEP PEOPLE AWARE AND WORK TOGETHER

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Different sectors are impacted in different ways, some companies can maintain 100% of their employees’ roles and salaries whilst others may have to decrease salaries or let people go. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. 

Decisions that involve this topic need to be taken care of, but that does not mean that the solution is always to cut costs. While cutting costs might be key to the company’s survival, cutting jobs can also ensure the demise of a company. Moral will drop, productivity will decrease, and the potential for the company to rebound after COVID-19 will be severely impacted. 

With every job lost, the economy plunges deeper into negative growth, making it harder for all companies to emerge out the other side of any recession. Finance and HR leadership must hold management’s hands in ensuring that responsible decisions are made – with finance teams clearly focused on ensuring the financial health of the business, and HR teams focused solely on Change Management and taking care of employees. 

The union of both areas is extremely tricky to get right but is critically relevant for an effective decision-making process. Communicate with employees frequently about the context and possible alternatives. Keeping people in the dark will only end badly. Communication is king!


Wrapping Up

As an HR professional who has just graduated from the Digital Transformation course, my mind overflows with thoughts, reflections, and action plans. More than ever, we need to take care of our employees. “More than ever” means that this is a new context, which has brought with it uncertainty and fear. 

The concept of Employee Experience must be redesigned and expanded relative to what it was before. As a company, you need to go beyond managing people’s satisfaction. It becomes crucial to have a 360º view and take into consideration all elements that impact the Employee’s Journey today, tomorrow, and beyond. 

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