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How HR can help pave the way during unprecedented times

March 31, 2020 — Written by Caribay Garcia

In light of COVID-19, organizations are implementing unprecedented shifts in how they work.  As a member of HR, you are in a unique position to provide strategic partnership to leadership by creating structure and putting processes into place that can mitigate the negative effects of change and uncertainty. 

Below, we’ve listed five ways you can leverage your existing skills and position to support others during these challenging times. The good news: you likely already have the tools you need to help lead your organization through this crisis.

Create and Amplify Policies

Put together a portfolio of policies that help others quickly respond to talent and business disruptions. From pay modifications to flexible work hours, a list of options makes it easy for leaders to make the best decisions possible for the organization and for their people.

Get tactical: Conduct an audit of available resources and outline all the options for flexible work. Make it your goal to create a list of clear guidelines that can act as a self-serve buffet for leaders and their teams. This list can empower everyone to quickly figure out the most effective and helpful arrangements for their specific situations.

Kickstart strategic planning 

Help others adjust processes and outcomes. There are going to be significant disruptions to the business no matter the industry. In times like this, you can help by encouraging leaders to a step back and reassess what work should be prioritized, set short-term goals, and distribute tasks that align the team around new objectives.

Get tactical: Hold a strategic planning session with the leaders of the teams you support. Make it a point to: 1) List all work that needs to be accomplished, 2) Map each work item onto a matrix of impact and feasibility, 3) Focus on the quadrant that represents low hanging fruit (high impact, high feasibility), 4) Re-assign work and tasks,  taking team members’ current working conditions into consideration, and 5) Make a plan and share it with the broader team .

Offer a straightforward source of truth

Keep it concise, be transparent, and make it consistent.  People are likely feeling overwhelmed right now, making it more important than ever that you keep messages short and simple. Be sure that each piece of information you communicate is reliable, relevant, and specific to the organization and its response to the situation. It’s okay to recognize you don’t have all the answers, but provide as much visibility as you can into how your company is taking the steps to get answers and respond to new challenges. Focus less on finding additional channels for communication, and more on creating a sense of credibility and reliability. 

Get tactical: Create a set of communication guidelines that offer clear criteria for what information should be prioritized. Establish a single source of truth (e.g. one platform employees can check regularly). Provide a consistent structure for updates (e.g. “always outline the decision made and offer next steps”) Be consistent with timing (e.g. updates will be posted everyday at 10 am).

Check-in with employees 

Assess how teams are reacting to changes. Make it a priority to collect information that HR and leadership can act on. What kind of feedback might help you identify gaps in current policies or work arrangements, or better prepare in case recent changes need to last for longer than expected?

Get tactical: Conduct a short survey to understand how people are feeling about the changes implemented in direct response to the crisis.  Make sure to ask them about effectiveness of communication, quality of the support, availability of flexible work arrangements, clarity of policies, and even levels of trust and stress. To learn how Humu can help you check-in with your people, contact us at hello@humu.com.

Support action and agility

Help teams take action on feedback. Focus on quick wins to show that you’re listening and taking immediate steps to drive positive change. Then try to understand and anticipate the needs of all stakeholders. This will allow you to create the best plan possible for mitigating disruptions to the business and to employee morale.

Get tactical: To promote rapid problem solving, work with leadership to create task forces whose missions are to tackle bigger challenges that will require more consistent follow-through. (e.g., a task force focused remote onboarding).

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