Illustration of workplace tool and resources icons

HR Planning Advice During COVID-19: Planning Not Just Reacting

With the recent growth of COVID-19, commonly known as Coronavirus, most CA companies are required to have their staff work from home.

I was asked to be on an expert panel webinar this past Monday, 3/23 to share the 3 Key Actions I would recommend all CA companies do immediately. For companies being forced into the remote working structure, this can pose a challenge because there has been no time to create nor plan for the best technologies, accountability structures, documented processes or even a workplace culture has not yet been defined.

Here are the 3 Key Actions that strengthen companies chances of surviving:

KEY ACTION #1 Plan Ahead for Shorter-term.

3 Tips For Remote Work:

1. Document and share with employees clear – documented duties, performance expectations and milestones for jobs. This will make it easier for managers to keep their teams accountable to high performance.

2. Provide technology tools needed by a remote team – so they can communicate, collaborate and perform their job, i.e. Google Docs for working on documents with your colleagues, Dropbox for sharing files, Docuhub for collecting customer signatures, SLACK for instant chats and Zoom video for meetings.

3. Take a day to create technology – SOPs AND offer a designated technology help desk person to your staff, many of whom are new to remote work and may not be able to navigate through all the new tech tools quickly and as stress-free as

Now let’s say a company falls on hard economic times in the coming weeks or months, they may be faced with considering making cuts to their workforce. So I want to bring up that companywide reductions in hours or days worked can
result in substantial savings for a company.

Here are 3 options that should be considered before a company resorts to letting people go.

KEY ACTION #2 Plan Ahead for Longer-term.

3 Options for Reduced Work:

1st option is Job sharing – Which allows two employees to fill one full-time position. While job sharing reduces the hours and income for individual employees, the arrangement preserves employment for two staff members. I recommend start by offering job sharing on a volunteer basis. You might be surprised at how many employees express interest and/or willingness in working a reduced schedule.

2nd option is Reduce hours across all positions – Before reducing hours a company needs to find out their Wage Order at Wage orders in California explain and provide the wage, hour, and working condition requirements for specific industries.

3rd option is to Furlough workforce – Think of it as a leave of absence under unusual circumstances or a temporary elimination of hours. There’s no need for a company to terminate employment, and once the Furlough is lifted, employees
will return to work.

TIP: Make sure to distribute a formal written announcement to employees before the furlough takes effect. And it’s important to have an employment attorney or HR consultant review the document to ensure that it’s in compliance with labor laws and your employee handbook.

TIP: The Employment Development Dept (EDD) has a work sharing program that companies can apply for, specifically designed for companies with employees who were full time and have to go to part time where they are going to lose a % of earnings. EDD provides some off set of compensation with the purpose of this program to supplement benefits while in mode of part time work.

I’m also finding myself reminding companies to, for a moment, SLOW DOWN and plan ahead for the long-term. In addition, companies should expect employees will need time to adjust to the remote workplace.

BONUS TIP: Planning for the longer-term requires companies take some quality time to determine what processes and SOPs are missing and create them for employees so they have more direction, expectations and standards to follow.

For many people working from home is a struggle rather than a benefit. Employees may need or miss the social aspects and work structure of an office setting. There will be distractions such as family, chores, and Amazon deliveries. Now is the time to slow down for a day or two and be strategic with your people, processes and communication rather than only reacting.

KEY ACTION #3 Communicate frequently.

The business landscape is changing daily for businesses with new laws, orders and policies being created each week, so communication is now more important than ever. I have 2 tips for businesses when it comes to ensuring they communicate frequently.

2 Tips for Communicating:

1. Communicate a plan. Companies should take 1-2 days to properly outline their communications plan that will provide frequent touchpoints and updates to their employees.

Remember one of the challenges for many remote workers is that they lose out on the engagement, rapport building and culture that you experience in an office. Teams will work better when they are reminded frequently that their managers, colleagues and the leadership are human beings and they do care about each other. The communications plan can cover: the frequency, mode of communication, and the level of details a company will update its staff. Oftentimes the more your employees know about the business situation the more then are willing to support each other.

Our consulting team at Wejungo has had more than 50 companies over the last 3 weeks ask us ?How do we know if our employees are working or not now?? And the challenging truth is that many managers and supervisors have zero experience holding employees accountable from a remote standpoint.

2. Communicate clear expectations. I recommend companies take the time immediately to create very clear job and performance expectations. As I mentioned our Talent Profiles clearly outline the specific deliverables, expectations, and what success looks like at each task or time-bound milestone in a job. A Talent Profile also creates the need for the much needed weekly touch points and communication topics with a manager and their team.

BONUS TIP: Planning longer-term means a company should not layoff employees without FIRST accurately projecting the cost-of-hire, the cost-of-rehiring later, and the recruiting landscape of how long & challenging it may be to find someone at that level with that expertise and knowledge in the future.

We know this is a very challenging time for most businesses and families and we send our positive thoughts and healthy wishes to everyone!

-Susie & the Wejungo Team