While many employees have already returned to the workplace, others will remain on furlough until October.
It is an anxiety inducing time for many. Stark warnings from the chancellor that the UK is facing a ‘significant recession’ will naturally increase fear and uncertainty around long-term job security with potential redundancies on the cards.
Whatever position organisations find themselves in, HR and business leaders have a duty of care to their employees. They must treat all employees fairly and build trusted relationships.
Indeed, a connected workforce is critical to ensuring a fast bounce back. According to Gartner, 70% of business leaders agree that employee engagement is key to achieving strong business results.
So, how can business leaders connect with employees, whether they are back in the workplace, working from home, or remaining on furlough for the foreseeable future?
Deliver factual, coordinated updates: Regular communication of steps taken to protect the business, jobs and employees are essential. Even if next steps aren’t ready yet, knowing when and where an update will come from can be a source of real reassurance for remote employees.
Be visible: Leaders need to make sure they remain visible and accessible. This could be through one-to-one catch ups with staff members at all levels, video broadcasts or daily email updates. Using different approaches allows employees to get important information in the formats and at the pace that suit them.
Connect the unconnected: It is critical that business leaders find ways to connect with and engage employees. Not everyone has a work email address, but most people do have a mobile device. Organisations should explore ways to push important notifications through a mobile app. This can also be a great home for resources such as top tips for working from home, updates to health insurance policies and staff rotas for when key workers need to be at work.
Bolster trust: As Covid-19 has evolved, there have been moments when there have been many more questions than answers. We don’t know how long this will last. We don’t know when normality will resume. Leadership does not mean that you always have the answers. Lean on your team and use advice from trusted experts to share considered information.
Engage and be heard: It’s often said that you need to communicate something at least four times before people hear it. The best leaders communicate their updates in a variety of ways. They encourage conversation and engagement to ensure messages are heard and understood.
Visibility, transparency and genuine dialogue will help leaders to build trusted relationships with all employees – whether they have returned to the workplace or not. This will only ever matter, however, if everyone has equal access to communications. Companies which get this right will reap the rewards from a more loyal and focused workforce.
Article published in HR Zone on 30th July 2020.