A Managers’ Toolkit: Helping Employees Through Today’s Crises

With the COVID-19 pandemic now in its fourth month and with business conditions still uncertain, companies and organizations are working fast to pivot their normal routines and processes to maintain business continuity.

All told, there’s little doubt employees in general are experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety than normal – whether it’s in regard to returning to their workplace from telework; hoping to avoid a furlough or a layoff; or treading water trying to stay productive and forward-looking with so much negative news.

To help address these issues real time in the workplace, especially as reopening begins, company leadership teams should focus on engaging their managers in elevated ways. Managers, in this new normal, are more important than ever.

As part of this, companies and organizations can do more to train and engage their managers to be more attentive, caring and responsive to employees’ workplace-related stress points.

Managers traditionally are the bridge between employees and senior leadership, working to ensure employee performance and productivity are optimized every day while, among many other tasks, overseeing employee recruitment and retention strategies. Now, in the midst of the pandemic, this is a vital moment for managers to step up and shine above and beyond this framework.

As it stands, the COVID-19 pandemic and concurrent lockdown are impacting employees negatively: a new Willis Towers Watson survey found 58% of US employers report increasing access to online behavioral health sessions for employees while 83% report increasing access to Employee Assistance Programs.

It’s long been the case that managers can play a pivotal role in helping employees build resilience and thrive in their roles. In another recent survey, Gallup found 70% of positive employee engagement levels are due to frequent engagement directly with their managers.

And now as the country moves to reopen, managers have an even more critical role to play in planning for that reopening and helping to optimize the health and safety of their teams.

With this in mind, here are some practical ideas managers can use – in the way of a Managers’ Toolkit – to help their employees through these difficult times while sustaining their performance and productivity:

Be ready to be flexible: As companies reopen, managers likely are hearing a range of views from their employees about their comfort level in returning to the workplace. Some employees want to continue telework while others prefer to be back interacting with their coworkers. Either way, managers can lead the dialogue with their teams, both one-on-one and as a group, and even develop a whole new organization plan to suit this new era. And this may serve to drive essential recruitment and retention strategies.

Encourage your managers to exhibit well-being: Give your front-line managers the leeway to act on and communicate the importance of employee well-being. This includes conducting frequent employee performance reviews that are constructive and forward-looking; encouraging employees to exercise or take lunch breaks during the day; leaving for home or stopping work at reasonable hours each day; and running staff meetings with a more calm and reflective posture.

Put transparency and openness into practice: Be open and honest as you can in your communications with your employees. Share what’s happening with the company and plans to carry the company through the crisis, and be overly responsive to employee questions and comments. These communications can build trust and morale while helping allay employee anxiety and concerns.

Implement wellness programs: For smaller companies and organizations, there are a range of cost-effective wellness program activities to consider for your teams, such as linking up with a local health care provider or public health-related non-profit organization to present to your employees on ways to build healthy lifestyles. Plus, check to see if your health care insurance carrier offers free health risk assessments for employees.

Utilize Employee Assistance Programs (EAP): EAPs can help employees in need with real-time mental health, grief or trauma counseling. The effects of dealing with the many aspects of the pandemic period mandate an increase in the availability of programs and support in workplaces and in our communities to address mental health issues.

Keep an eye on load balancing: Managers should monitor their employees’ workloads and adjust accordingly. Work to undo unrealistic job expectations and align tasks properly to an employee’s skill set. Plus, consider ways, longer term, to provide opportunities for employee advancement or growth.

In addition, one key resource managers can consider for their employees is a lifecare management program. For example, one company, The Option Group, provides coordinated, individualized plans of care for employees who may need help day-to-day dealing with anxiety, addiction, mental illness and a range of related conditions. The Option Group’s services can be a direct offering to employees without any cost to employers.

Laura Putnam, Founder and CEO of Motion Infusion, an employee wellness company, makes a relevant point: “Senior leaders need to help managers understand why well-being is good for people, good for the organization and essential for building high-performing teams.”

Ultimately, senior leadership teams can help companies and organizations get through today’s multiple crises by working closely with their managers, and enabling them to engage and strengthen employees for their overall well-being and productivity.

The HR Audit: Assessing Your Organization’s Present and Future

With the COVID-19 lockdown these last few months, it’s hard to miss the signals from local and state governments that a period of reopening should commence.

Yet with many facets of the crisis still bedeviled by uncertainty, it may be a good time to take a fresh look at how you manage your organization’s people and HR processes. In other words, consider doing an audit of your HR management practices. An HR audit can be an effective tool to assess your present and set a road map to the future – especially one that’s post-pandemic.

An audit helps identify areas where your business processes may not be in regulatory compliance and illuminates inefficient management practices.

An HR audit also helps you evaluate employee management practices and identify areas for growth. Through this evaluative process, companies and organizations can assess how their employees are doing; uncover work and process issues they may have; and determine how HR practices can best be aligned to strategic business goals.

To illustrate this, here’s a checklist of what an HR audit entails:

  • Develop an audit questionnaire: This document identifies the key areas of your HR management practices with a list of specific questions related to each area.
  • Collect the data: Collect and review all pertinent written documents, forms, communication materials and personnel files.
  • Conduct interviews: Gather input from the management team regarding their HR needs, issues, challenges and their day-to-day management practices and employee-related issues.
  • Summarize the results: Consolidate the information collected. Benchmark the results with market data. Determine which practices are good and which practices need improvement. Recommend specific solutions for improvements.
  • Obtain approval from senior management: Present the preliminary results and recommendations to senior management individually. Point out how these recommendations will support their needs. Obtain their support and approval.
  • Create action plans: These plans help ensure the audit delivers positive results.
  • Foster a climate of continuous improvement: Commit to constant observation and continuous improvement of the company’s policies, procedures and practices.

Smart, efficient HR management practices can make a significant difference in a company’s growth path. In support of this, an HR audit can provide a clear roadmap for implementing effective strategies, practices and policies to fuel your employees’ performance and further the overall goals of your company.

impactAction: If you have questions about HR audits, contact us at info@impacthrllc.com or 443-741-3900.

Reminder: The Virtual 2020 Women’s Leadership Conference, July 21

Quick reminder: the 2020 Virtual Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC), which impactHR is once again co-sponsoring, takes place Tuesday, July 21, 2020, 9:00am-2:00pm EDT.

The theme of this year’s online conference is HERSTORY: Ignite your 2020 Vision: Enlighten, Embrace, Equip and Execute! The keynote presenter is Donna Hartley, motivational speaker, who will talk about “Fire Up Your Life! The Power of Inner Leadership.”

The WLC, hosted by the Howard County (MD) Chamber of Commerce, also features a dynamic set of Session Speakers & Moderators. Register Today.

In Case You Missed These impactnews Articles . . .

Reopening Planning Resources and Tips from the impactHR Team

Building Employee Engagement and Morale in the Midst of the Crisis

The Growing Importance of the Employee Handbook

Visit Our Online COVID-19 Resources Center

impactHR’s COVID-19 Resources Center aims to help employers and employees navigate the uncertain road ahead. This portal – and its information and links to key resources – is updated daily. Read more.