Open Enrollment is one of the trickiest things to figure out as an HR professional. As the people behind the coordination of the open enrollment process, it’s easy to think that employees will take full advantage of the opportunity to add new benefits, update beneficiaries, or are the very least, learn more about what the company has to offer. Unfortunately, all too often, this isn’t the case at most companies.
As an HR professional, you know how things really tend to go. You spend hours upon hours preparing pamphlets, presentations, and meetings to teach your employees about open enrollment. But by the end of the open enrollment period, you realize that your efforts have been in vain because most of your employees seemed to take little or no action.
Do things really have to be like this? At Launchways, we strongly believe that open enrollment can and should be better than the all-to-common example that we shared above. Based on successful examples that we’ve observed in the companies we work with and within our own expertise conducting hands-on open enrollments for our clients, we have some advice for how to have a successful open enrollment in 2020.
In this post, we’ll cover:
Understand the employee point of view
Make benefits information exciting and unique
Take your responsibility to communicate seriously
Information Overload – Understand Your Employees’ Point of View
Take a moment to think about all the information your employees process every day – not only in their professional lives, but in their personal lives too. From emails to social media feeds to flyers to billboards to podcasts, your employees are constantly being bombarded with information. We didn’t even mention the advertisements that are embedded in most of those mediums, which are designed specifically to trap the attention of your employee.
If you want your employees to care about open enrollment, you are going to have to think of ways to breach this wall of information overload. We’ll talk more about strategies to do that later on in this post.
Research shows that most employees in most companies rush through their open enrollment actions. Employees generally spend less than one hour reviewing their current benefits and making decisions about any changes.
Put yourself in the shoes of your average employee. You have the obvious work and home responsibilities. However, with COVID-19 now impacting most people’s work and personal lives, things just got a lot more complicated. Now more than ever, employees might be so overwhelmed that open enrollment is the last thing in the world they’re worried about.
Now that we’ve talked about things you should consider from the perspective of your employees, let’s cover what you can do about these hurdles.
How to Make the Information Stick
You must learn how to make your open enrollment communications stick. To do this, you’ll need to deliberately differentiate your communications from anything else that your employees might be processing with their minds. In other words, you can’t expect to send a standard email and expect a high level of employee engagement. Your employees likely receive dozens, if not hundreds, of similar emails each day. Here are some strategies you can use to deliberately differentiate your communications:
Establish an internal communications brand that is used in all communication about open enrollment. Determine which colors, fonts, and imagery you will use. This brand will need to be unique, so be bold with those design choices!
Have a variety of opportunities for employees to learn about and participate in open enrollment. Leverage an HRIS platform that can handle the logistics of employee benefits decisions during open enrollment, but also go beyond digital platforms to provide more hands-on education.
You should have in-person (or Zoom call) Q&A sessions, virtual workshops, and both prerecorded and live presentations available. You can also leverage a combination of printed materials as well as digital communications. In other words, cast a wide net! Every employee will learn things in different was, so the more diverse you can be, the more likely you are to find a strategy that connects with each employee.
Be creative by having games, competitions, trivia, etc. related to open enrollment. Don’t forget the prizes! Your employees may enjoy the chance to get away from their typical responsibilities for an hour to compete with each other while learning about open enrollment.
Some of these recommendations may be challenging in the year 2020, especially if many of your employees are telecommuting due to COVID-19. For example, in-person Q&A sessions might not be practical indoors. If this is the case for your company, consider holding them outdoors or limiting the size of the group and having extra sessions (or transitioning to entirely virtual engagements).
Encourage Employees to Take Open Enrollment Seriously
The most important advice we can offer in this post is that you MUST take open enrollment seriously if you except your employees to take it seriously. As an organization, be willing to invest to improve employee understanding of open enrollment processes. Also, understanding the crucial role of modern benefits administration technology and leveraging an effective platform is key.
Make your marketing, communications, and public relations employees a core part of the open enrollment process. While HR professionals are fantastic at working on the people side of the business, they may not have a strong background in marketing or communications. Use the experts that you have available to you to make sure you implement the strategies we recommended in the previous section. Remember to brand your open enrollment messaging, differentiate the communications from other information that your employees will be processing, be creative, and cast a wide net.
Work With the Right Benefits Broker
The right employee benefits broker won’t leave you on the hook to figure out open enrollment. At Launchways, we conduct open enrollment on behalf of all our clients. We provide the highest caliber of employee education, so team members can select the right plan for them and their family. If you’re interested in learning more about what it’s like to work with Launchways as your broker, learn more today.
The basics of making open enrollment successful are the same in 2020 as they always have been. However, because employees are dealing with so many things in their professional and personal lives, employers will need to go above and beyond to make sure open enrollment communications and instructions motivate employees to act.
Here are some key takeaways from this post:
Take time to visualize your open enrollment communication materials from the perspective of your employees. While visualizing, do you care about the information? If not, why? Use your findings from that thought exercise to guide your open enrollment communication strategy.
Develop an internal communications brand that is incorporated into your open enrollment materials.
Be creative and innovative with your open enrollment strategies. Remember, you are competing with “information overload” to connect with them.
Take your preparation and strategy behind open enrollment very seriously. If you don’t, you’ll never have a successful open enrollment.
Working with the right employee benefits broker can be a game-changer at open enrollment time.
With the COVID-19 pandemic in full force, more people are working remotely than ever before. Companies of all sizes are being tasked with the challenges of having an ever-increasing number of employees work in a virtual and remote environment. During this crisis, companies like Zoom upped their game to show the world that advances in technology can reshape the way business is done.
And long after COVID-19 no longer poses an existential threat to the world, these changes will continue to transform the corporate landscape. That’s because as more enterprises are forced by the pandemic to do more work remotely, they discover all the extraordinary advantages of doing work this way.
These advantages include:
More flexibility for team members
Reduced carbon footprint
However, remote work is not without its challenges. Two of the difficulties that raise their ugly head whenever any company tries to move to remote work is that it makes collaboration more complicated and increases technological glitches.
The Importance Of Onboarding
A significant challenge is onboarding remote employees. Although it’s harder to do from afar, it can be and should be done, and in the right way to ensure a smooth and impactful process for your new team members.
Onboarding plays a critical role in your new hire’s success and happiness. It also helps your new recruit get acclimated to a brand-new environment. For an employer, it’s a chance to introduce the new employee to the values, policies, and processes the company holds dear.
Onboarding remote employees is particularly critical since they don’t have the opportunity to naturally assimilate into your organization’s culture.
According to a Wynhurst Group study, employees are 58% more likely to stay with a company if they go through a formal onboarding process. Having a quality onboarding process increases employee retention and saves your business money in the long-term.
Here are some tips to make things easier:
1. Create Policies That Make Remote Onboarding Safer
Even when using company-owned equipment, your employee isn’t going to be immune from cyber threats. That’s why you need to come up with robust procedures that’ll help minimize the danger of cyber threats.
If you don’t do anything to safeguard your business’ data, it could be susceptible to unauthorized access. A breach in cybersecurity can lead to problems through tactics such as:
Installing spyware that allows a thief to track internet activity
Phishing emails that deceive recipients into disclosing their personal information
Spam emails that trick recipients into handing over access to their computer
Hijacking the company website and rerouting users to a fraudulent look-alike site where they steal your information
Here are some things you can do to make remote onboarding safer:
Make sure all company-used computers have anti-virus and anti-spyware software
Require individual user accounts for every employee
Limit employee access to data and information
Mandate that strict security procedures be adhered to with strong passwords to access the network
Limit access to data for employees who don’t require it to for their particular job
Issues with BYOD
BYOD, or “Bring Your Own Device,” is terrific for attracting younger employees. They are already technologically savvy and have a strong preference for using their own equipment. You can also provide your employees with a “technology stipend” to reduce the financial stress of acquiring new technology.
For example, you could give your employees $1,500 every three years to buy a device they can use for personal and work purposes. This money covers the cost of the device, business productivity applications, and anti-virus software.
You need to have a written and signed BYOD policy, so you’re covered if something goes wrong. The following are a few things to consider when creating one:
IT SUPPORT: Decide what IT support will be available to the employee and how it will be delivered. This could mean that the employee must take the device to an employee supplied third-party support provider if the employee is getting a technological stipend.
REMOVAL OF SENSITIVE INFORMATION: Because you’ll want to permanently erase company-specific data from devices once its use is no longer required (such as when an employee leaves the organization), you’ll need to have a policy for this.
LIST OF APPROVED DEVICES: A device might not meet your company’s security requirements, so it’s essential that your IT department come up with a list of approved ones.
VIRTUAL PRIVATE NETWORK (VPN): To protect your sensitive information, ensure employees use a virtual private network (VPN). You can establish a company VPN for use on the employee’s broadband network.
Consult with a lawyer to make sure your BYOD policy is legally acceptable.
2. Consider Meeting at The Office
If your new employee is local, and no laws are violated (such as COVID restrictions or mandates), consider meeting them at the office for a more personal introduction.
Just make sure you practice social distancing. This is an excellent opportunity to give them their new equipment and ensure that it works properly.
3. Make Sure Your New Hire Understands Their Role
One of the most common errors companies make with onboarding is not making their expectations clear enough. Because you’re doing your onboarding virtually and not face-to-face, it becomes so much more important to establish crystal clear expectations.
That’s why you need to make sure that your new hire understands their job role inside and out. This can help you retain employees since confusion or uncertainty can often lead to turnover later down the line.
4. Try “Preboarding”
You can also significantly alleviate first-day jitters by “preboarding” or sending an employee information they’ll find useful before starting work.
Here’s what you can send:
A welcome letter or email
A detailed schedule for the employee’s first week
Links for virtual meetings
Passwords and credentials for initial login
Fun cultural items such as a company T-shirt or mug
5. Plan Out Your Employee’s Schedule
When an employee is working remotely, it’s easy to get distracted and disorganized. That’s why creating a plan and setting up a schedule can be helpful.
It can also be a great stress reliever—especially when the new recruit starts to feel overwhelmed.
Create an exact blueprint for the new recruit’s first 30, 60, and 90 days, so there’s no confusion with the new job responsibilities.
6. Make Sure You Cover All The Important Stuff
An exceptional onboarding experience will provide information that not only captures an employee’s attention but will also be illuminating.
You’ll want to offer an insightful perspective on the company’s history, objectives, and values, while also helping the new hire get acclimated to their role within the business.
Although you want onboarding to be informative, make sure it’s not so jam-packed with details that your new recruit gets overwhelmed with information overload.
7. Introduce Your New Recruit To The Rest Of The Team
Don’t leave your new hires alone during the onboarding process—have them make connections with others. Ask members of your team to reach out to new hires and introduce themselves during the first week.
This can be done through a videoconferencing platform such as Zoom. This will help the new hire to feel welcomed, and they’ll start to make the connections that could lead to a feeling of fitting into the company’s culture.
You could even have your new hires write a short letter of introduction that you post on your team’s chatboard such as Teams or Slack. Or, assign them a project within the first two weeks that demands collaboration with other cross-functional team members as a team-building exercise.
8. Schedule Daily Video Calls
It’s challenging to build an emotional connection with a new team, especially when you’re not in the same physical space. This can cause a new hire to feel isolated. Try scheduling a daily video check-in with your new hire to ensure they feel connected and like they have someone to turn to with any questions or concerns.
9. Make Remote Onboarding Exciting
Listening to video lectures and online training modules all day long can quickly become tedious. It’s important to incorporate elements of fun, excitement, and culture into your remote onboarding process. Give the newest member of your team a resounding welcome with fun ice breakers that’ll provide a delightful counterpoint to your work meetings.
For example, you can play a virtual game of “Jeopardy” where every question is about your company. You can also quiz new employees on the subject matter at hand to encourage active listening and participation.
Another idea that can help keep things interesting is learning new skills through roleplay. One way you can do this is by having someone play the role of an angry customer while another pretends he’s the customer service agent. This method also works great for training news salespeople on how to have conversations with potential customers. This is experiential learning, which makes it easier to internalize new information while also being more engaging.
10. Cultivate A Sense Of Mission
It’s often difficult for remote employees to feel connected. That’s why it’s crucial to share company goals with new hires. This reinforces the fact that they’re part of a larger team, working towards an overarching mission.
This will also help your workforce to feel engaged. According to a Gallup poll, only 30% of the U.S. workforce feels a sense of engagement. Disengaged workers aren’t productive, bring down morale, and have higher rates of absenteeism.
New recruits need to know that what they’re doing is making a difference. This will help them feel engaged. Creating opportunities for small accomplishments during their first few days of employment also helps employees to feel energized about their work.
11. Refine Your Process
If you’re not used to running remote teams, there might be bumps in the road before everything runs smoothly. Ask each new hire what about the onboarding process worked and what didn’t, in their opinion. That way, you can refine your processes and procedures moving forward.
Remote onboarding is more complicated than onboarding an employee who occupies the same physical space as you, but it can be done well with a thoughtful approach.
In this case, you have to be sensitive to the emotional isolation that a new employee feels, and counteract it by helping them feel like part of the team.
You can also help your new recruit assimilate into the company’s culture by giving them a schedule for the first several weeks, establishing clear expectations, and assigning them a project that requires collaboration.
Many businesses are preparing to transition to return to work in a continuously COVID-impacted world. Many states are starting to loosen COVID-19 related restrictions and open back up, and others are sure to follow suit.
Whether you already have a start-date in mind or do not know when it will be safe to bring employees back into the workplace, it is important to develop a return to work plan now to prepare your business for the inevitable reopening.
To help our clients and our community get back to work safely and effectively, Launchways held a comprehensive webinar on May 15, “Everything You Need to Know to Build a Return to Work Plan”. Our panel included experts in commercial real estate, human resources, executive management, and labor laws. They spoke for over an hour, addressing a staggering range of topics that employers will need to address to get back to work.
Luckily, we recorded the webinar and it is available to stream on-demand. We’ll share the link at the end of the article, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at each topic that our panelists addressed to get you started down the path to business as usual during the new normal.
Meet the Panel
Each of our panelists brought decades of valuable industry experience to the presentation. We were extremely lucky to field such an experienced panel, which included:
Bill Sheehy, Executive Vice President, CBRE: Bill is an experienced Executive Vice President at CBRE with a demonstrated history of being a top producing broker for almost two decades. Bill specializes in helping his clients through acquisitions, dispositions, lease negotiations, and more.
Heather Bailey, Partner and COVID-19 Task Force Member at SmithAmundsen’s: Heather Bailey is a partner in SmithAmundsen’s Labor & Employment Practice Group. For 18 years, Heather has concentrated her practice in employment and labor counseling and litigation, including discrimination and trade secret/non-compete lawsuits, FLSA class actions, labor negotiations and arbitrations, affirmative action, OFCCP/DOL audits and FINRA issues. She counsels on day-to-day operations, human resources, and management decisions regarding employees, practices, and policies.
Jim Taylor, Founder and President, Launchways: Jim is the CEO and Founder of Launchways. At Launchways, Jim focuses on bridging the gap between Finance and HR. He helps Finance leaders take a data-driven approach to Human Resources and Employee Benefits, allowing them to have more productive relationships with their HR team members. Jim is passionate about helping fast-growing businesses approach the people side of their business strategically.
Building a Return to Work Plan
Create a Cross-Functioning Steering Committee
The first step in building your return to work plan is to assemble your team. That means putting together a cross-functioning steering committee headed by a program lead who will engage the individual players and keep the ball rolling. While the whole leadership team needs to be involved in the decision-making process, giving one member ownership over the project will help keep your efforts focused and productive.
Next, get everyone involved in your organization: business leadership, finance, HR, IT, operations, and management. Not only will their voices be useful in developing an effective plan, but you will need their involvement to implement that plan.
Finally, engage your key partners including your corporate real estate partner, third-party providers for any outsource functions, as well as HR and benefits partners. Your property manager or building owner is a very most important partner to engage in your planning process as facility readiness is a key part of the reopening process.
Once you have everyone at the table, it’s time to put together your plan.
Before you bring your team members back into the workplace, you have to make sure that it is a safe environment free of the risk of infection. Jim and Bill explored how you can get your facilities ready for your team to return to work.
Your facility readiness responsibilities begin as soon as your employees walk through the front door. Work with your commercial real estate partner to establish shared policies for common areas of your building including elevators and entrances to the building and your offices. Elevators are going to be a particular pain point that you will have to figure out before opening.
Next, assess the cleaning requirements for different spaces in your office. Some may need more, or different, attention than others. Consider which areas are high-traffic or high-touch. These areas may need daytime cleaning, which you will have to work into your budget.
Finally, establish a space configuration plan that meets enterprise distancing standards. This plan should include:
Conference room policies
Gathering space policies (break rooms, kitchens, etc)
Access and traffic flow policies
Allowing Employees to Return to Work
After the space is ready to receive them, it’s time to start bringing employees back into the workplace. As part of your Return to Work Plan, you will need to determine who will come back into work and when. This depends partially on the state’s phase of reopening as well as federal guidelines.
When establishing this plan, employers need to differentiate between essential and non-essential workers, particularly when it comes to in-person work at a non-essential business. For example, in Illinois, non-essential businesses are required to maintain a remote work policy for everyone except for “Minimum Basic Operations” staff. You should also consider protective measures for those at higher risk, including telework and tasks that minimize contact.
Heather also explored the legal issues around requiring employees to return to work. The short version is that businesses that have been authorized to reopen and are implementing proper safety precautions can require their employees to return to the workplace. She also reminded employers that employees who choose not to risk losing their unemployment benefits. If employers are struggling with employees resisting returning to work rather than collecting unemployment, they can report those employees to the unemployment office. However, you must maintain a safe workplace to assert these rights.
That is why it is important to train your employees on proper distancing, cleaning, and safety best practices. You must also provide employees who will not be able to maintain 6-foot distancing with appropriate PPE, at your cost. And be ready to make accommodations for individual employees or customers who will not or cannot use PPE because of a disability or religious belief. There may not be a reasonable accommodation that you can make but you have to go through the process to protect your legal interests.
Heather also explored additional concerns including transportation and childcare. While employers are not responsible for employee’s transportation to and from work, they should do what they can to minimize the risk and assuage fears through proper education and scheduling. Employers also need to be prepared to respond to requests for remote work or time off to take care of children, including extending remote work or offering flexible scheduling or a leave of absence. Bearing in mind that employees who refuse to return to work because of childcare requirements may be eligible for benefits under the federal CARES Act, including unemployment.
The bottom line was that employers should try to be creative and think of possible solutions to each of these issues before they open up because these issues will come up.
Employee Health Screenings
Heather explored the legal and practical aspects of employee health screenings, a key area of concern for many employers considering their return to work plan.
She started by laying out the legal protections for employee health screenings. The EEOC has issued guidance on temperature and symptom checks before letting employees return to work. In the era of COVID-19, temperature checks also fall under “job related and consistent with business necessity” mandatory employee medical testing as allowed under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
That being said, it is important to notify your employees of temperature and symptom screening measures in advance. It’s also important to emphasize that the purpose of the screenings is solely to protect employees from exposure to COVID-19 and not to detect any other illness, impairment, or disability. Finally, make it clear that it is not meant to be, nor is it, a substitute for a medical diagnosis.
Keep in mind that the laws and guidelines around testing may change over time, so plan to keep up-to-date and revise your policies as necessary. And as always, be prepared for requests to be exempted from screening due to medical or faith-based reasons. You may also have to compensate employees for time spent getting screened or waiting to be screened. While federal law likely does not require compensation, state laws may and employees are already filing lawsuits against their employers seeking compensation for time spent on screening.
Lastly, make sure that you have the equipment, personnel, and protocols in place before you start opening up. You should equip your team members who will be conducting the screenings with proper training and protective equipment. They are going to be on the front lines, protecting your workplace and team from exposure and risking exposure themselves in return, and should be treated as such. And you should minimize the risk of spreading the virus through screening. Meaning that touch-free thermometers and other safety measures are a must.
Establish a Timeline
Once you know how you are going to ensure that your employees return to work safely, it’s time to set a timeline for the transition back to work. This should be a week-to-week plan starting when the criteria for reopening are met. Bill presented a sample 90-day timeline based on CBRE’s 55-page reopening playbook:
Opening Criteria Met: the clock starts as soon as the community readiness criteria are met and reopening plans are in place
Week 1: “Readiness Teams” return to make final preparations
Week 2: Employees who can work remotely continue to do so, while those who cannot start to return to the workplace
Weeks 3-4: Select teams/employees return to the office, continued guidance to work from home if possible, return to the office is not mandatory
Week 5: Refine approach based on employee return levels and ability to maintain safe distancing and other safety practices
Recurring Status Review: Recurring 30-45 day status review process, updating guidance and processes as necessary
Our panel explored a range of further topics that employers will have to consider when allowing their employees to return to work. These topics included:
Potential discrimination concerns when it comes to implementing and enforcing new policies. Policies tend to be framed relatively loosely which leaves room for often-unintentional discriminatory enforcement. Furthermore, remind employees that it is illegal to harass or discriminate against coworkers based on race, national origin, color, sex, religion, age, disability, or genetic information. There continues to be xenophobia and discrimination directed towards Asian Americans due to COVID-19 and it is your responsibility to advise supervisors and managers of their role in watching for, stopping, and reporting any harassment.
Issues around hiring including your rights to delay the start date or withdraw the job offer for a new hire who tests positive for the virus and cannot safely enter the workplace. However, being a high-risk individual is not grounds for postponing the start date or withdrawing a job offer.
Potential lawsuits and the current state of workers compensation, particularly recent developments in the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission rules. Industry associations successfully got the Commission to withdraw its emergency rule that allowed any employee who tested positive to receive worker’s compensation. But employees can still receive worker’s compensation if they show that they were exposed to the virus through their work. Luckily, Heather outlined a Worker’s Compensation Questionnaire that will help employers protect themselves from fraudulent claims.
Stream the Webinar
Believe it or not, but we have barely scratched the surface of the wealth of information that our panelists shared during the webinar. That’s why we recorded the webinar and made it available to stream anytime you want. Stream the webinar on-demand now.
As many businesses begin to officially reopen, it’s more clear than ever that COVID-19 has changed the reality of our workspace. The constant but piecemeal flow of new guidance related to COVID-19 has become a business challenge unto itself – maybe the most important one of our time, and as businesses work to reopen, it’s easy to feel like we simply don’t have enough information to do the best possible job.
In this post we’ll explore:
Why it’s so easy for the best and most well-meaning business & HR leaders to feel overwhelmed right now
The variety of areas in which COVID-19 has created new responsibilities for employers
How businesses can connect with resources to ease this transition into the new normal
The Growing Challenge of Staying Up to Date on Compliance
The federal government’s official response to COVID-19 began just two months ago on March 18 with the passing of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), mandating the expansion of paid sick leave and FMLA leave.
Since then, a variety of government agencies, from the CDC and Department of Labor to OSHA and Homeland Security have published temporary policies, interim guidance, and regulatory FAQ sheets with an eye toward helping businesses and individual American employees weather this storm.
Unfortunately, the flood of guidance during a time where many organizations were maintaining skeletal operations teams has led to information overload across much of business. Everybody wants to comply with the new regulations and follow best practices to protect employees, defeat coronavirus, and restore the economy, but staying up to date on COVID-19 has become a major job unto itself.
Clarifying the Picture: What Businesses Need to Focus On
The current situation presents three specific needs businesses must address:
Staying up to date on guidance as it is released
Implementing guidance and best practices in a well-organized way
Maintaining great documentation to ensure compliance and qualify for tax credits as applicable
If your business’ COVID-19 response and reopening strategy doesn’t have a comprehensive approach for those needs articulated, it’s a recipe for falling behind.
Staying up to Date on Guidance
An incredible variety of government agencies have published guidance or temporary policies to address the COVID-19 pandemic and economic reopening. It’s essential to know about the guidance currently on the books as well as each new piece of legislation or regulation as soon as it’s published.
This means monitoring the websites of relevant government agencies or signing up for alerts to get news about updates as soon as possible.
Knowing COVID-19 guidance and policy is only the first part of the battle. You also have to bring those instructions and expectations to life in your workplace and among the members of your team.
You need to have specific plans in place to address all sorts of best practice implementation needs, including:
Reconfiguring your workspace
Providing & training employees on PPE
Smooth internal processes for transitioning employees on and off of leave
Temporary hiring procedures for team members who may have expired I-9 documentation
Federal payroll tax credits will be key to most businesses fully recovering from the financial effects of COVID-19. Thankfully, the CARES Act provides that relief, but ensuring your business gets that credits it deserves requires a strong approach to documentation.
In order to get the relief you deserve for providing your employees with paid leave, you need to provide specific documentation, and some of those requirements are only now being clarified. That means proactive recordkeeping and attention to detail are more important than ever for HR and payroll professionals.
Providing Powerful External Support to Core Business Function
Given all the new responsibilities we’ve discussed related to COVID-19, it’s easy to see why many business, finance, compliance, and HR leaders are feeling overwhelmed. One way to take pressure off your core team while also ensuring compliance is to start a relationship with a dedicated HR support partner.
With an outside specialist taking the lead on reviewing evolving guidance and breaking it down into executive summaries and actionable policy/procedural checklists for your leadership team, you can carry out a powerful reopening that’s backed by best practices without that effort subtracting from your ability to do business.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed from a business perspective because of the steady but disconnected flow of new guidance from various government agencies, you’re not alone! Remember:
Keeping up to date with COVID-19 policies and legislation has grown into a job unto itself and is likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future
It’s crucial that all businesses stay current on guidance, implement identified best practices in thoughtful ways, and maintain strong documentation in order to maximize tax credit opportunities
A designated HR partner (like Launchways!) can pick up the slack on COVID-19 regulatory concerns, enabling your business to get back to doing what you do best
How to Learn More
At Launchways, we specialize in providing HR, payroll, business insurance, and employee benefit support to organizations so their leadership can make the most of their own time and expertise. We are proud to partner with some Chicago’s most innovative and forward-thinking businesses to strengthen the local business community and connect organizations with the knowledge, tools, and human support they need to do their jobs better than ever.
As more states begin their official economic reopenings in the wake of COVID-19, many organizations feel like resuming the work itself isn’t the biggest challenge. For many of us, reengaging and rebuilding our teams of talented professionals and getting them motivated and bought-in to the new way of work is an extremely daunting task.
Many people are scared, distrustful, and depressed right now, and that is the exact opposite of the recipe for a successful team. Whether they know it or not, professionals are hungry for their employers to help them feel normal and plugged-in again. That means employee culture and engagement should be points of emphasis for every business in the coming weeks and months.
Identifying the Best Aspects of Your “Pre-COVID” Culture
It may seem like a long time ago now, but less than three months ago, you had a thriving community sharing a physical space and working towards common goals – some of your team members might even have compared it to being part of a family!
The realities of COVID-19 mean that workplace culture and team atmosphere can’t resume with perfect continuity. With that said, there is the potential to create a new, even stronger community by porting what worked about your previous approach onto new methodologies and emerging best practices in light of COVID-19.
How Do We Figure Out the Best Parts of Our Culture?
Your team members are the best source of information when it comes to which parts of your workplace culture, employee wellness initiatives, and daily perks really make a difference for them. You can get that information through employee culture surveys, which can be blasted out team-wide via email as you plan your return to the office.
If possible, you should do this work in the weeks ahead of your reopen to give your new initiatives the most possible planning time. However, if getting people back into the building is the main priority, you can use the opening weeks of the return to work to gather this data to inform your employee engagement strategy.
What About Employee Mental Health?
Workplace culture and collegiality are crucial to creating a positive work environment that drives work people can be proud about while robustly supporting people’s humanistic and mental health needs to prevent tension, frustration, and burnout.
One of your culture survey’s main goals should be determining what services you were providing that people found really valuable pre-COVID. Did they value seeing their colleagues in contexts other than work? Did they appreciate making time for serious conversations during the work week? What made them go home feeling good about themselves at the end of the day?
What Strengthened the Team?
As the old axiom goes, “teamwork makes the dream work.” While it may sound trite at first, bringing your employees together to create a true team is the difference between having a great approach to human capital management and just being a “job” where people work.
Another main concern of your employee surveys should be to identify what aspects of your pre-COVID-19 approach brought people together to create a more functional, vivacious unit. What made people feel like true colleagues and not just people who worked in the same space? How did you help team members discover, appreciate, and celebrate each other’s strengths? How did you foster an environment where people understood and were not judgmental about their colleagues’ areas of need or weakness?
What Gave People a Sense of Shared Purpose?
If you’ve got people feeling positive about themselves and their work and functioning as part of a thriving team, there’s only one real component left to a great culture: shared goals and purpose.
In order to get your employees reintegrated into the work and making up for lost time, you need to figure out what messages, incentives, and motivational tactics really worked for them. What about your organization or leadership did they find inspirational? What about the nature of your work makes team members feel good about what they’re doing? What approaches to shared success and shared failure spoke to them?
Leveraging Technology to Modify & Modernize
Once you’ve drawn out the aspects of your workplace and employee culture that really worked and inspired excellence, you’ll likely have a long list of activities and approaches that feel like a real challenge to recreate in the context of social distancing.
At first, this can feel discouraging, but luckily, the last few months have seen an explosion of remote communication and interaction platforms that enable us to continue positive community interactions without the risk of viral transmission.
Migrating Physical Interactions Online
Video conferencing and project management platforms have picked up much of the slack during our time away from the office, and they also offer opportunities for employee culture reengagement.
Think of ways you can allow people to “take a walk” to visit friends in other departments for a quick chat like they used to. Provide people with document sharing and collaboration tools that make it just as easy to work together as if you were sitting at the same table. Consider meeting in a text-based chatroom where people have time to think about their responses and process other people’s ideas at their own pace.
All of these are different ways we can use emerging work tools as culture tools as well!
Embracing an Opportunity to Grow & Redefine the Work
It’s important to understand that there will not be a cut and dry way to completely recreate our previous approach to office life and employee culture post-COVID-19. We will need to stay open-minded and identify employee needs in order to find solutions and approaches that support them.
With that in mind, this is an opportunity to grow and redefine what it even means to be a business, a team, and a professional. The new work will be finding ways to continue and extend intellectual and communal closeness without the benefit of physical proximity.
If we stay open minded, remain grounded in what we know works and what employees need, and keep our ears to the ground for the best emerging tools and solutions, we’ll be able to reopen the business space in a powerful way that makes all of us better.
How to Learn More
If you’re an HR professional or business leader looking to guide a successful reopening as COVID-19 continues, be sure to download Launchways’ Complete Return to Work Toolkit. The toolkit provides a variety of checklists and other resources that help you consider reopening from every conceivable angle, including:
Recalling furloughed or laid off employees
Modifying your physical workspace
Best practices for employee safety
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
New policies for meeting, communication, shared space, etc.