A2 Blog Human Resources

Key COVID-19 Takeaways: an HR Perspective

Learning that hasn’t been reinforced will be forgotten. Psychologists call this extinction. It may be unimaginable to think that such a principle could apply to the devastating effects caused by COVID-19, but time has a way of softening even the most life-altering memories.

As restrictions are steadily relaxed and businesses gradually begin to reopen, libraries could be filled on the many lessons learned in the wake of this pandemic. Here are 5 fundamental, but important points from an HR view to evaluate in your business:

1. Communication

I’m a huge advocate for transparency. Uncertainty can breed panic, and that will only be magnified amid a global crisis. In this incredibly fluid environment, circumstances can flip from one day to the next, and no one expects you to have all of the answers. However, keeping your team informed is in your best interest and can help to foster an environment of trust and engagement. 

Communication should be timely. Don’t leave your employees in a drought for information. When there’s no communication, people tend to create their own narrative – and it’s rarely favourable. 

Lastly, show your compassion. Don’t just tell your team that you’re in this together – show them. The news may not always be positive, but showing a little empathy can go a long way. When your employees reflect on how they were treated during this time, trust me, they will remember it. 

2. Emotional Intelligence

For far too long in our society, mental health has taken a backseat to physical health. As business leaders, understanding that this pandemic is affecting people in a variety of ways is essential. We’re all in the same storm, but not in the same boat. There are families of 5 with little to no income trying to figure out how to make ends meet, parents balancing remote work with homeschooling, and single households struggling with isolation and depression.

Several businesses have begun welcoming back their staff, and leaders need to understand that even then, disparities will continue. Your team won’t simply just pick up where they left off, but rather, will need to be reintegrated into the workplace. Some employees will be apprehensive, consumed with anxiety over health and safety concerns. In incidents of staff reductions and layoffs, some returning employees can experience survivor’s guilt. Personally, as a hug-oholic, I can promise you that in our culture, many people will also have great difficulty adjusting to the fact that after months of being apart, they won’t be able to hug their close colleagues, or even stand too nearby for a watercooler chat. 

How are you helping your team to cope?

There is an enormous change taking place, and emotional intelligence is the order of the day. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are an excellent resource. Engaging counsellors can be another effective method. Hold regular pulse checks with your team, listen to their fears, and address their concerns.

3. Digitization

Historically, HR departments have (unfairly) held the stigma of being paper-pushers. While our field is so much more than that, there are, admittedly, many HR processes that should’ve been left in 1995. One that’s baffled me for years is why in the 21st century, any business anywhere requires applicants to submit resumes either in person or via snail postal mail?

This is just a very basic example, but it illustrates my point. There are scores of HR processes that could’ve – and probably should’ve – been digitized a long time ago. COVID-19 has highlighted that for us. Analyze your business practices and think broadly on what can be done differently. Consider recruitment activities, training platforms, benefits administration, and your payroll system. Spend a little time and money now bringing your HR department into the digital era, and save a lot of time and money in the future.

4. Duties, Obligations, & Agreements

You can probably recite each employee contract you’ve ever written verbatim – backwards! But how familiar are you with employment laws? Do you understand the parameters for employee safety? What about the process for layoffs, or when redundancy kicks in? What benefits are your employees entitled to during this time? 

Contracts and laws are more than just words on paper. These are the terms and conditions that allow both you and your team to navigate through the unchartered waters of COVID-19. Not familiarizing yourself with them or adhering to them is a disservice to both sides. If legalese isn’t exactly your second language, consider connecting with an HR consultant or an attorney to assist.

5. Continuity Planning

No one living today has ever seen a global crisis like the one we are in now. We hope to never see one again – but that does not negate the importance of having a business continuity plan. 

As a country nestled in a tropical zone at the beginning of the hurricane season, if you are a business leader in The Bahamas without a contingency plan already in place, the time to create one is now. 

For starters, you can consider the following:

  • Form a disaster committee
  • Assess your business risks
  • Identify your key resources
  • Create detailed action plans

The survival of your business could depend on it. 

We don’t yet have the complete picture on what the ‘new normal’ will look like, but the puzzle pieces are beginning to come together. One certain thing is that we will all need to adapt. Take a hard look at your business practices and find your opportunities for transformation. It’s a win for everyone.