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Retaining talent during uncertainty

By Nortal Cloud team, July 14, 2020

As the pandemic continues, an economic crisis has caused record high unemployment. In this time of unpredictability, it is essential for companies to develop and maintain a culture of valuing employees to retain talent for the years to come. Our talent acquisition team, Malia Jorgensen and Maria Nikoletich, our human resources team, Leigh Wunderlin and Berit Wick, as well as one of our Delivery Directors, Shawn McCoy, have mapped out some tangible takeaways for how to engage employees during uncertain times.

How do you think employee experience in the company impacts the organization overall? Why do you think it’s imperative to adjust during times of crisis?

The employee experience is key to how a company is perceived and a direct reflection of the health of the organization. The impact can be very large, because there’s a personal component to it. People are typically more vocal when they are unhappy or don’t feel taken care of.

In times of crisis, employees are going to look towards the company’s leadership and develop an opinion on how it’s responding. There is a lot of uncertainty, question, fear, misunderstanding, and a bigger thirst for information. If the company responds well, this will have a positive impact in the form of support, pride and initiative. With close attention, good feedback and growth opportunities, companies can create a positive employee experience in uncertain times.

By keeping the employee experience top of mind, companies can better navigate these changing times by providing ways to support teams, personal needs, and inspire professional growth.

“During a time of crisis it’s imperative that employers, as well as employees, adjust to the times. Making sure that they have the right tools and resources to work effectively with their teams and managers and making sure they have clear communication is crucial. You want employees to be able to continue to do their jobs instead of focusing more about the crisis than their job. If employees and employers are unable to be flexible and adjust to the times, this will contribute to lower productivity and lower return on investment.”
– Maria Nikoletich

How the company treats its employees during the pandemic will be a factor that people reflect on for some time. How can Human Resources provide support for employees that have been laid off or furloughed?

Change is never easy with these unexpected transitions. How someone is treated when they are laid off or furloughed from the company, can say a lot about internal organization. Human resources plays a large role in an employee’s departure. Showing ongoing support after the termination date, by way of a recommendation letter, a resume service, or sending new job openings, can go a long way. Additionally, staying in communication with people and thanking them for all of their time and contribution, is important for keeping the door open.

“Open, transparent, and early-on communication should be the number one priority.”
– Berit Wick

Open and honest communication is going to be key for employees moving forward regarding projects and internal updates. What are some tactics or strategies you are using to ensure transparency?

In terms of human resource initiatives, implementing company-wide surveys can shed light on how employees are feeling on topics like leadership transparency, how your organization has been handling the pandemic, and how you could be supporting employees better. Hosting a cadence of remote ‘town hall’ meetings during a crisis can facilitate open communication and provide direct access to leadership for employees.

On the delivery side, there is less direct face-to-face interaction. It’s imperative to have 1:1’s, team meetings, and try to get managers to share their experiences in other team meetings. In general, people should be collaborating and feeling they’re an important part of the team. In terms of transparency, nothing should be off the table in terms of conversations. For example, sharing project health and updates across your company. Also, providing a project dashboard that can give managers and team members better visibility.

“For talent acquisition, publishing an internal career page with more qualified details than in an outside job ad, so internal folks can see what new projects are available. This gives hiring managers access to real-time information and the ability to reach out to the delivery managers if they are interested.”
– Maria Nikoletich

How should companies and leaders address their worker’s needs when offices begin opening up and beyond?

Employee health and safety should be the number one concern once offices begin opening up. There are still so many unknowns and people need reassurance that you are looking out for their best interest. Establishing protective measures that can provide a comfortable and functioning workplace is critical for reducing risk and liability. Continuing to offer remote work as an option, based on measuring people’s comfortability is essential.

In addition to remote work offerings, there should be a consistently fresh and adaptive people culture that can keep up with a changing workforce. New ideas and employee feedback should be prioritized, since old ways of doing things may have become outdated. Things are constantly changing with the pandemic and so keeping the line of communication open and being flexible will be absolutely necessary moving forward.

“The most important thing will be in understanding that everyone will have different needs. Some team members will still have some fears about coming into the office and some may have loved ones or friends that they still need to be careful for. So companies need to recognize this and make sure that they are taking the variety of situations into account. Patience, communication, and repetition will be paramount. Offering people alternatives due to their circumstances should be readily considered and supported.”
– Shawn McCoy

For those that want to come into the office, how can companies protect employees’ health and safety from the risk of the pandemic?

“By following recommended guidance provided by the CDC, DOH, OSHA and the state. Ensuring safety measures are in place allows gaps to be identified that may have existed prior to the pandemic. Some of these protective measures include:
– Requiring employees to wear face coverings and ensuring no face-to-face contact longer than 30 min.
– Keeping up regular deep-cleans of the office and building including increasing the frequency of cleaning surfaces and common areas
– Return to the workplace acknowledgment of best practices when in the office
– Offering gloves, masks, and no-touch thermometers
– Removing furniture in common areas
– Implementing an office registration for tracking occupancy requirements in the office spaces
– Posting communications around social distancing, symptoms, and best practices.”

– Berit Wick

If employees choose to continue to work from home, how can organizations keep them productive and engaged in the workplace?

Good people management is a great place to start. Managers can establish effective methods of working together and communication cadences that work for their team needs. Ensuring their remote teams can deliver high quality results, while keeping team members engaged and supported on a personal level, is the outcome of a skilled people manager. Offering support guidelines for a variety of work arrangements, will help establish a new normal in a changing work environment, which in turn will help employees stay productive.

In terms of engagement, discuss new ways to engage employees in remote events and communication channels. For example, increasing the cadence and variety of remote events and engagements offered, such as coffee and tea tasting workshops, team gaming sessions, and lunch and learns, will bring fun and cross-collaboration to different internal teams. Encouraging attendance with a small gift is also an effective way to incentivize participation.

“Happy and healthy employees are engaged employees. Offering lots of wellness services on topics like parenting, stress management, and financial wellness can help. Ensuring success with managing distributed teams through additional training such as a webinar around managing virtual teams. Training people managers to know how to run good 1:1’s, have quality communication, including everyone in decisions, and having documentation of every decision can help team productivity.”
– Leigh Wunderlin

What are some non-monetary ways companies can recognize employees to keep people motivated during this potentially challenging financial time for organizations?

Get your employees involved in their own professional development. When people are intrinsically motivated to learn and develop their skills, they are contributing to an innovative workplace culture that grows their capabilities. If you don’t have a professional development program in place or the financial resources available to help employees, there are free or nominally-priced resources online that are perfectly suited for remote work. You may have willing employees to help brainstorm and further the development of these initiatives that can benefit the company as a whole.

There are always ways to continue and even enhance support towards workers for doing a good job, it’s just a matter of listening to employee feedback.

“Managers or leadership informally recognizing people for doing a good job can be a really effective strategy. Nominating employees of the week or giving small recognition about what somebody is doing well on a project as a thank you – such as gift cards – is a great way to boost morale. For example, featuring employees in a newsletter or having peer nominated awards.”
– Malia Jorgensen

Especially now, employers need to adjust their strategies to fit people’s current needs. A long-term vision for crisis management will help organizations create a great employee experience during uncertainty that will incentivize retention.