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Wellbeing programs create better connection for employees

impact awardWhile there’s still no clear sense for when the COVID-19 pandemic will end, one thing has come into sharp focus—the implementation of wellbeing programs. The future of work will include both in-person and remote arrangements to accomplish this.  

This new reality has various benefits for employees, including more flexibility, better work-life balance, less time spent commuting, and the freedom to work from anywhere. And a study by Stanford found that working from home increases productivity by 13%. So, there are benefits for employers as well. 

 But employees who don’t see their colleagues every day face a challenge: creating a sense of community and connection. And while it may not seem like a business performance issue at first glance, it actually is. 

Harvard Business Review says: “Employee disconnection is one of the main drivers of voluntary turnover, with lonely employees costing U.S. companies up to $406 billion a year.”  

The opportunity in front of us for wellbeing programs

At HealthFitness, we think there’s a massive opportunity for the corporate fitness industry to rethink how we help employees feel they belong and are cared for.

In fact, through our work with hundreds of companies across many different industries, we’ve seen how wellbeing programs can provide the community and human connection many employees are craving right now.

This means creating experiences where employees will find friendly and familiar faces—both in-person and virtually. This can include group fitness, personal and small group training, health and fitness challenges, health coaching, seminars and classes across a wide variety of fitness and health topics.

The classic in-person approach 

We’re all familiar with the onsite fitness center. While pandemic-era guidelines changed aspects of the experience (e.g., wearing masks, social distancing), they’re still a meaningful way to create connection.

One of our client’s employees, Eddie, said he had a hard time staying active at his job until he joined a new company with an on-site fitness center. There, he began taking fitness classes (which is something he never imagined himself doing). Plus, he also started using the center’s exercise equipment.

But he discovered an unexpected benefit as well.

Eddie noticed how the fitness challenges his company hosted allowed him to connect with coworkers throughout the company. “I’ve made tons of friends at work through the fitness center,” he says.

And the benefits he received went beyond the physical and social.

Eddie said that many of the colleagues he met through fitness challenges provided him with career advice. “The amount of networking I was able to do at the fitness center was remarkable. It’s amazing how many people you can meet while sharing the goal of creating a healthier lifestyle.”

The new virtual approach 

Like Eddie, many employees looked to their local gym or corporate fitness center for a sense of community before COVID-19. Now we know employees will seek this same sense of connection in a virtual format.

That’s certainly been our experience over the last two years.

Like many companies worldwide, we had to pivot fast in the spring of 2020. Our initial goal was to fill clients’ immediate needs and continue offering health and fitness programming in whatever way we could. To make the best of the unprecedented situation.

But then something unexpected happened.

The fitness classes delivered in a virtual format were a big hit with employees. They also allowed us to extend our reach to more employees that may not be located in a building where their employer provided a fitness center. Beyond fitness classes, wellbeing-related offerings like energy and stretch breaks, educational seminars, and even classes for kids opened up more ways to demonstrate that the company cares about their employees. Employees also enjoyed seeing the friendly faces they knew and trusted.

Given this, we think virtual corporate wellbeing experiences are an important way to create connection and community in a hybrid world. There are two primary options.

Live-streamed content

Live-streamed content can be used for live events like fitness classes, stretch breaks, educational seminars, and kid and family classes. They’re broadcast through professional-grade equipment to provide the highest quality streaming, regardless of device, bandwidth, or location.

The shift to working from home has served as the game changer for Sharon, one of our client’s employees, and her health and fitness routine. Sharon takes up to three virtual classes each day. She transfers between group fitness classes, to virtual personal training to mindfulness, nutrition and wellness classes. She regularly meets with her health coach.

As a result, Sharon is more resilient and stronger. “HealthFitness has been one of the most important aspects of my mental and physical wellbeing while working from home.”

Sharon’s weekly virtual personal training sessions with her HealthFitness trainer, Jim, keeps her connected and moving after knee surgery. This allows her to keep getting stronger in her health journey.

Not only does this benefit Sharon physically, there’s also the same sense of connection that Eddie described. When you know other colleagues are also participating in these experiences, you have a point of much-needed connection.

Video conferencing

Video conferencing offers real-time connections with wellness professionals for personal and small group training. It is also useful for nutrition coaching, ergonomic consultations, and movement efficiency assessments.

This approach will broaden based on employers I’ve talked with over the last 18 months. Employers want data-driven integration, segmenting, and targeting capabilities with programs that address subjects. Subjects like stress, resiliency, mindfulness, sleep, safety, and financial wellbeing.

Eventually, because of this data and technology integration, employers will offer this kind of programming wherever it works best for employees. That may be in person, at home, on the production line, on the go—whatever employees need.

This level of targeting has a side benefit. Employees can connect around common wellness priorities or goals, which again creates the sense of community many of us are longing for.

Regardless of format, wellbeing programs must be front and center

In their report Future of Work Trends in 2022, Korn Ferry says that “organizations that are leading the way in wellbeing embed it in all aspects of their people strategy. Research shows that this has a positive impact on retention, absenteeism levels, productivity, and overall satisfaction.” 

With all of these potential impacts, it’s time for corporate wellness programs to adapt to the permanently altered business landscape by: 

  • Recognizing how classic wellness offerings like fitness centers and programs can solve new workplace challenges, like the lack of connection 
  • Introducing virtual wellbeing offerings that employees can access when and where it’s convenient 
  • Offering a broader range of wellbeing programs that help employees connect with like-minded colleagues and create a sense of community 

When companies take these steps, they show employees they belong to an organization that genuinely cares. 

 

 

Ann Wyatt is Chief Client Success Leader at Health Fitness, a Trustmark company. With a holistic approach that extends beyond fitness, HealthFitness is a proven leader in engaging and connecting people both on-site and online, to create a strong community of health. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.  

Brushing Up on Your Leadership Skills for the Post-Pandemic Workplace

The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is finally starting to come to an end. Because of this, many companies are re-opening their brick-and-mortar offices. Employees who wish to return to the old ways have an opportunity to do so, but many businesses are allowing for remote work to continue as well.

As they return to the office, employees will have to get used to face-to-face communication again. They’ll also have to polish up their leadership skills and prepare for some challenges.

How COVID Changed the Workplace

Working remotely is challenging for jobs of all kinds, but COVID hit the project management field especially hard. Fortunately, technology evolved in response. Tools like cloud organization and virtual leadership meetings allowed for an easier transition to the remote space. Still, most project managers look forward to getting back into the office ASAP.

Refreshing in-person social and leadership skills while continuing to use the remote communication abilities honed during COVID isn’t easy. However, with many companies setting up hybrid workspaces in the post-pandemic world, it’s necessary. Here are a few tips to help you succeed in the new normal.

Stay Digital

With the flexibility offered by remote work, it’s no surprise that many employees want to keep working from home. Companies that do not offer this benefit after the pandemic are expected to experience employee retention issues.

As a project manager, you should continue prioritizing your digital communication skills even if your current job is fully in-person again. Start using programs like Asana or Monday so you can enable your team to be more accessible and flexible. You will also gain the benefit of polishing that digital communications resume for whatever may be next.

Learn With Your Team

Teaching is one thing, but being able to learn with your team is key. You will not only help increase the team’s knowledge, but you’ll also build rapport in a low-pressure setting. Team members can also practice their leadership skills this way.

During COVID, digital learning capabilities improved immensely. If you’re in a hybrid workspace now or in the future, learning with your team is very easy thanks to screen sharing and programs like Skype or Zoom.

Practice Positive Psychology

Unfortunately, almost everyone has had an unmotivated boss at some point in their career. Unmotivated leaders make it very difficult for anyone else on the team to stay focused and productive.

You probably don’t need anyone to tell you to avoid that kind of leadership. However, if you happen to start losing some luster for your position, practicing positive psychology will help you find more meaning in your work.

The good news? Being enthusiastic and motivated resonates with teams just as much as being unmotivated does.

Both your personal and work life can benefit from practicing positive psychology. Plus, when one area of your life improves, the other tends to as well.

It’s very natural for our lives to become mundane over time. We often lose our feelings of accomplishment and enthusiasm. With positive psychology, rewarding yourself can make the mundane seem fun again.

Employees generally produce better work when they know they’ll be rewarded. Small goals can mean greater rewards, which will ultimately equate to more driven and productive workers. Pairing learning with positive psychology is a great idea, too!

Overall, adding this mindset practice to your daily life can pay dividends in the near and distant future.

Promote Diversity and Inclusion

One of the biggest goals of modern HR and leadership training is addressing social injustice, which continues to persist in various forms. It’s important to focus on these issues in developing your leadership skills as well.

In addition to the ethics of promoting diversity and inclusion, companies can improve their bottom line. Organizations that prioritize an inclusive and welcoming environment have happier employees and better retention.

Reflect on Your Quarantine Experience

What did you learn during quarantine? Ask yourself some questions so you can learn more about yourself. Here are some ideas:

  • What did I miss the most in quarantine?
  • How did my communication style change?
  • What did I like most about my response to the pandemic?
  • What didn’t I like about myself during quarantine?

Asking questions like these can help you pinpoint what you need to improve. Improving yourself makes your life better and makes it much easier to help others evolve.

Some of the things you learn about yourself may help you become a better leader. These reflection exercises can be shared with your team to help them find positives in the pandemic, which will put them in a better mindset to perform.

All of these tips are important, but on a grand scale, being open to improvement is the best trait you can have as a leader and motivator. Allow yourself to learn new leadership skills every day and listen to your team!

The Future of Work: 6 Post-COVID HR Trends to Look Out For

The first time COVID-19 made its appearance, a lot of uncertainty, fear, and doubt ruled many people’s lives. Since all of it was new, absolutely no one knew exactly what to do.

Nearly two years have passed, and we have gathered all the information and forces available to fight against it. The good news is that we have done it effectively to a great extent, and the current recovery situation is looking optimistic.

However, there is no guarantee that we are ever going “back to normal” since what is “normal” has been completely redefined.

From now on, HR professionals will need to adjust to the new normal. Here are some post-COVID HR trends to be prepared for.

1. A bigger focus on remote work

If there is one thing that the pandemic changed for most employees, it’s remote work. With all the video-conferencing calls via Zoom and Skype, the business world is steadily making its way to normalizing remote working.

While reports show that remote working was already becoming popular before COVID, especially amongst the self-employed, it sped up its pace.

The Pew Research Center reports that prior to the pandemic, about 20 percent of Americans were working remotely. Right now, this number has gone up to 71 percent. And out of that percentage, 54 percent want to continue working remotely.

That said, we expect to see working practices becoming more flexible in time.

Some businesses may even need to invest in more permanent communication tools or services. These should help them keep in touch with their employees and be able to support them.

2. Embracing technology

Technology is always at the forefront of change and will play a significant role in post-COVID HR trends.

When it comes to recruiting new talent, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and blockchain technology will bring more changes in HR. With the possibility of streamlining the hiring process and improving the quality of the hires, the possibilities are endless.

But that’s not all that technology can do. Recruiting tech-savvy candidates that come with digital and transferable skills is more beneficial. This can help create a modern and ever-changing working environment that is adaptable and ready to face any potential challenge.

If you a looking for a winning HR tool, check out the TalentCulture 2021, HR Tech winners here.

3. Prioritizing employee well-being

More and more companies are putting their employees first.

Not only that, but they are also showing a willingness to address any health and safety issues. The trend of adopting a more people-centric company culture as opposed to business-centric is a positive turn of events. Now employers are being more understanding, aware, and flexible in ensuring the well-being of employees.

One way organizations can do this is by providing employees with better rewards and incentives. Time off or holistic benefit offerings can address both their mental and physical concerns.

Many famous companies are leading the way, showing others how it’s done. During the season of reduced demand, Microsoft continued paying their hourly workers who were offering their support. While Starbucks started offering more mental health benefits and therapy sessions to all its U.S.-based employees and family members starting in April 2020.

4. Rethinking current business practices

HR managers need to adapt to changing times, and to do so, they need to do a thorough re-assessment of company policies and practices. They need to look into what worked and didn’t work for employees during the crisis.

While some industries were lucky enough to survive the pandemic, some had cut down staff, or worse, close down.

Deloitte’s Workforce strategies for post-COVID-19 recovery workbook offers a helping hand to all managers who are rethinking their business practices. The workbook focuses on three key pillars: 1) respond, 2) recover, and 3) thrive. Considering every aspect of the business that needs to change, this guide can help organizations succeed.

5. Changing learning and training methods

When it comes to post-COVID HR trends, moving away from face-to-face learning and making use of e-learning resources is likely to be especially valuable.

Online learning has proven to be an effective and reliable method of providing training. In fact, it has been a lifesaver during the difficult coronavirus days. Given that e-learning is inexpensive and more efficient, more businesses will choose to invest in it and replace old training practices.

Webinars, virtual classrooms, online courses, video training, and mobile learning are trending. Many tools that can offer this type of training like LMSs (learning management systems), onboarding tools, and course platforms can improve employee training programs.

6. Relying on data to make decisions

When the financial situation of a business is unsteady, the need to forecast workforce requirements and reduce costs becomes paramount.

In order for HR managers to make well-informed decisions that will help sustain a business, they need to focus on data analytics.

Data analytics will provide the most reliable source of information, helping organizations successfully recruit candidates, as well as measure and monitor employee performance, engagement, and productivity.

A Look Into the Future

All these post-COVID HR trends pave the way for a new direction for the HR industry. New HR practices will soon replace the old, and companies will adopt the ones that will help them grow.

Pay attention to employees’ well-being, exploit all the tools available to you, and make data-driven decisions. Help your company survive through these troubled times and thrive in the future.

The Near Future of Work: What’s Next for the Office?

More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic first upended work and life, business owners, HR leaders, and workers are continuing to adjust to an ever-evolving situation.

Now, as offices reopen and vaccinated workers are brought back into a centralized workplace, the big question is:

What can we expect from the near future of work?

Is it “back to normal?”

Some organizations, such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, are steadfastly going back to their pre-2020 normal.

Other companies are bringing employees back to the office on a part-time basis, while some are going full-time remote. One example is Quora, which announced early during the pandemic that it was switching to a remote-first culture for good.

What’s the best way forward?

The clear answer is that it depends on the individual company. More importantly, it depends on the individuals within your company.

Think about it this way:

We have lived alongside coronavirus for more than 18 months. Employees have been expected to upend their daily routines and find a way to work from home productively while adapting to the terrifying enormity of the health crisis.

It took a great deal of coping, adjusting, and compromising.

As a result, our perception of “normal” has shifted. And the expectations and needs of workers have changed, too.

Unsurprisingly, many people aren’t happy to go “back to normal.”

“The great resignation”

One study found that nearly three in 10 employees (29 percent) would quit their jobs if they were told they were no longer allowed to work remotely.

That’s why the current situation is being dubbed “the great resignation” or “the resignation boom.

Even now, amid continuing uncertainty, people are willing to leave their place of employment in favor of greater flexibility.

Ignoring employees’ needs will only risk demotivating staff, eroding company culture, and increasing turnover.

Is WFH here to stay?

Although working from home is far from perfect, it’s impossible to ignore the benefits of remote work.

Trusting employees to work remotely is empowering.

This leads to motivation, loyalty, and productivity. In fact, studies show that people who worked from home during the pandemic maintained, or exceeded, productivity levels.

The real question is, do your people actually want to work from home?

One study found that 89 percent of people want to work from home at least some of the time after the crisis ends.

However, the same research found that it is actually flexibility that most workers are interested in, not a wholesale rejection of the traditional office model.

Only a relatively small proportion of workers–one in four–would switch to a completely remote work model if they could.

Remember that these are general studies. What happens in your company depends on your own research.

As noted in a recent TalentCulture blog by HR specialist Cheryl Halverson: “It’s imperative to understand employees’ needs and hopes for this new world of work. You can achieve this through active listening via focus groups, ongoing employee pulse surveys, employee advisory groups, and honest discussions between managers and direct reports.”

Armed with these insights, Halverson recommends using them to co-create “an envisioned future.”

This is a future where employees are involved in the development, understanding, and communication of that future so they can adopt, advocate for, and believe in it.

Moving forward, flexibly

For those companies that choose a flexible future, this can manifest itself in various ways.

Hybrid work

Considered the best of both worlds, a hybrid model combines two or three days each week working from home with the rest of the time in the office. This provides plenty of in-person collaboration with the benefits of a reduced commute and home-based flexibility. Some studies show that the sweet spot is two days of remote work each week.

Hub and spoke

Rather than bringing workers back to a central office, employers can utilize coworking spaces or other branch offices to provide a workplace that’s near their employees’ homes. By decentralizing, workers can still enjoy a reduced commute but are free from any home-based distractions.

Full-time remote work

Some companies have shifted to a full-time remote work policy. It’s an extreme move, but after more than a year of working from home, these employers have had plenty of time to fine-tune their strategy.

Alternative options

Some companies that continue to work remotely may want to keep a central office, mainly as a collaboration hub for team meetings or simply to “keep up appearances.”

However, retaining an office lease for the primary reason of keeping a physical presence is an expensive option.

As an alternative, some companies are now switching to a virtual office solution.

A virtual office provides companies with a head office address, a place to receive mail, and access to on-site meeting rooms and private offices when required.

However, the cost is considerably lower because the company doesn’t rent physical office space full-time. Instead, they only rent the address.

When physical space is required, it’s available on a pay-as-you-go basis.

This way, companies can keep an active presence in a specific location without the cost of maintaining a physical office.

The virtual office model has been around for decades, but in response to the pandemic, the popularity of virtual office centers has grown considerably.

The near future of work

Going forward, we can expect to see a medley of workplace models and trends.

Rather than a dominating trend, the future of work is a sliding scale.

At one end is the full-time corporate office, at the other is home-based remote work, and somewhere in the middle is the hybrid work option: the happy medium.

Various strategies accompany this sliding scale, including the use of virtual offices and on-demand meeting room rentals.

What’s absolutely clear is that, following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the future of work is being influenced by those who really matter: your people.

You have the opportunity to co-create a new, positive culture and a stronger future for your company.

What comes next depends on your individual organization and the individuals you employ within your organization. Finally, the choice is where it belongs: in the hands of the people.

 

This post is sponsored by Alliance Virtual.

Trends That Define the Post-Pandemic Workforce [Podcast]

The pandemic taught us a lot about ourselves. Like how many of us don’t need to go into an office to be productive. That flexibility and benefits are more valuable to employees than a pay raise. How talent management doesn’t actually have to happen in person, but that HR can bridge the remote work management gap with technology.

While it can be difficult to predict what else we’ll learn in a post-pandemic world, facts like these require businesses to adjust and grow right now. As we watch a new work landscape unfold before our eyes, HR professionals are readying themselves to traverse it as best they can. They’re tracking post-pandemic workforce trends and supporting their organizations as they navigate changes and prepare for the future.

Our Guest: HR Analyst and Content Expert Brian Westfall

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Brian Westfall, principal HR analyst at Capterra. He covers the latest trends in HR and recruiting software, supporting Capterra’s mission to help business clients find the right software for them. He is a thought-leader in his field, and his research has been published in Forbes, SHRM, TechRepublic, and TIME.

What have we ultimately learned from the pandemic? For one, Brian says, we’ve learned that work doesn’t have to look like it always has: wake up, get ready, drive to the office, come back home. Remote work can get the job done too–sometimes even better than in-office.

“This past year, a lot of businesses were thrown into the deep end with remote work. And I think they realized the water’s not so bad,” Brian says. “I think we’re going to look back at the pandemic as one of those moments where we reassessed all those sacred cows of talent management. Employees don’t have to be in the office to work effectively.”

With the understanding that employees can be productive while remote, there’s also been a surge in HR tech for managing remote workers–and recruiting them. In fact, HR technology has been a driving force in DEI efforts over the last year.

“When HR leaders were asked what they were doing to make their organizations more diverse and inclusive, DNI software tools came in as the second most cited program or initiative they were going to incorporate–only behind hiring quotas,” Brain says. “Organizations now have access to job description tools to remove biased language. They have candidate assessment tools that offer blind hiring modes. Tech is extremely useful for bringing in diverse candidates to create a more inclusive workforce.” 

Burnout and Skills Development: The Focus of Post-Pandemic Workplaces

Of course, while the pandemic showed that we can optimize tech and increase productivity, it didn’t eliminate other issues, like burnout.

“Seventy-seven percent of small business employees in the U.S. experienced at least some burnout last year. For those aged 18 to 25, that number jumps to 92 percent,” Brian says. “Worse, only seven percent of employees reached out to their manager or HR to let them know they were experiencing burnout. Because of this, I think we’ll see companies being more proactive about mental health resources.” 

While productivity among some employees increased while working from home during the pandemic, that doesn’t mean their skills increased too. In fact, according to Brian, 49 percent of small business employees have not developed any new skills during COVID. Fortunately, there are easy ways to implement development programs and manage these issues in a post-pandemic workforce.

“Workers are behind in skill development. And as roles get more complex, businesses are going to hunker down on skills development programs,” Brian says. “Because of tech, it has never been easier for businesses to set up formalized, complex learning and development programs. The tools are there. The content is there. I think it’s only going to make more sense over time.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about post-pandemic workforce trends and HR future predictions by connecting with Brian Westfall on LinkedIn.

Freshen Up Remote Culture for Work and Play [Podcast]

Eighty percent of employees say they want to work from home at least part-time. And three in four consider remote work the “new normal.” In an attempt to stay competitive, organizations everywhere are offering totally remote and hybrid work options to current and potential employees.

While it’s great that companies are accommodating employee needs, a new issue is arising: How do we maintain a remote culture that keeps employees engaged, even from afar?

Our Guest: Creative Entrepreneur Jeremy Parker

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I chatted with Jeremy Parker. He’s an entrepreneur who was named to Crain’s Class of 2020 NY 40 under 40 list. Jeremy formed the Creative Promotional Product Division under MV Sport. He also helped start Vowch Commonwealth and is currently co-founder and CEO of Swag.com, a swag distribution company that supports a healthy remote culture.

Jeremy understands that who you work with is just as important as what you’re working on, especially in the case of startups. According to Jeremy, a great remote culture starts with the recruiting process and finding the right people for what your business needs right now.

“When onboarding new hires, it’s important to find the right culture fit, especially for startups. Different employees are required for different stages of a business life cycle,” Jeremy says. 

And of course, he adds, before offering someone a role, you have to consider the candidate as a person, and determine if they will be truly happy at the company and empowered by the work.

“I think the most important thing across the board is making sure the people you hire really care about what they’re doing. That they’re willing to work hard. They need to feel passionate about the work and feel ownership over it,” Jeremy says.

Bring Remote Workers Together with Pocket Offices and Swag

Once the right remote employees are hired, how do you make them feel connected even when they’re far away? One strategy: Offer them swag.

“If you see somebody wearing a shirt representing your favorite sports team or college, you have an instant connection. It’s the same thing within a company,” Jeremy says. “If you’re wearing the same things, it brings people together around a shared purpose and mission.” 

Also, getting creative with events for remote workers is crucial. While employees may be located all over the world, it’s still possible to offer in-person opportunities for bonding.

“Instead of having one central hub and making employees drive two hours each way, find little pocket offices in different locations. So even if remote employees can’t meet everybody at the company in person, people can get out of the house and collaborate with others,” Jeremy says. “Everyone’s feeling isolated (especially with COVID). So whatever you can do to bring people together and create unity is important.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about fostering employee connections in a remote culture by reaching out to Jeremy Parker on LinkedIn.

How Payroll and HR Evolved During the Pandemic

What do you think of when someone mentions payroll? Does your mind immediately conjure up an employee asking you for help regarding incorrect calculations and missed deadlines? Or do you imagine payroll as a strategic partner sitting beside HR at the boardroom table offering up valuable insights?

If you think of payroll as nothing more than a routine function, then you’d be forgiven for not being the first. For a long time, payroll hasn’t taken center stage. Regarded as an administrative back-office function, payroll was often forgotten about. And it certainly wasn’t part of the bigger strategic picture. Unless there was an issue with payment or incorrect calculations, payroll carried on as usual. But the recent events of the pandemic transformed payroll’s hierarchy, boosting its importance. Payroll and HR evolved together over the last year. Forward-thinking business leaders need to take note.

Payroll and the Pandemic

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic first started to disrupt businesses around the globe. The first lockdown began, and as part of the restrictions in the UK, many companies closed their premises. Employees were suddenly furloughed and talent was sent to work from their homes to abide by the local lockdown laws. With that, payroll was thrust into the limelight.

In the beginning, there was panic. Smaller in-house payroll teams didn’t have adequate staff to process payroll if their team members were absent from work due to sickness. In addition, companies relying on legacy technology or on-premises equipment struggled with the switch to remote working. Without this critical business function and the skilled payroll workers delivering it, people didn’t get paid, and businesses came to a halt.

As time went on, new and different challenges arose. Most other business functions had adapted to new ways of working at home, but payroll professionals were constantly battling complex legislation iterations. For example, in the UK, there were weekly changes to policy regarding furlough, statutory sick pay, holiday pay, and salary sacrifice. This became a challenge for even the most knowledgeable payroll professional and HR specialist. Without specialist knowledge or support, businesses were shooting in the dark. So payroll and HR evolved.

The Rise of HR

We talk about payroll’s rise to the top, but we can’t forget about HR. When organizations faced their most challenging time during the pandemic, HR teams led the way. Worried employees were desperate to understand the impact on their livelihoods, and it was HR that provided clarity. Business leaders were requesting workforce data and analytics to help steer their people through unchartered disruption, and it was HR that delivered it.

Payroll and HR are indeed very different functions that come from very different places. Yet when the two parts work together, they can help businesses gain a complete overview of the workforce. For instance, during the pandemic, many organizations needed to know how many of their staff members were absent from work due to sickness from COVID-19. They also needed to calculate if it was financially viable to keep workplaces open, or if they needed to claim employee wages through the UK government’s coronavirus job retention scheme. All answers to such questions can be found within payroll and HR together.

Payroll information touches so many HR elements, whether it’s attracting, on-boarding, developing, rewarding, or retaining talent. As a result, it’s become hard to separate the technology supporting both functions. This hasn’t always been the case, though.

Turning Crisis into Opportunity

Resilient businesses have robust payroll operations at the heart of their HR transformation strategies.

According to The Future of Work survey by SD Worx, ensuring smooth, efficient payroll calculations and payment is, by far, the biggest concern for HR professionals. This topped the list of 19 possible HR priorities in eight of the 11 countries surveyed–including the UK. Less than one in five said they were happy with their current function. And 70 percent are actively trying to set up a more efficient process. This is clearly an area of concern, particularly when you consider that HR will always struggle to perform more strategic functions without the solid foundation that payroll provides.

Often, payroll isn’t the trigger for change but comes about as part of a broader transformation. For example, businesses implementing a new global HR solution may need to change their approach to payroll to comply with local laws and ensure both functions are integrated seamlessly.

Paying people accurately and on time are only the basics of payroll. Savvy organizations arrange their payroll function to be more efficient, strategic, and fluid with other departments. Sharing data through HR, payroll, and finance departments creates one single source of truth to aid business decisions and drive value.

In addition, payroll plays a more significant role in employee experience and brand reputation than you might think. An incorrectly paid employee may air their grievances on social media, providing long-lasting damage to your company’s reputation. Payroll can also impact new talent. Younger generations may prefer to receive dynamic payslips that they can access through an app, rather than paper or PDF payslips. Payroll and HR evolved during the pandemic to become even more aware of these factors.

The Future of Payroll and HR

While nobody can predict what the next five years will bring, we can be sure that payroll and HR evolved during the pandemic. Digitalization will accelerate the need for more real-time data for employers to review. Also, employees will continue to crave the same level of instant access they get with their personal technology, within their work technology.

Employees will demand more flexibility in working hours, work locations, and payroll. For instance, many organizations let employees choose how much of their monthly salary they receive and when. They don’t stick to rigid dates and complete payments.

Expectations of what HR can and should offer are now much higher. However, without strong processes and technology, it will be impossible for HR teams to keep everyone happy. It’s clear that any digital infrastructure that supports HR should build on the payroll function. Payroll remains the common denominator that touches everyone and influences almost everything in HR. With this solid foundation, HR has the strength required to flex to the needs of its workforce. And to enable new ways of working and embracing change.

 

HR in a Post-Pandemic World: Where Are We Headed?

As a human resources professional, you’re no stranger to thinking on your feet and solving complex problems. You never quite know what you’re going to get on a given day in the office. An employee complaint? Someone putting in their two-week notice? News of a budding office romance? These are run-of-the-mill challenges. But no one could have predicted what happened in 2020 and 2021. Or what will happen for HR in a post-pandemic world.

When COVID hit, HR professionals had a lot to figure out, from navigating the shift to remote work to managing furloughs and layoffs. Clients left, offices shut down, and employees struggled with their mental health the longer quarantines dragged on. A lot of unforeseen situations cropped up, and HR rose to the occasion.

In addition to solving the pandemic’s logistical challenges, HR departments answered the call to build more inclusive and diverse workforces as the U.S. became more aware of ongoing racial violence. Quite a few professionals felt like they needed to do more to help their industries and companies focus on representation and accessibility. So, they juggled their day-to-day responsibilities and developed companywide diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

The role of HR is evolving. Today’s professionals are talent managers, counselors, and advisors. As we enter the era of the post-pandemic world, it will be critical for everyone to embrace these changes. Here’s what you can expect to do going forward.

1. Renew your company’s focus on diversity and inclusion.

As the world reopens, HR professionals are renewing their focus on finding diverse talent for their firms. If you’re in this position, take the time to search for candidates with diverse backgrounds. Try posting your job listings on several platforms for a set amount of time to ensure that various applicants can find you. This will help you widen the voices and perspectives at your company. It will also demonstrate to your current employees that this is a priority, which 86 percent of employees strongly value, according to the Citrix Talent Accelerator report.

Another way to improve diversity and inclusion in a post-pandemic world is to consider your internal development and internship programs. How does your company handle promotions? Without an explicit selection or application process, unconscious bias can creep in. Where do you look for interns? For instance, if you’re an agency, you might usually bring on marketing students from a local university. But if you only recruit from that university, you limit your candidate pool to its demographics. Try advertising your internships through organizations that reach BIPOC folks.

2. Create and enforce new work-from-home policies.

When the world shut down in 2020, HR professionals sprung into action to create updated work-from-home policies. In the past, they may have allowed people in specific roles to work from home occasionally or on certain days. Suddenly, they had to find ways to make everyone’s jobs remote.

That alone was an accomplishment, but it also created countless questions about the future of work. People are accustomed to working from home now, and they hope to telecommute a day or two a week after the pandemic is over. According to the same Citrix report discussed above, about 88 percent of workers say complete flexibility in hours and location will be an important consideration in future job searches. As an HR professional, it is your responsibility to decide what’s best for your employees and create policies accordingly.

3. Address mental health concerns.

Mental health was a significant concern during the pandemic—and for a good reason. People were completely isolated from family, friends, and co-workers for months on end. They had to deal with unprecedented obstacles in their work and personal lives, and they had to give up many of their routines and hobbies without warning. This affected many individuals’ mental health in significant ways.

With this in mind, it will be essential to help employees set boundaries for turning off their laptops and taking time away from the office. As an HR professional, the best thing you can do is lead by example. Don’t answer emails after a particular time of day, and communicate your boundaries with employees. While you’re at it, tap into any resources you recommend to your workforce. And if you’re one of the 61 percent of employers that offer mental health benefits, be sure to communicate what’s available to everyone in the company.

The past year or so has been one for the books. HR professionals had to deal with a seemingly endless list of unforeseen challenges, but there was a silver lining. These issues challenged HR departments to revisit their cultures and policies, helping them understand the importance of prioritizing diversity and inclusion, flexibility, and employee mental health. In a post-pandemic world, it will be important to embrace these responsibilities and usher in a new future for HR.

What Corporate India Can Teach Us About COVID Response

Since time immemorial, the one question that has dogged management gurus is: What is the main purpose of business? Is it to make profits? To generate returns for shareholders? Or serve the community? While the jury is still out on what the answer is, last month in India, we edged closer to the truth.

For those not in the know, the months of April and May 2021 saw a second and extremely deadly wave of the coronavirus pandemic engulf India. In spite of its large expanse and population of over 1.4 billion, the country had somehow managed to survive the first wave in 2020. By early 2021, the situation seemed to be under control. And leaders and ordinary citizens alike seemed to have been lulled into complacency. Then suddenly the virus spread quickly.

The result was tragic. Following a rapidly increasing trajectory, the daily lives lost figure crossed the staggering 400,000-mark by April’s end. In a nation where health care standards vary dramatically across urban and rural centers, the consequences for people, especially at the lower economic levels of society, were debilitating.

Corporate India Rises to the Occasion

It was then that some of us in corporate India saw something that we had never seen before. We witnessed an organic movement that spread contagiously much like the coronavirus against which it rose. It strengthened each one of us and lit up hope in our fatigued hearts. So, what exactly did we see?

We saw corporate India rise to the occasion by deploying their ingenuity, resources (people, technological and financial), and might to supplement the government’s efforts in the war against the pandemic. Some of the key stand-out support mechanisms were:

Financial Support

Organizations loosened their wallets like never before. While some already had their employees covered under Group Insurance Plans, others stepped up to roll these out. Special COVID treatment insurance packages introduced by some of the big insurance players were quickly offered to employees. Apart from this, organizations also enabled reimbursement of expenses not covered under the restrictive insurance packages. Not only this, but many organizations also donated freely to causes and institutions that were serving the needy. India Inc. also saw the introduction of the “bereavement policy.” Rolled out by many large companies such as the reputed Tata Group, this new addition to the HR policies was aimed at supporting family members who lost an earning member to this horrible virus.

Material Support

The second wave also exposed a huge lacuna in the country’s medical infrastructure. This is quite strange for a nation seen as the world’s “pharma factory.” There were inadequate beds and a shortage of medicines and critical life-saving equipment. Once again, global organizations activated their international linkages to procure devices like oxygen concentrators. These were hurriedly imported into the country and sent across to their employees’ doorsteps. Larger IT behemoths like Wipro converted some of their sprawling campuses into makeshift Covid-care centers. They worked closely with the authorities to ensure that non-critical parents did not clog up the already stretched mainstream hospitals.

Manpower Support

With the immense pressure on the healthcare ecosystem and the resultant shortages, even securing basic facilities like COVID testing at home or procuring critical medicines became an ordeal. For caregivers already stretched and worried about the inflicted patient(s), this is a big hurdle to cross when wanting to help loved one(s) recover. To solve this piece, organizations such as the global provider of marketing solutions, Interpublic, put together internal “task forces.” These operated much like a call center. Employees could call in and place a request and an army of their colleagues would work the phones and crawl the Internet to find a solution for them.

Emotional Support

Senior leaders in Indian industry were quick to realize that their people needed emotional support. In many cases, the HR personnel became the conduits that provided this support to their colleagues. Techniques used include regular check-ins, well-being seminars by experts, and additional leave allowances. In many cases, companies tied up with specialized organizations, providing counseling services 24/7.

Optimism for India’s Corporate Future

More heartening, however, is this fact. Employees aren’t the only ones who reaped benefits. Many organizations also donated freely to causes and institutions serving the needy. One of the country’s largest and respected organizations, Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), a subsidiary of global major, Unilever, launched Mission HO2PE. In partnership with the not-for-profit organization, KVN Foundation, and Portea, India’s largest home healthcare company, HUL made available free oxygen concentrators for anyone needing them.

In essence, for all those employed by organizations in the private sector, it is reassuring to know that employers in corporate India have their backs. For others, it signals that help is around the corner. It gave hope to a nation’s people. In my opinion, hope can make us move mountains. It provides us the courage and endurance to move forward even in the most adverse situations. This is what corporate India’s benevolence ended up doing.

New CDC Vaccine Guidelines: What They Legally Mean for Employers

According to new CDC vaccine guidelines, vaccinated individuals can now safely gather indoors without a face covering. This is an exciting development after more than a year spent at home. Employers and employees alike are sorting through the implications. What does it mean for employees who are unable to get vaccinated or choose not to get vaccinated? Or those who feel uncomfortable gathering without masks, regardless of their vaccine status? What does it mean for employers when employees decline vaccination or push back against health and safety measures?

The CDC vaccine guidelines are the beginning of a much anticipated, albeit slow, reopening of the country. However, they also present employers and HR departments with more complicated scenarios to navigate. The legal and scientific landscapes continue to evolve. Because of this, employers find themselves hitting a gray area regarding how to handle these new guidelines in tandem with the needs, beliefs, objections, and safety of their workforce.

Companies around the country are eager to open their doors and welcome employees back in. But as more organizations consider lifting mask mandates and implementing vaccine passports and COVID-19 tracking programs, there are several key issues for employers to keep in mind.

Encourage or mandate COVID-19 vaccines

Business leaders and HR departments must determine if and how to mandate vaccination. The CDC vaccine guidelines encompass only those who have been fully vaccinated as safe to congregate. While most experts agree that employer vaccine mandates and subsequent potential passport programs are lawful absent state or local bans, there are specific employee rights to consider. For example, employers must make necessary accommodations for those unable to get a vaccine for reasons such as disability or a sincerely held religious belief. Any employer vaccine program up for consideration must fully comply with anti-discrimination laws. This is to ensure that accommodations are provided to those who need them under federal, state, and sometimes even local law.

In addition, we are starting to see more legal challenges to vaccine mandates. As of this writing, none have been successful. Many of them cite the emergency use authorization status of the vaccines available in the U.S. They also cite a portion of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that requires that recipients be informed about benefits/risks/unknowns, their right to refuse, and the consequences of refusal. However, there is no private right of action authorizing employees to sue employers under that statute. Also, there is no specific provision that prohibits termination as a consequence for those who refuse.

Although the litigation challenging vaccine mandates seems likely to fail, a successful legal defense is costly all the same. Moreover, even without litigation, vaccine mandates present legal complications in wage and hour, workers’ compensation, and other areas. As a result, most employers are strongly encouraging vaccination rather than imposing a mandate.

Know your audience and communicate properly

Whatever approach an employer takes, considering where employees are based––including remote workers––is critical. Because federal law and regulations concerning the pandemic provide limited guidance, state and local law may have a major impact on specific employer obligations and employee rights. Moreover, because some states and cities have been more successful than others at curbing the infection rate, a uniform solution across state lines may not be the best tactic.

Employers must recognize that jurisdictions have varied in their approach to vaccine mandates. For example, Montana now recognizes vaccination status as a protected class under its anti-discrimination laws. Employers cannot refuse to employ or otherwise discriminate against employees or applicants on the basis of vaccination status or possession of a vaccine passport. In addition, employers cannot mandate vaccines that have only obtained emergency authorization status or are subject to ongoing safety trials. In other words, mandatory vaccination policies are unlawful in Montana. Conversely, Santa Clara County, California has issued an order under which all businesses and governmental bodies must determine the vaccination status of all personnel as of June 2, 2021, and maintain relevant records. Those who are unvaccinated or who refuse to provide proof of vaccination must wear masks and remove themselves from the work location in the wake of COVID-19 exposure.

Having determined the best approach in light of legal risks, employers should focus their attention on getting the word out in a way that works for the corporate culture. There is no escaping the fact that the issue is sensitive and highly politicized. For some, continuing to require masks for vaccinated individuals despite CDC vaccine guidelines runs the risk of negatively impacting the way employees view their employers. This is especially true in states that may have opened up more than others.

Ensuring ultimate safety and success

HR managers should develop an intimate understanding of how different populations may respond to certain regulations and effectively communicate down the line. They should offer opportunities to ask questions and obtain additional information. Thoughtful, accessible, and regular communication about vaccine requirements and health and safety protocols can be helpful. Employees will be able to better understand why decisions are being made and have greater confidence in the company overall.

Obviously, employers are faced with unique and complicated questions about vaccination and health and safety measures as we navigate out of the pandemic. Whatever strategy an employer adopts, they must consider state and federal law, possible risk, and employee morale. Employers should consider their reopening goals and ask the following:

  1. What am I hoping to achieve as employees come back into the workplace?
  2. Is the best approach to get to 100 percent in-person operations as soon as possible?
  3. Is my aim to continue some portion of a remote workforce for a more staggered and safer return to work?
  4. Am I ready to completely reimagine expectations for a hybrid remote/in-person workforce?

Employers need to determine what the goals are upfront and include stakeholders from across the business. From there, they need to familiarize themselves with legal requirements. Then create a comprehensive program to achieve those objectives. Also, they need to adopt a functional and sensible means to communicate it to all relevant parties. Employers are excited to safely reopen their doors and welcome their workforce back in. But as they do so, it’s essential to understand possible risks and adjust to a changing legal landscape. They also need to take steps to ensure that the employer’s approach protects the business and employees alike.

 

Image Provided by Southworks

Strategies for Managing Workplace Reintegration [#WorkTrends]

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, one question has been on everyone’s minds: When can we go back to normal? Of course, many areas are seeing cases and hospitalizations drop. And more of us are getting vaccinated. So that question has become: When can we go back to work? Or, from the perspective of employers: How will the best companies safely begin the workplace reintegration process while reducing risk and taking good care of employees?

Unfortunately, this issue comes with a great deal of gray area — especially among workers that remain concerned for their safety. So on this episode of #WorkTrends, we set out to learn the answers to these questions. And we had just the right person to ask…

Our Guest: Phillip Maltin, Commercial & Employment Risk Control Attorney

Joining us on #WorkTrends this week is Phillip Maltin, a trial lawyer for litigation powerhouse Raines Feldman LLP. Phil is Chair of the firm’s Commercial & Employment Risk Control Department, which provides advice, counseling and trial representation in employment and commercial matters. 

Early in our conversation, I asked Phil a question on the minds of many business and HR leaders: Can an employee — perhaps due to a fear of catching the virus — refuse to come back to work? Phil’s answer shows us just how carefully companies must approach this and other sensitive issues:

“The employer gets to control the workplace. If they need the employee to come back, that person’s got to come back. But if the employee has a disability — an auto-immune deficiency that puts that person at greater risk to one of the COVID variants, perhaps — the employee and employer must enter the interactive process required by state and local laws.” In other words, an employer must assume there may be no two situations exactly the same — and they must be ready to take each case one at a time. Phil’s advice: Engage directly with the employee by saying:

“Let’s talk about the things we can do for you that will help you get the job done — and help you get back here safely.”

Workplace Reintegration: Focus on Respect

Phil and I went on to talk about many other elements of a successful return to work strategy, including how to handle workers who wish to stay remote. We also discussed how the harsh political landscape and headline issues like social justice and sexual harassment might impact the workplace once we’re back in the office. Phil continued to dispense solid advice:

“We must remind folks of their obligation to treat people with respect. To honor the feelings and choices of others and to support anti-harassment and discrimination policies. Go through this with the common theme of respecting each other.”

As you know, the process of workplace reintegration won’t be easy. But after listening to this important episode of #WorkTrends, please take Phil’s advice — and treat everyone with the respect they’ve earned since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Want to follow Phil’s work and benefit from more of his wisdom? Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter

 

Image by G-Stock Studios

How Small Companies Can Be Recruiting Contenders During COVID

Hiring during the prolonged COVID-19 crisis hasn’t gotten any easier. This is especially true for smaller companies struggling to be recruiting contenders without necessarily having access to all the latest and greatest HR technology.

As many small business leaders have learned over the last year or so, the ability to attract top talent takes more than just a posting on a job board. They also know that old-school approaches like a sign in a storefront window go largely ignored. So how do small businesses compete with larger companies for talented recruits without the luxury of high-end recruiting platforms? And without internal recruiters or head-hunters to conduct searches and interview candidates?

There are some cost-effective ways for small-business owners to compete. For example, here are some areas to focus on:

  • Entice candidates by making it easy to apply (think mobile)
  • Recruit the best for your unique business
  • Introduce other team members into the interview process
  • Interview with a goal in mind
  • Make great offers and hire people who compliment your business

Here are some other areas to focus on to help your small business be a recruiting contender.

Try New Technology

You may not have a huge software budget for hiring. But there are affordable recruiting software options designed for small businesses. And they are a better solution than relying on an email inbox and a spreadsheet. The appropriate technology can help you vet candidates and become better organized. HR Tech can also expedite the hiring process, so you don’t lose good candidates by moving too slowly. 

Many of the most recent HR tech entries are built for the little guys as much as they are enterprise-level organizations. This includes recruiting software, which can help any smaller business become recruiting contenders. 

Showcase Local

You may not have the recruiting power of being a large conglomerate. But you, most likely, have greater flexibility that comes with being a local business. So your hiring pitch, especially as the pandemic continues to be an issue, should be based on staying local with no need to relocate. The pitch to candidates should emphasize the availability of remote work, a focus on family, and flexible hours. Talk also about direct access to management and mentorship. Also, discuss opportunities for advancement, continuous learning opportunities, and community involvement. 

Another option many small businesses overlook is altering their hiring strategies. So rather than putting all your recruiting eggs in one job board basket, think local. For example, visit colleges in your area to get to know the guidance counselors. Then ask them to pass along your information to promising young graduates. Social media can also be beneficial; it’s a great tool to leverage employment options that benefit you and the community.

Go Where New Talent Goes

Members of Gen Z are the first true “digital natives” in society. They grew up with all the latest innovations, including smartphones, the internet, social media, and mobile real-time connections. So they expect to have a digital relationship with any potential employer. As members of Generation Z move into the workforce, the hiring mindset of smaller companies wishing to be recruiting contenders must move with them.

What is one of the most significant issues with small businesses when attempting to attract young talent? Failing to hang out where new talent hangs out. As Liz Frazier once wrote at Forbes, “22% of recruiters surveyed have already invested in new recruitment advertising techniques like Snapchat, and text message-based recruiting.” So jump out of your comfort zone. And learn how Snapchat and TikTok can help you recruit and hire new talent.

Becoming Recruiting Contenders: Expand Your Thinking

Look beyond the hard skills and experience of the people you interview. In addition to them having the right degree or technical skills, think about how they will complement your business. Broaden your thinking to include people who are a culture add in addition to being a culture fit

Being a culture-add means bringing something different to the position, whether it’s a new experience, a new vision, a new approach, or just a fresh perspective. An employee who is a culture add accentuates what already exists in your workplace culture; they also bring a different dimension that is sorely needed. Who knows, you might even find someone really good at Snapchat or TikTok!

As a small-business owner, competition has always been fierce when it comes to hiring top talent.

Now, during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, every small company must be at the top of its recruiting game.

Photo by MIA Studios

Should Business Leaders Be Worried About the New COVID Strains?

Should business leaders be worried about the new COVID strains originating in the UK, South Africa, Brazil, and elsewhere — and recently identified in the US?

The authorities have focused on downplaying concerns about vaccine effectiveness against these new variants. While some legitimate concerns exist that our vaccines might be 10-20% less effective against the new strains, this small difference shouldn’t make you too worried.

However, another aspect of these new variants should make you very worried indeed: they’re much more infectious. Unfortunately, the implications of their infectiousness have received little news coverage.

In fact, some officials claim there’s no cause for alarm about the new strains. Such complacency reflects our sleepwalking in the pandemic’s early stages, despite numerous warnings from myself and other risk management experts, leading us to fail to plan accordingly.

Are the New COVID Strains Really More Infectious?

Researchers describe the UK and Brazil strains as anywhere from 56 percent to 70 percent more infectious, and the South African strain even more infectious. The new UK variant quickly came to dominate the old strain of COVID in Southeast England, going from less than 1% of all tested samples at the start of November to over two-thirds by mid-December.

S Gene Variant

Image courtesy of BBC

To corroborate this research, we can compare new daily COVID cases per million people over the last several weeks in the UK, South Africa, US, Canada, Italy, and France.

confirmed COVID-19 cases

Image courtesy of Our World In Data

Only the UK and South Africa have seen a significant spike; Brazil is not far behind. The UK’s numbers doubled over two weeks from 240 on December 10 to 506 on December 24; South Africa’s case numbers similarly doubled in that period from 86 to 182. Given no significant policy changes or other viable explanations, the new COVID variants are almost certainly to blame.

Why We Ignore Slow-Moving Train Wrecks

Our minds aren’t well adapted to processing the implications of these seemingly-abstract numbers. We fall into dangerous judgment errors that scholars in cognitive neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics like myself call cognitive biases. Specifically, we suffer from the tendency to focus on the short-term and minimize the importance of longer-term outcomes. Known as hyperbolic discounting, this cognitive bias causes us to underestimate the eventual impacts of clear trends, such as a more infectious strain of COVID.

The normalcy bias results in us feeling that things will generally keep going as they have been — normally. As a result, we underestimate the likelihood of another severe disruption occurring.

When we develop plans, we feel that the future will follow our plan. That mental blindspot — the planning fallacy — threatens our ability to prepare effectively for and pivot quickly when facing risks and problems, such as the new strains.

The Implications of Much Higher Infectiousness

The new strains likely arrived here by mid-November, with hundreds of probable cases by now. Based on the UK’s timeline, South Africa, and now Brazil, the new variants will become predominant here by March or April.

The US has maintained a daily new case count of just over 200,000 from December 10 to December 24. Imagine what happens when this starts shooting up rapidly as the new strains start to overtake the old strains, eventually doubling every two weeks when the new variants become predominant.

Hospital systems in California, Texas, and other states are already overwhelmed. The terrible March 2020 outbreak in New York City will seem like a summer shower compared to the upcoming tsunami that will flood our medical systems. Moreover, the surge will undoubtedly cause major supply shortages and hammer industries such as travel and hospitality.

Might vaccines help? Due to the timing of the rollout, not until summer 2021.

What about government lockdowns? Not likely. The extreme politicization, widespread protests, and severe economic pain from lockdowns make politicians very reluctant to impose the kind of severe lockdown necessary to fight the new strains. Even if some do, mass public non-compliance will make lockdowns ineffective.

What Can You Do?

As a trusted leader, be prepared to help your team deal with the impact of new COVID strains:

  • Communicate to them about the new strains; encourage them to take the steps necessary to protect their own households
  • Strongly encourage your employees to take advantage of mental health resources offered to prepare for further trauma
  • Coordinate with HR on how to adapt to much higher cases of COVID within your team — and ask them to look for burnout caused by the ongoing pandemic and any new surge
  • Ensure cross-training for key positions
  • If you haven’t already, transition to your team working from home as much as possible
  • Revisit your business continuity plan to prepare for mass disruptions in the spring and summer
  • Prepare for disruptions to your supply chains and service providers, as well as travel disruptions and event cancellations

By taking these steps early, and by paying attention to new workplace trends, you will have a major competitive advantage over your competitors who fail to prepare.

Don’t Let New COVID Strains Surprise You

We’re in for a world of pain this spring and early summer. The situation may feel unreal, or at least too much of an extension of the stress we’ve all gone through. But that’s simply our cognitive biases telling us to ignore a genuine problem — just like they did early in the pandemic.

Don’t let your business ignore this new warning — and be caught off guard, again.

 

Photo by Vadym Pastukh

The Post-Pandemic Workplace: How to Onboard New Staff Effectively

Once the pandemic is behind us, and in what will be a blended work environment, what will be the best way to onboard new staff?

Due to the broad repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, employment went through fundamental upheaval in 2020. Many businesses shut down (mothballing their assets or simply moving on entirely), causing the loss (or furloughing) of many jobs. The result: throughout the world, national economies have gone into recession.

Despite all the negativity, though, some industries have been able to endure with aplomb. And now that we’re all familiar with the unique demands of operating in these times, companies are again looking to expand. Investing in growth at this point is a risk, but it’s a calculated risk — and one that might offer a huge pay off in the coming months.

It doesn’t hurt that many talented professionals struggle to find work due to the layoffs mentioned above. This reality puts businesses in strong hiring positions. That said, getting the hiring process right isn’t just about finding the best candidates. It’s also about onboarding them effectively. Fail to do onboard new staff right — under our new working conditions — and you won’t just see productivity issues. Frustrated by your failures as an employer, you’ll also see new hires leaving for greener pastures as soon as they can.

In this post, we’re going to look at some actions you can take to ensure that your onboarding process is as smooth and enjoyable as possible. As a result, you’ll bolster productivity and make new team members more likely to feel welcome and settled. Let’s get going.

Promptly Deliver Necessary Office Equipment

For reasons of security and convenience, your employees shouldn’t be using their personal laptops (they may not even own personal laptops). And they shouldn’t be asked to use their own cell phones for company business. So deliver office productivity devices as soon as you’ve confirmed new hires. After all, they may need to get used to them, particularly if they’re not tech-savvy. Giving them time to adjust will certainly help.

Keep in mind that there’s more to working from home than having the right laptop and phone, however. A good home office will have at least one external display, a USB, comfortable peripherals (mouse and keyboard in particular), and a decent office chair. So instead of waiting until someone’s been working for you for some time, ask them early on what kind of setup they’d like. Then make it happen. This proactive step is great for morale and makes the employee feel immediately valued.

Provide a Comprehensive List of Essential Resources

Every business uses various resources regularly. First, there are those it relies upon for business matters (tools, services, etc.). Most are fairly standard, such as task management tools or time-trackers (like HourStack).

Others, though, such as social media or email marketing (on the occasions that someone needs a tool such as Mailchimp), will only come up situationally. Still, the new employee must know the company login). Employers must also consider situational resources when planning post-pandemic onboarding. For instance, the massive uptick in jobs for delivery drivers means business fuel cards (the kind detailed on sites like iCompario) might also be critical additions.

Then there are those resources provided solely to help employees — the perks. Existing employees will know and appreciate many of them. Some benefits, though, won’t because they were never explicitly pointed out. This is often the case with perks added since the beginning of the pandemic, like learning resources and health and wellness programs.

To keep this process simple, maintain a list of all resources, links, and logins. Then ensure you give every new hire access as soon as possible, reducing the likelihood new employees will get stuck early on. It also ensures they can start taking advantage of the perks that will help them and make them more productive.

Introduce Each New Hire

One of the biggest problems with the remote-working era is the lack of in-person contact. Even for people who often got frustrated commuting to work and dealing with office noise, the total absence of contact with colleagues can be dispiriting (online contact is great, but it just isn’t the same). It also makes it much more challenging for new hires to get to know their teammates; –and they can feel left out of the loop in siloed or non-interactive Zoom calls.

It will take time, but when setting out to onboard new staff schedule a team meeting for every new hire. Please don’t settle for everyone getting on camera and calling it a day. Instead, have everyone explain what they do and how they like to work. These micro conversations often flag some common ground, sparking some further discussion that forms valuable bonds.

Additionally, within a couple of weeks, ensure every person in the team, department, or smaller business has at least one direct conversation with each new hire. Even if someone isn’t actually going to be working alongside that employee, they should at least know who they are and the role they play. This small investment in relationship building will increase the new employee’s comfort level and make it easier for people to collaborate in the future.

Make Expectations Clear

Lastly, be extremely clear about what you expect from every new employee. They should already know what their intended role is, of course. But they won’t be able to fulfill all their duties right away — not to the needed level, at least. It’ll take them time to get up to speed and start producing the desired results. The question, then, is: What do you need until then?

Don’t explain what you expect them to accomplish in the first month? They’ll be far more likely to worry that they’re not doing enough (or that they’re doing the wrong things). This negatively affects any new employee’s overall performance, making it a self-fulfilling concern. In essence, let them know that you don’t expect the world from them right away.

For now, all you want is them to do is produce decent work. They will get faster and better over time, of course. But you don’t need them to hit any critical deadlines or achieve anything too remarkable yet.

As you onboard new staff in a post-pandemic world of work, keep these tips in mind. New team members will appreciate your extra effort.

And you’ll benefit from higher productivity, better interpersonal relationships, and stronger retention.

 

Photo from Welcomia

Executive Onboarding During the Pandemic: Both Pitfall and Opportunity

Talent managers, human resources practitioners, and executive coaches continue to perfect work-from-home and make it the new norm. As they do, they find a hidden pitfall in their work becoming more evident each day. We’re talking about executive onboarding – specifically, for those new team members C-Suite and just below.

So how, in a remote world of work, does the new team member get to know their new colleagues?

Let’s say you just started that new position in the (now virtual) executive suite. You are looking to become part of the team quickly. Chances are you have already thought about how you are going to talk to your direct reports. You have a sense of how to communicate and collaborate, of course. To help matters, your new boss and you have already figured out how you will interact. As some of our clients initially thought, there is a general sense of feeling good about their new situation. And yet, the piece that is missing is an important one.

The fact is we miss the opportunity to connect in person – especially as the new addition. And we haven’t yet learned how to get to know our peers in the organization while working remotely.

Executive Onboarding: A Challenge Even in “Normal” Times

As is the case when working in-person at an office, remote teams and group leaders tend to become siloed. After all, when working alone, it is easy to become narrowly focused on our own departments. Although a natural occurrence, this makes it difficult for the new chief marketing officer, for example, to know much about what the chief financial officer is doing.

Scheduling video calls with equals is not typically on executives’ wavelengths. But in today’s world of work, it should be – it must be. Because when the left-hand does not know what the right hand is doing, problems result. Company efficiencies and productivity suffer. As we coach our clients: You are not just joining the team you will run, you are joining your boss’ team. Neglecting to invest in the development of relationships with team members and leaders at your level, in your situation, creates a leadership dysfunction that is not good for the company – any company.

Developing Relationships in a Virtual World

The key to a successful onboarding process and the development of one-on-one relationships is active listening. In the new work-from-home landscape – where the watercooler conversation, spur of the moment “let’s grab a coffee,” and unannounced pop-in are absent – how does one develop those relationships? Where are the opportunities for active listening? It is not through only one’s direct reports, nor is it solely from your boss – a key source of learning comes from peers.

Your peers will likely have various levels of experience and institutional knowledge about the company. That experience and well-earned knowledge will likely become essential resources for your own team’s success at some point. After all, the Chief Procurement Officer will likely need to rely upon the Chief Supply Chain Officer, and vice-versa, to succeed. Not only will they know the business, but they will also know your people. And developing those relationships, over time, is an integral part of being a good executive.

So how does a new executive team member develop those relationships while working from home? Here are three suggestions:

Develop a Comprehensive Communication Plan

Along with your hiring manager, develop a detailed onboarding plan that ensures you will communicate with all stakeholders. This is especially important for connecting with new peers, an oft-forgotten cohort. It is natural to devise a plan to configure best practices for your new boss and those reporting to you. But developing those relationships with your equals is critical to your success because these people will help you navigate the workplace culture from your same vantage point.

Plan for Spontaneous Connection

Leaders at every level must find a substitute for the unplanned office drop-in to say hello. Those interactions are typically low-stress and ultimately derive high returns when it comes to relationship-building. For WFH, we suggest keeping a pad near your computer to write down a reminder of what you might say when you virtually drop in. That means preparing what you want to say in that short text and quick call—no need to schedule a videoconference to relay that “job well done” encouragement.

Schedule Virtual Happy Hours

Carve out some valuable end-of-the-day time for an after-hours virtual coffee or cocktail with your new team and with your peers. New leaders should accomplish this task through one-on-one meetings or in small groups. Be sure to develop these relationships in a more casual setting because everyone a more relaxed environment will encourage team building and team bonding.

Connecting with one’s peers within the organization should happen regularly for established leadership teams, regardless of work circumstances. When it comes to onboarding in a remote work situation, we encourage our clients to intentionally reach out to their new colleagues via video call or telephone call. Not to accommodate formal meetings, but just to say hello. This aspect of virtual executive onboarding will also help understand the company culture and, just as importantly, what you can anticipate others will expect of you.

How Will You Improve Executive Onboarding?

Deliberately making that introduction, sharing enough personal information to form a bond, and offering your help to new colleagues will surprise some new coworkers and fellow leaders.

Those actions will also make an excellent first impression and go a long way toward easing the transition into that new position—all while working from home.

 

Photo by Ronstick

Our Now Normal: Why is There No Culture Button in Microsoft Teams?

In our now normal, company culture seems to have taken a back seat to… well, everything else. So how do we retain our best talent?

Statistics tell us that 2020 was “the year of productivity.” As the world of business moved all its staff into their bedrooms, efficiency levels skyrocketed. Gone were those unproductive hours in the air, on the road, in the canteen, and at conferences. They were replaced by an endless stream of back-to-back Zoom meetings, with hardly a minute left for a toilet break or a single creative thought. Instead, we belong to the next Outlook notification: “Reminder: Microsoft Teams meeting: 15 minutes.”

But I’d suggest that while quantifiable productivity rose in 2020, company culture went into free fall. Not an especially big deal, one might argue, as business owners found themselves caught in limbo between panic and delight. While bent over backward, they watched the bottom line swell while transportation and real estate costs plummeted.

Ironically, this new reality might spell the end of the very concept of the corporation. At the very least, it raises a truly fundamental question. One that millions of employees are secretly asking themselves behind closed doors…

Why bother working for a corporation?

Our Now Normal

Here’s the issue. As employees dropped like flies, cut loose throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the fata morgana of a “permanent job” showed its true colors: a nice idea, but with very little solid underpinning. Instead, employers rewarded employees with an unexpected bonus, a pipeline of bureaucracy channeled straight into their bedrooms. Forget about the separation of private life and work life in our now normal. Many families found themselves with multiple family members juggling multiple conference calls while simultaneously handling the baby and the toddler, the dog, the cooking, the cleaning. And in return? They heard that their salaries might be reduced, since their remote work took place in a low cost-of-living area.

Friday afternoon happy hours were a thing of the past, along with birthday songs, late afternoon hangouts, company parties, and townhalls. In their place, you guessed it: another Zoom meeting.

Some have realized that maybe it’s time to rethink the workplace. Or at least how they fulfilled their role in the workplace. Perhaps it’s time to go freelance. Not a big difference when you think about it. No concerns about distance, or the fear of receiving notice, or the monotonous workday. For many of the most highly skilled people, it won’t take very much convincing.

What is Next?

In the aftermath of COVID-19, with countries like China, Korea, Taiwan, and Australia finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, there’s been a dramatic surge in such search terms as “personal branding.”

Here’s the situation. Many employees are coming to the conclusion that a future working for one employer simply does not make sense. Instead, now they’re building their personal brand, making contacts, attracting business, and offering their services to the world at large.

I’d argue that we’re reaching the tipping point, at which the very idea of working for a corporation no longer makes sense. Why bother fighting a never-ending stream of politics, bureaucracy, red tape, rules, and regulations when you can keep a nice arm’s length from all of them? How does a good night’s sleep sound, without the constant worry of losing your job?

In sales, they say it costs ten times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. It’s at least that much in the case of employees, but most companies seem to have forgotten that fact.

Investing in Culture

Which brings me back to the beginning, when I observed that Microsoft didn’t pre-install a “culture button” in Teams: As a leader, that’s your role – not Microsoft’s (or Zoom’s, or Google’s). It’s your job to start focusing on your organization’s culture. That money saved in rent and travel costs? That money doesn’t belong to the bottom line. The truth is, it belongs to a bleeding culture in crisis.

Now is the time to reinvent what culture means. As managers and leaders, we need to be aware that many of our employees ask themselves, “Why should I, as an employee, stick with a company when the only connection I have is through the internet?”

As managers and leaders navigating our now normal, we need to ask ourselves: How can we reinvent the sort of culture that leads our best people to decide to stay with us?

 

To learn more about Martin’s new book, please visit MartinLindstrom.com/Ministry-of-CommonSense.

 

Photo by Anikasalsera

A Quick Look Back: TalentCulture’s Top 5 Posts of 2020

It’s that time of year again. Time to look back on TalentCulture’s Top 5 posts of 2020!

Not surprisingly, many of our most-read posts of 2020 were influenced by the pandemic that dominated the world of work. Also not surprising: Our community came through with insightful, actionable posts just as relevant today as the day they were published.

Take a look (or a second look) at each of these posts. Then put this solid advice to work at your organization!

5) Job Descriptions: How to Eliminate the Hidden Bias Within

We start this countdown with recruiting insights from Cyndy Trivella – Managing Partner here at TalentCulture. Cyndy took a bold look at how the typical job description adds bias to the corporate hiring process. As Cyndy so eloquently says, “Job descriptions are indicative of systemic injustice that impacts the lives and careers of women, the disabled, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and specific religions or nationalities.” Read Cyndy’s post, and learn how your company can better meet your diversity goals by changing how you write job descriptions.

4) How to Establish a COVID-19 Safety Policy

The fourth most-read post of 2020  provides powerful insight into COVID-19 safety policies. And not just how to establish those policies, but how to use them to build trust among employees. Courtney Mudd, Director of Human Resources at Influence and Co., doesn’t stop there, though. She goes to great lengths to show us how full transparency is the key to creating supportive, safe work environments for employees.

3) After COVID-19: Improving Your Employee Wellness Program

In the third most popular post of last year, Antonio Barraza of Innovative Employee Solutions looked into the future to give us some much-needed insight into improving our post-pandemic employee wellness programs. From the accessibility of fitness classes to flexible office hours, Antonio covered many of today’s hot topics. More importantly, he suggests many improvements to wellness programs many companies should consider now.

2) Five Industries Poised to Thrive Post-Pandemic

In our second-most-read post of 2020, Daglar Cizmeci – CEO at Red Carpet Capital Limited – offered a close look at the five industries that were sure to thrive once the pandemic was over. The post originally appeared during the first major spike of the COVID-19 crisis. Today, we see several of these industries already doing well, including healthcare, collaboration technology, and organizations focused on remote learning.

1) Remote Work During Coronavirus: Leadership Matters

And in the top post of 2020, our own Meghan M. Biro – Founder of TalentCulture – contributed this inspiring post on the impact of leadership during the Coronavirus crisis. Her words could not have been more prophetic: “…if you approach remote leadership with a real commitment to staying human and staying present, this is just the beginning. And when this is all over, and it will be, your whole organization will be in a far better position to meet the future of work head-on.” Yes, leadership – today more than ever before – matters.

2020’s Top 5 Posts

These top 5 posts of 2020, and so many more on TalentCulture, are social proof that not all of 2020 was bad. As always, we’re incredibly grateful to our community members for sharing the insights that helped us get through a challenging year. And, of course, we must thank you, the readers, for once again making TalentCulture a go-to resource in the world of work!

Here’s to making 2021 the best year ever, together.

 

Photo by Genitchka

Are Your Employees OK? Creating Sustainable COVID-19 Remote Work Policies

Are your remote work policies sustainable? Is your company culture still viable? Are your employees really ok?

Over the past few months, many experts (hundreds!) have written articles about COVID-19 workplace policies—especially the work-from-home versus onsite work dilemma we face now and in the future. I should know. I’ve written a couple myself! Yet, in all of the debates about the benefits and detriments of working from home versus in the office, I question whether there has been enough focus on the long-term effects on staff. I also wonder about the long-term impact on company culture.

New Thinking for A New Time

So how, in this chaotic response to the coronavirus pandemic of moving employees offsite—ensuring they are connected properly to work from home—do we ensure the side effects of remote work don’t cause long-term damage to your staff and your long-term strategic plans?

Here are some thoughts on what to look out for:

1. Culture

Culture (defining, creating, sustaining) has been one of the top business issues for the last 20 years. Tech companies spent big bucks trying to positively influence their corporate cultures (ping pong tables, beer taps, etc.). They tried to build a culture that would help entice employees’ top echelon when talent was tight. Today, though, COVID-19 is the immediate buzz kill for cultures across the spectrum. All the money and time built into an organization’s culture now has limited value.

When I started out of college at a Tier-one consulting firm, I loved going to work. I also enjoyed the evenings as people I worked with would socialize after work. It was great. If COVID-19 had broken out then, a major reason I appreciated the firm would be gone (as it is for millions of people now). I’d be working in isolation and not interacting (or socializing) with my peers. I can’t predict that I would like the firm. In fact, A friend recently told me her daughter loved work at her company in Silicon Valley. COVID-19 hit, though, and she went remote. She quickly realized she hated the work, but she loved the company’s culture and people. Soon after this epiphany, she left to look for another job.

As a result of COVID-19, the existing culture of an organization may have become dismantled. Companies have to work differently if their employees are going to be working remotely. Today, to have any relevance, we must rethink and rework the employer brand and focus that drives high-end talent to a company.

2. Loyalty

The most powerful talent retention strategy is the loyalty or commitment your employees have to your organization or its mission.

How have you addressed your employee retention strategy in light of your remote working policy and COVID impacts? There are so many different surveys related to the top 10 reasons top employees stay with their employer. But there are consistent themes. The most obvious? “Salary and compensation” is never number one. In fact, the highest “salary” appeared in a recent review of top 10 lists was fourth!

The consistent reasons employees stayed included:

  • Culture
  • Liking the people they work with
  • Good bosses
  • Enjoying the challenge(s)
  • Learning new things

In many Top 10 lists, these reasons come before pay. Yet in a COVID-19 world (and potentially post-COVID-19 for companies that remain remote), most of those reasons either go away or become harder to make relevant. Culture is more difficult to develop; working with people becomes less pertinent when dealing with them exclusively over Zoom or MS Teams. Learning new things also becomes more difficult when you are not in the office. After all, you have less exposure to what’s going on throughout the company; it is harder to get on new exciting projects. Invariably, once those top three to five reasons become less applicable, their salary climbs closer to the top of the list. When that happens, pay is often – and sometimes easily – improved by job-hopping.

3. Mental Health

Working from home can be a dream come true—or a nightmare. It depends on who you are, what type of work you do, and your company. But let’s keep it on an individual level.

Let’s start with the personality of the employee, specifically extroverts versus introverts. The saying goes that extroverts gain their energy from being with people and introverts exhaust their energy from being with people. COVID-19 may seem to be a dream for introverts (and a corresponding nightmare for extroverts), but it goes deeper. Many studies (yes… science!) point to an innate human need for social connection. I am an introvert, but an “extrovert wannabe” (my life’s tag line). This is hard for me. Before COVID-19, I may have had a week of meetings and evenings filled with networking events. If I have more than two evening networking events, I can guarantee that I will be canceling anything over that amount. Now? I’m craving even one networking event!

Even as an introvert, I find that there is only so much TV I can watch before I feel my brain cells begin to disintegrate! And I am lucky; I am at home with a partner (though eight months into isolation, I would guess he may not be feeling as fortunate) so I get some social interaction. People who are isolated and are in their homes 24/7, however, can be at risk.

Think about it: what do they do to punish someone in prison? They put them in isolation.

Mental Health: Avoiding Isolation Prison

This may not be the best thing for some employees. And in the short-term, the situation isn’t going to get any better: Those company holiday parties and outings have all but disappeared. Have you thought about ways to help your employees feel more engaged?

Here are some ideas to implement today:

  • Reach out and check on them
  • Send small gifts or have an online game night
  • Do you offer an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) to your employees? If so, reacquaint yourself with its offerings (making your staff aware it exists could be more important now than ever).
  • Can you positively influence their off-hours time? (We bought our staff access to Master Class as a way to keep them mentally stimulated with things other than work.)

Working where you live eliminates that daily connection many of us took for granted. Yes, some of your employees may thrive within this new environment. But understand that many may not.

What are you doing for those individuals?

4. Physical Health Issues

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, people were able to work out (gym, outdoors, etc.) more frequently. Unfortunately, working out from home is not for everybody.

The term “couch potato” often brings up the image of those sitting in front of the TV on the weekend. For many, that image is now our reality – seven days a week. And we’re working longer hours (thus the excitement of companies seeming an increase in productivity) while sitting in front of the computer! Physical activity studies recommend walking 10,000 steps a day. Most of us are lucky if we get past 1,000! Less physical activity leads to more physical problems, which leads to more money spent on health care (on top of the obvious costs associated with COVID-19).

It may not seem to be a problem now. But long term, inactivity is bound to be an issue.

Your employees must take some time for their physical health each day. Something as simple as standing up at the top of the hour and stretching can help. Standing desks have also shown significant benefits. Whatever message you can convey to your employees to move around a little each day, step outside on their front porch or in their back yard. And if they have stairs at home—encourage them to walk up and down a few extra times during the workday.

Remote Work Policies: Prepare for the Future

Today, many companies are touting increased productivity due to remote work policies. But when something looks too good to be true, it often is.

Companies need to be looking at the long-term effects of remote working on their employees, their company culture, and their differentiators in the marketplace. After all, short-term gains (like increased productivity) don’t always turn into long-term strategies.

If people are working harder at home, has your company assessed its sustainability? Once life returns to normal (and it will), how many people will be willing to work the same hours while watching reruns of “Friends”? Most importantly, what issues will we need to anticipate, given the strain the pandemic has caused on your employees’ mental and physical health?

Create sustainable remote work policies now.

Better to look at ways to address the not-so-great aspects of working from home, and your COVId-19 induced remote work policies, now — pay now or pay later!

 

Photo by Issac Harris

Post-Pandemic Realities: How to Safely and Confidently Re-open Your Office

At TalentCulture, we’re looking ahead to the day we can get back to work. And we’re looking for innovative solutions that will make that transition, and the facing of our post-pandemic realities, as safe as possible. We are sure you’re thinking along the same lines, so we’re proud to introduce you to this innovative, confidence-inducing platform: NoahFace from PayCat.

We could go on and on about how much we appreciate the approach the Pay Cat team has taken to safely monitors all incoming employees, guests, and even customers as they enter our office and workspaces. We’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you how practical – necessary, even – the cloud-based contact tracing solution built into NoahFace is for today’s businesses. Instead, here is Garth Belic from Pay Cat to tell you their origin story and how the journey to create a technology-based return-to-work strategy was born…

TC:  Tell us a little bit about Pay Cat. How do you get started? And what are your primary products now?

Garth: Pay Cat was born out of frustration shared by many business owners I first noticed while working for a large cloud payroll software company. Many of those owners were paying big dollars on a cloud payroll solution. But they weren’t necessarily getting the expertise or support needed to maximize the full potential of the payroll solutions.

As the COVID-19 pandemic caused our world to go sideways, we, like so many businesses, made a pivot into new products and technologies. Out of sheer demand, we introduced NoahFace to our business – a product that incorporates temperature reading and facial recognition into the staff and visitor clocking-in process.

We now offer a suite of time and attendance solutions with a full end-to-end service from implementation to training to go-live to support. This approach means our clients have someone with the expertise and support they need to customize our entry solution, to include digital door and gate control where desired, every step of the way.

TC: We at TalentCulture have seen a demo of the entry solution, NoahFace, but our readers haven’t. How would you describe that entry solution to them?

facial recognitionGarth: Ours is an all-in-one solution for automating time and attendance and workplace safety – particularly critical given that many of us remain stuck in the middle of a pandemic.

After completing the facial recognition process, NoahFace measures body temperatures before allowing entry and enables contact tracing of staff and visitors. On a practical note, the solution can be set up to control access points such as doors and gates while providing paperless attendance records of employees and contractors. This is all done with a thermal reader and biometric technology with little to no human intervention!

The most significant benefit of all this is that you can ensure that your business is pandemic-resistant. This means your business has the best chance of remaining open during this crisis that never seems to end.

TC: You deliberately designed your entry solution on readily available consumer products, like an iPad? Why did you choose to go that route? And what does it mean to your customers?

Garth: Any entry solution needs to be robust, given the high level of traffic it’ll experience. So while we can go with cheaper options, I find the security, reliability, and durability of iPads are best. Besides, most people are familiar with using Apple products! So, even though the technology is state-of-the-art, the learning curve is minimal.

TC: The benefits of Pay Cat’s entry solution are apparent. But employees feel the system provides them with much-needed confidence. Tell us more about how end-users have reacted once they began using the system?

Garth: The majority of employees love NoahFace. They no longer have to use fingerprint scanning or log paper timesheets. More importantly, it assures that all their colleagues and visitors are temperature checked appropriately. This technology delivers the peace of mind that employees look for now. And the solution they will want to see in place when asked to come back to work on-site.

Plus, having a no-touch solution that dramatically limits the risk of virus transmission is a big all-around win with employees!

TC: How does the NoahFace solution help with any necessary contact tracing efforts?

Garth: A lot of businesses still manually record visitors using a sign-in sheet. Or they have a receptionist maintain a paper log. In some cases, HR staff keeps paper timesheets or activity logs. Our solution eliminates all of this by keeping an event log from a web-based dashboard. This means accurate and automated logging of entry and exit times throughout the workplace, held securely in the cloud that can be accessed any time from anywhere.

TC: What inspired you to create a solution for the problems so many companies will face as they consider how best to return employees to the workplace?

Garth: We went through lockdown in March and saw firsthand the difficulties of keeping the workplace open. We knew other businesses had the same experience – and many more will. Given we were already in the industry, we knew the technological capabilities that could help provide a comprehensive solution for this on-going problem.

The bones of the solution is a time and attendance platform. We were able to adapt and innovate that solution to include contact tracing and temperature screening with the existing technology. So really, we were scratching our own itch first.

TC: Please tell us: What was the best thing a customer ever said about the PayCat solution? What are you most proud of?

One of our early adopters said, “You helped keep our doors open.”

Yes, COVID-19 is still a grave issue in many parts of our country and world. But we’re beginning to overcome the initial lockdown period here in Australia. And yet, this is priceless customer feedback. That’s why we’re here!

TC: In many parts of the world, companies are already facing post-pandemic realities. They have already begun reintegrating employees in the workplace. For those leaders in the US still designing that process, what is your number one piece of advice?

Garth: As you start to deal with the post-pandemic realities we’ll all eventually face, focus on what you can control. And start with how you can automate and adapt to contactless screening. Don’t install a dedicated team of COVID-19 marshals manually doing temperature checks and reporting. Don’t add staff for the additional positions required for a manual process – before and especially after infection. From a business standpoint, that makes no sense. Plus, the additional staff members running around only add to the anxiety we already feel about going back to work.

Instead, proactively and efficiently reduce the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace by leveraging technology. You’ll protect your employees while giving them a high level of confidence as they go back to work. They are safe, so their families are safe. And you’ll show local health officials that you as a business are doing everything possible to ensure a safe working environment.

All because you executed an affordable return-to-work strategy that leverages thermal imaging, facial recognition, and contact tracing.

Get a head start on post-pandemic realities… and re-open your offices, right.

 

Kei Scampa

In Times of Crisis: 5 Strategies That Lead to Better Business Decisions

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our work. The pandemic has changed how we relate with our families. It has also impacted our sense of safety, security, and health. This crisis, coupled with recent burgeoning social unrest, presents unique challenges to leaders. So, how—when we’re consumed by what’s around us—can we make better business decisions? Decisions that could make or break our business?

One answer comes from leaders in the profession at the center of the COVID crisis: expert medical practitioners. In other words, the people who frequently make life-or-death decisions for the people in front of them.

How do they stay focused and keep their decision-making sharp?

Better Business Decisions: The Answer Lies in Metacognition

Dr. Jerome Groopman, chief of experimental medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Recanati chair of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and his wife, Dr. Pamela Hartzband, an attending physician in the Division of Endocrinology at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, shared how they do it.

“Pam developed a simple procedure when she was an intern in medical school many years back,” Groopman told us. “To her, it was like a game she played to stay sharp. She asked herself, ‘What if that other doctor who made the diagnosis is wrong? What else could it possibly be? What am I basing my decisions on?’”

By asking these questions, Hartzband took herself off automatic pilot and became aware of her thinking—a process known as metacognition.

Together, Groopman and Hartzband introduced courses at Harvard Medical School to teach medical school students and practicing physicians these metacognitive “thinking rules,” which foster self-awareness, reveal bias, and increase the diagnoses’ accuracy.

The good news? This approach, often used outside of the medical field, is incredibly potent in the times we now face.

How Metacognition Works in Times of Crisis

Metacognition will help you keep better track of—and help reduce—errors in your thinking. It also helps you be more emotionally balanced and stable. When you metacognate, you act as your own consultant or trainer, giving helpful feedback to better yourself.

Metacognition steers you onto more realistic, thoughtful paths—facilitating critical thinking and putting you more in control. If you observe an emotion or thought that isn’t helpful, flag it, and alter it. If you catch yourself rushing to judgment, slow your thinking process down. Keep a critical eye on the quality of your thinking. By monitoring yourself more frequently, you’ll keep from veering off into irrational thinking, even when the world around us is upside down.

To practice metacognition and think about your thinking, start with these five strategies:

1. Name Your Mental Steps

How did you arrive at your decision? If you can’t name the steps that led to a decision, be suspicious. Ask yourself: Are your information sources reliable?

Always question your decisions and how you make them. Ask yourself: “Did I miss something? What if I’ve been making decisions based on an erroneous starting point or piece of bad information? Are there other ways to approach making this decision? Am I questioning deeply enough?”

2. Learn from Past Mistakes and Misjudgments

Don’t bury prior mistakes. Instead, incorporate these memories into your current thinking to improve your decision-making.

3. Stay Open and Self-aware

Be open to learning from everyone. Also, be an active listener and value many opinions.

Ask yourself:

  • What is my thinking style?
  • What is my personality?
  • Where do my biases surface?
  • Do I hesitate to ask questions because I want to appear competent?
  • How might my ways of thinking and personality influence how I make assessments and also reach conclusions?

4. Don’t Rush

Experienced decision-makers in high-stress environments all emphasize the importance of slowing down.

Taking your time—even when others or circumstances are rushing you—is essential to making accurate decisions.

5. Don’t Get Seduced by Shortcuts

Know when you’re placing too much confidence in preset protocols, computer algorithms, or attractive charts that crisply lay out solutions. Are you accepting someone else’s “frame” of the problem? Are you relying on others to make your decisions for you by accepting their conclusion too readily?

Multiple crises, combined with the uncertainty we face, thwarts our efforts to make sound decisions. So, the next time you sense something happening around you—or within you—that feels rushed, reactive, or not right? Don’t ignore it and reflexively press on.

Instead, exercise the discipline to stop. Pay attention to that signal. If the path you’re on doesn’t seem right? Pause, reflect, and, if necessary, get off that path.

Then put yourself onto a better route. Or create a new one.

As you consistently demonstrate the ability to make better business decisions, others will learn to follow your lead.

 

Editor’s Note

Dr. Anthony Roa, Ph.D.This post was co-authored by Dr. Anthony Rao, Ph.d., a cognitive-behavioral therapist. For over 20 years, he was a pediatric psychologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Rao has also been an instructor at Harvard Medical School. In 1998, he opened a specialized private practice. He’s been a featured expert in documentaries and also appears regularly as an expert commentator and author.

 

The new book by Dr. Napper and Dr. Rao is The Power of Agency: The 7 Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, and Create a Life on Your Own Terms (St. Martin’s Press; 2019). Learn more at PowerofAgency.com.

 

Suzanne D. Williams

The Ever-Evolving Role of Human Resources Management

Those responsible for human resources management have always found themselves in a precarious position. After all, HR pros often deal with a trust deficit on either side of the bridge they span. From one side, senior management feels HR practitioners lean too much towards employees. From the other, employees often blame HR leaders for taking the side of “management.”

A problematic situation, indeed. And one complicated by the almost unannounced pandemic that has arrived much like an uninvited, overbearing guest.

With the potentially long-term impact on our workplaces, Human Resources Management will need to evolve. We must redesign the theories and practices of the 21st century to suit the new demands.

So, where does one start?

First, we must realize that moving forward, organizations will take the form of dispersed networks rather than formal structures. Leadership and HR teams will facilitate collaboration between individuals and teams separated by distances, time zones and cultures. A significant portion of these may be folks who come on board for specific projects. Once they accomplish team goals, those people will move onto their next gig. In fact, Gartner’s 9 Future Trends of Work Report estimates 32% of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure already.

Given this fundamental reality, the approach of human resources management will need to transform in a manner never seen before.

Let us see what the key salient features of this new approach to HR management would look like.

Guiding, not Driving

For far too long, the HR function has been a gatekeeper of the organisation’s culture. They have also been very directly associated with driving policy adherence. No doubt, this is required to create a unified operating methodology. However, it also often leads to restrictive practices that limit creativity and experimentation.

In the current times, employees are juggling more than work. In many cases, they are dealing with multiple challenges such as pay cuts, health matters of close family members, online study requirements of their children, and the like. This means HR managers and leaders need to play the role of guides and mentors during their operations. They must help employees perform in their new environments with a ‘silken glove’ approach.

Empowering, not Policing

With policies and practices, comes policing. It is this compliance mindset that has become the silver bullet in every HR practitioner’s arsenal.

We have forgotten, perhaps, that humankind’s most successful creations have come from individuals who are self-motivated to build a better future. Instead, many in the HR field have attempted to create an environment closeted by rigid boundaries. In fact, today’s automated reporting means there is no shortage of data when it comes to tracking employees.

However, as many ‘pundits’ have shared over the ages, nothing works better than enabling and empowering employees to take charge and work responsibly.

In any case, as we have witnessed in the ‘Work-From-Anywhere’ environment, much of the tracking falls apart due to lack of last mile ‘surveillance’. Hence, the mantra really has to be about moving power into the hands of the employees. With, of course, the right amount of coaching to ensure that they put the organisation’s interest at the top, in all matters under their purview.

Counseling, not Judging

The sudden move to a remote working arrangement did thrill some hearts in the initial stages of the COVID-induced lockdowns experienced in many parts of the world. The euphoria was very short-lived, though.

Surveys, including one by Kincentric, a Spencer Stuart company, showcase that the life altering pandemic has impacted the wellness of employees at many levels. Given this realization, HR fraternity members will have to simultaneously don the hat of confidants and counsellors. While supporting their colleagues, however, they will need to be appropriately empathetic towards them. As they stretch to extend a helping hand (or shoulder) to them, HR practitioners will have to ensure that they adopt a very mature approach. This will be especially true when it comes to balancing the needs of the organization with those of its employees.

Human Resources Management in Transition

In summation, the HR community must realize the industrial era practices that evolved into the era of the services economy will no longer work for the digital, distributed age we live in now. In such an environment, an employee has maximum touch-time with managers, not HR. The quality of this interaction assumes greater significance given that much of this interaction is remote and bereft of social connection, quite unlike the past.

Therefore, extending HR management beyond the HR function is the need of the hour.

This means HR professionals must enable all managers in the organization to own the HR agenda as well. This will require more of our workforce to be elevated with regards to their maturity and ability to handle people processes.

The optimum starting point for embarking on this journey is to stitch trust into the fabric of the organization and enable managers and employees to have faith in each other. It is only then, that the foundation of our organizations will be built on solid bedrock. Only then will be in a better position to survive the kind of shock we are now facing.

It is now up to human resources management professionals to rise up to the challenge!

 

SevenStorm

[#WorkTrends] Company Culture: The High Cost of Misalignment

Among remote work teams, how common is misalignment with company culture? And what is the cost?

All over the United States, cases of COVID-10 are once again spiking. We’re setting records again — and not the good kind. Daily, it seems, we see and hear grim reminders that this pandemic maintains a firm grip on our country, and our psyche.

For many of us, returning to the office about the same time as kids returned to school seemed possible. Not any more. And for many companies — especially those that have enabled a loose operating system around remote working, it’s time to tighten up. Of course, we all did what had to be done to keep our employees, customers, and vendors safe. But long-term social distancing comes with a cost. And often that cost comes in the form of misalignment to company culture.

So now, 8+ months into the pandemic, it is time to revisit our core values and purpose. Just as important, now is the time to once again encourage our employees to factor those core values into our daily work habits and to refocus on our purpose.

Our Guest: Natalie Baumgartner, PhD Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers

This week on #WorkTrends, I welcomed Natalie Baumgartner, Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers, to talk about the challenge of aligning today’s remote workforces to company cultures. Our timing couldn’t be better: Based on their recent survey of over 1,100 people around the world, Achievers’ Workforce Institute just published its 2020 Culture Report.

As Natalie said at the beginning of this episode, the survey asked respondents about culture alignment — both before and during the COVID-19 crisis. Specifically, Achievers sought to measure the extent to which an organization understands its values — and then aligns everything the company does to those values. Also included were questions related to engagement, recognition, and the voice of the employee. The answers to those questions, according to Natalie, were revealing.

“We found culture alignment dropped significantly during COVID-19. In addition, organizations found themselves less able to align decision making to company values. That’s not really a surprise, though. After all, there was no forewarning. We didn’t understand the massive impact this pandemic would have on business. So organizations have been in crisis-management mode.”

After telling Natalie I also wasn’t surprised, I shared that to me, and perhaps to many of our listeners, hearing this provides just a little bit of comfort. It helps to know nobody’s alone in this; we really are in this together. There’s also comfort knowing we can work toward a solution, together. Natalie agreed, and injected a distinct sense of urgency:

“It’s true, and now we can step back and see everything organizations have had to manage around the world, and in short order. But we also know there’s a very strong correlation between culture alignment and employee engagement. And when we see this dip in culture alignment, we know it is going to negatively impact employee engagement, and very soon.”

Company Culture Misalignment: Communication as Part of The Solution

After so clearly stating the challenge, Natalie began to talk about the solution: “The good news is there are simple ways to foster and maintain culture alignment. We’re not talking about massive overhaul initiatives, which are impossible and unpalatable while still in the midst of a pandemic.”

I asked if clear communication, which can have such a key role to play in terms of alignment, is a major factor in realigning company culture. Natalie responded: “What’s most important, regardless of the type of culture you have, is clarifying and communicating what your values are. Make it simple. Focus on four to six values, then make sure those values are clear to everyone. If you do nothing else in terms of culture alignment, that is most important.” Natalie added:

“You must say, ‘This is who we are. This is how we want to do business.’”

Natalie and I went on to discuss many other communication-based solutions to misalignment of culture, including CEO-led virtual town hall meetings and open recognition of a job well done. Of the latter, Natalie says, “Recognition is, objectively, the single, most powerful driver of engagement.” I couldn’t agree more!

I invite you to take in this inspiring and timely interview with Natalie. Grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy the listen!

#WorkTrends Twitter Chat: Wednesday, November 4th

I also invite you to help us extend this conversation on Wednesday, November 4th at 1:30 pm Eastern. Natalie will be there to further discuss company culture, engagement, and inspiring remote work teams. She’ll also help provide answers to these questions:

  • Q1: Why do organizations struggle with communicating core values? #WorkTrends
  • Q2: What strategies can help boost alignment? #WorkTrends
  • Q3: How can leaders boost alignment? #WorkTrends

Natalie and I will see you there!

 

Find Natalie on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

This podcast was sponsored by Achievers.

 

Editor’s note: Have you checked out our new FAQ page and #WorkTrends Podcast pages? Please do, then let us know how we’re doing!

 

Edu Carvalho

The Forgotten (Yet Costly) Employee Crisis: Elder Care

Figuratively speaking, the number of articles dedicated to discussing the COVID-caused childcare crisis could fill a school library. But little has been written regarding the other side of the generational spectrum: Elder care.

When it became evident the remote learning arrangements imposed at the tail end of the 2019-20 school year would continue well into the current one, the full weight of what this would mean for working parents was expressed in headlines across the country. The Associated Press reported on the distressingly common instance of mothers being forced from the workforce, for example. Meanwhile The Atlantic analyzed the rock-and-a-hard place scenario that parents deemed essential workers have regarding childcare – including the fact that 15 states lack free childcare options.

So, it is entirely logical that the most pressing caregiving topic would surround the struggles faced by employed parents. Whether those parents were working from home or not – attention would be paid to those balancing careers with child caregiving. However, this understandable emphasis on our children has diverted attention from a problem that was looming long before iPads became de facto classrooms: the challenges employees face providing care for elderly loved ones.

Comprehending the Employee Elder Care Crisis

Not surprisingly, the impact on elder caregivers has been profound. According to the Genworth Caring in COVID-19 Consumer Sentiment Survey, 1 in 3 respondents unexpectedly became caregivers overnight. The average time investment was an onerous nine hours per week, a typical work shift, to provide care for an older and/or vulnerable loved one.

Many, of course, may have already been providing unpaid caregiving to a loved one, meaning the pandemic simply exacerbated an already time- and energy-consuming situation. Caregiving during COVID-19 can also be very emotionally taxing: 49% of those polled in the same survey felt more anxiety and 53% felt more stress due to the added emotional toll of COVID-19.

Fortunately, the COVID crisis may make some employers more aware of—and sympathetic to—their employees’ caregiving responsibilities. This awakening can’t come quickly enough: Research conducted before the COVID-19 crisis shows that many employers were unaware of their employees’ caregiving responsibilities. Seventy percent of employees reported having missed work due to caregiving duties. And, 32% of caregiving employees had voluntarily left a job during their career due to caregiving responsibilities. Further, companies face increased health care costs incurred by employers for employees with caregiving responsibilities exceeds $13 billion a year.

Despite all this, employer-sponsored caregiving resources are typically limited in scope. They often, for example, take the form of an employee assistance program (EAP) that may provide a limited range of services, such as referrals and access to potential providers via phone and/or online portal.

Bolstering Caregiver Work-Life Balance

The harsh reality is: COVID-19 has made the Employee Caregiving Crisis more urgent than ever. For their own sake, it is time for employers to forge pathways to relief. With 54% of caregivers juggling their caregiving responsibilities and a full- or part-time job, employers need to understand and meet the needs of their caregiving employees.

To help their caregiving employees – and their company – here are five tips for employers that can help elder caregivers thrive during these challenging times:

Communicate and Create a Culture of Collaboration

Seek a better understanding of everyone’s individual situations. It is impossible to understand the breadth or depth of employees’ caregiving responsibilities without an open, honest discussion about their challenges. It is also important for employers to initiate this dialogue. After all, employees may be hesitant to do so for a variety of reasons.

Enable Flexible Schedules to Strike a Better Balance

With new or added workloads, many employees may be juggling caregiving duties and work responsibilities. To help them find a balance their competing roles, offer flexible scheduling options. For example: Flexible work hours, the ability to work from home, etc.

Expect the Unexpected

Build in extra time for important projects, and set clear expectations around deadlines, team communication and client support. COVID-19 has given many employers crash courses in disruption adaptation. We can lean upon these lessons to improve business flexibility—without sacrificing overall job performances

Offer a Strong Support System

To ease their responsibilities, many elder caregivers are now looking for more support from their employers. An easy way to help is by providing guidance and personal support to those struggling. For example, share trusted links to information on support groups and related webinars. And post articles that provide solutions to caregiving problems. Self-care tools like wellness videos or meditation apps can be valuable. Also considered valuable: Financial planning classes offered by employers or third-party specialists.

Assess Your Policy Options

To adequately adapt to the workforce’s evolving caregiving needs, employers may want to reexamine company policies and benefits. With COVID-19 creating a new normal, and so they can focus on their work, employees may need benefits that can help them find care for their aging loved ones. Offering attractive benefits that meet employee caregiving needs can help set a company apart—a tool to help attract and retain top talent, lower absenteeism, increase productivity, and reduce turnover.

Easing the Burden Placed on Elder Care Providers

Just as important for many, such specialist-driven caregiving employee benefits allow employees to stop playing professional caregiving coordinator. For example, identifying and assessing provider options is a caregiving issue in which experience and specialization are highly advantageous. This specialty helps determine provider availability but while negotiating rates based on knowledge of typical care costs.

With specialist-driven caregiving benefits, employees no longer need mastermind a highly complex, multi-factor caregiving regimen.

COVID-19 has pushed employers toward a number of new norms. One of those should be taking better care of employee elder caregivers. And we can do that through increased employer awareness, systemic support, and customized benefit offerings.

Companies are currently repositioning themselves for optimal success now, and into the future. That makes this the perfect time to re-assess exactly what employees need to thrive within their very personal new normal, including employee benefits that cover the cost of elder care.

 

Open Enrollment: A Flexible Guide to Healthcare Benefits for Freelancers

The global health crisis sparked by the pandemic has shown people, no matter their job status, need effective and reliable healthcare benefits. Employees often have an HR team to help them with healthcare education and to sort through their options. Freelancers, though, know the responsibility to remain informed – and then secure comprehensive coverage – lies entirely with them.

Indeed, during open enrollment freelancers are in a unique situation. True: When it comes to health benefits providers freelancers enjoy a greater amount of choice. However, there is less access to full coverage with comprehensive care and decision support tools. Throw in the changes in healthcare brought about by the pandemic, and it has never been more difficult to make strategic healthcare decisions.

When sick or hurt, we’re often advised not to give in to our worst impulses by Googling our symptoms and searching for medical advice. But when researching insurance coverage, that is where we tend to start. However, we need to modernize our thinking. Because, just as a Google isn’t the best way to obtain medical advice, not all of the best answers about healthcare come from internet searches.

Open Enrollment 101: Benefits Plan Customization for Freelancers

To help us begin to look at insurance coverage options differently, let’s use the choosing of a cable television plan as an example. In the recent past, we would purchase a basic cable subscription, then pay for additional add-ons and special channels. But today, the right combination of streaming subscriptions offers similar content and more on-demand convenience than basic cable service. Those streaming services also provide solid recommendations based upon our preferences and behaviors. For many subscribers, this customization ultimately means more options, better value and better service.

Freelancers can apply a similar line of thinking when securing healthcare benefits. Traditional plans, like a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) or high-deductible health plans (HDHP), may not be the best option for freelancers. Instead, look for ways to tailor coverage through products and resources like a HealthSherpa and Transamerica. These highly regarded providers can help you create a benefits plan that best fits your needs – at the best price and at the highest possible level of service.

Building Your Benefits Plan

When building your benefits plan, start with the core components: medical, dental, and vision. Next, perform a self-assessment of specific health care needs. For example, consider any chronic conditions that might be considered pre-existing or medication prescriptions that require a comprehensive pharmacy benefit option. Your goal: Determine the factors driving your plan and where more coverage or voluntary benefits are needed.

Next, determine your budget (and appetite for financial risk) by asking yourself three questions:

  1. How much coverage is my plan going to provide?
  2. Within the plan as designed, how much must I pay in out-of-pocket expenses when receiving care?
  3. What is the amount of your total monthly payments or premiums?

With the answers to these questions, you’ll know how much you’ll be paying – and for what combination of services.

Should You Add Voluntary or Supplementary Benefits?

What voluntary benefits should you take advantage of when personalizing benefits?

Typically, those are the supplemental insurance plans that provide a financial safety net. This is especially true in the event of a critical illness, accident, or hospital stay. Also, freelancers – just like everyone else – should look into enrolling in other lifestyle benefits such as personal protection plans. After all, as we continue to live online, it is important to protect yourself from the growing threat of fraud and identity theft.

On the positive side of supplemental benefits, consider joining those who have leveraged virtual wellness options. Also, with more and more people working from home, we’re likely to see an increase in off-the-shelf voluntary benefits that meet the unique needs of freelancers. Those plans include coverage of ongoing education, childcare options, and set-up of in-home office ergonomics.

Community and Freelancing: Find Your Emotional Support System

While most everyone is experiencing feelings of isolation and disconnection, freelancers – without an organization to call home base – might be feeling it just that much more.

To combat these feelings, consider getting involved in industry-focused communities. Today, there are thousands of options available online to connect. Social media groups and online communities often organize virtual coffee breaks and happy hours. During these events, they cover various topics and based on shared interests and hobbies. So, find like-minded solidarity that serves an important source of support throughout your career. Those groups also foster a a greater sense of wellbeing through emotional engagement.

Freelancers: Take Control of Your Open Enrollment

At a time when all aspects of our health, wealth, and wellbeing need protection, there are more resources and support available than you may have previously realized. And you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.

The realities of our new world of work will continue to impact our lives. But freelancers can meet those challenges head on by being strategic and thoughtful about their benefits plan designs. Ultimately, the key to success during this open enrollment period means careful evaluation and proactive planning for future life events – both expected and unexpected.

We will eventually move forward to a post-pandemic world.

Between now and then, set yourself – and your freelance business – up for success.

 

William Daigneault

5 Post-COVID Global Work Trends in HR and Hiring

Working from home. Schooling from home. Social distancing. New workplace norms. New consumerism rules. Mask mandates. It’s difficult to identify one aspect of personal life or society left untouched by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Not surprisingly, the global workforce — including hiring after COVID-19 — will also look different for the foreseeable future. Here are five global work trends that will most affect human resources professionals.

1. Some Previously On-Site Employees Will Work Remotely Forever

Working from home was already a widely accepted option before COVID-19 happened, but some employers still decided not to offer the possibility. Once remote work became the safest arrangement for many companies during the pandemic, some decision-makers realized that people stay productive at home, and many get even more done.

Netflix, Microsoft, Shopify and Fujitsu are among the companies where people will be working remotely for the long term. Some businesses provide it as a permanent possibility. Gartner’s April 2020 survey found that 74% of leaders would move at least 5% of their workforces to a remote working model for good post-COVID-19.

2. Companies Will Invest More in Reskilling Employees

Even before the pandemic affected the world, advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) necessitated that some employees learn new skills soon to stay competitive. Analysts say it’s even more vital now that employers double down on their educational efforts related to reskilling. If they do, they’ll be better prepared for the technological changes on the horizon, plus be more resilient during future significant disruptions.

This trend may slow, but not stop, hiring after COVID-19. Some reskilling efforts will teach workers new roles adjacent to their original ones. One example from a company operating in West Africa during the Ebola crisis was that truck drivers learned to operate excavators. However, reskilling also involves getting acquainted with digital activities. Doctors may need to become more comfortable with using tools to conduct remote visits, for instance.

3. Efforts to Hire International Workers May Need Longer Timelines

Companies that want to hire international workers have several options. One commonly selected choice due to convenience is to work with an employer of record. That entity handles all payroll, taxes and benefits necessities. That approach could mean a company could hire a top-choice candidate in a matter of days. However, hiring after COVID-19 could become more complex due to new rules and delays associated with aspects like visa processing.

For example, authorities in Ireland ruled that medical-related employment permits took precedence during the pandemic. They warned that applicants for all other types should expect delays — even if they previously submitted their documentation before the decision occurred. The United States disallowed people to arrive on certain permissions through at least the end of 2020. These changes mean employers must show more patience when hiring global workers.

4. Employers Will Stop Requiring Such Rigid Schedules

One of the most anticipated global work trends: Besides the additional flexibility that comes with working remotely instead of on-site, employees can likely expect more opportunities to participate in four-day workweeks. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently joined people backing shorter workweeks for numerous reasons. She believes the switch would promote domestic tourism in her country.

Others supporting the idea point out that it would help people have a better work-life balance. When Microsoft workers in Japan participated in a four-day workweek trial, their productivity increased by 40%, and employees earned the same amount. COVID-19 has made managers think about work differently. That means many will feel more open to the idea of breaking schedule norms.

5. Creative Motivation of Remote Employees

Helping remote employees feel like part of the team and upbeat despite possibly working in total solitude meant employers had to show appreciation differently. While an on-site worker might have their promotion celebrated with a cake in the break room, remote employees might receive something in the mail and relish in their achievement alone. Showing gratitude now requires more creativity due to so many people working from home.

One company had a virtual wine and cheese tasting where participants had supplies sent to their homes. Another tried a summer-picnic-in-a-box concept after canceling its annual in-person event due to COVID-19. All employees received mailed goodies, including a blanket, water bottle, snacks and sunscreen. This trend could have long-lasting effects, especially as managers realize they can give appreciation in more ways than they previously thought.

Global Work Trends: Post COVID-19 Will Be Different

Our ongoing global health threat has forced us all to become more agile; more open to doing things differently while abiding by new norms to stay safe. And these five global work trends show how the novel coronavirus may have forever reshaped how companies hire employees. They also demonstrate how we’ll need to create appealing work arrangements for those we hire.

Perhaps there is, however, and upside. After all, moving forward it is highly likely people worldwide will enjoy improved, less restrictive workplace opportunities. If so, those outcomes would arguably be some of the few positives associated with the pandemic.