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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!

Why Data Literacy is the Future of Work

Many questions remain in the aftermath of COVID-19, with some of the biggest ones relating to the economic recovery. When will the economy rebound and, if so, how long will it take? What skills are needed to ensure the next generation is capable of recovering from the next pandemic? And, are those skills applicable to other black swan events? It is equally as important to ask this question: What role will data play in not only predicting but preventing future problems?

These are all important questions. But, we must reflect before we can use data to unlock a longer-term economic recovery. We should, in effect, examine who will be doing the unlocking: the students of today. The pandemic disruption to their education has been profound, and its impact may be long-lasting.

In the days leading up to World Youth Skills Day, the United Nations shared data highlighting the impact on global education. Between March 2020 and May 2021, schools were either fully or partially closed for more than 30 weeks. Nineteen countries still had full-school closures by late June, impacting nearly 157 million learners. This was in addition to the 768 million learners who were affected by partial-school closures. Another study by Bellwether Education Partners estimates that three million already underprivileged students stopped their education during the pandemic. This widened the gulf between them and STEM careers.

Although the pandemic may have thrown existing plans off course, education is a lifelong journey. It is now time to get back on track. We can start–and come out stronger than ever–by learning how to read, understand and work with data. In other words: we can become data-literate.

Data Skills Are Vital for Any Career

People don’t often think of data as an HR tech tool. But, if we are to overcome the economic challenges of the last year, we have to think outside the box. We will need to have the skills necessary to quickly interpret and act on information as it’s delivered. In order to do that–and become a society that’s led by data, not assumptions–change is in order. Most notably, educational, business, and governmental institutions will need to take a closer look at data literacy.

Data literacy has become a core skill that everyone needs in the modern workplace, not just analysts or C-suite executives. Every individual–from those who are still in school to new recruits and beyond–must be prepared. They need to be able to comprehend the power and potency of working with data. Without that knowledge, they won’t understand the scope of the challenges and opportunities in front of them. And no amount of HR tech tools will change that. They need to know how to digest the numbers, argue with the results, and put data to use. In doing so, they’ll be able to solve problems, invent new solutions, and uncover ways to be more productive.

This is no small matter, and achieving a high level of data literacy will not be an easy task.  Research shows that less than one-third (32 percent) of C-level executives are classed as data literate. Less than one quarter (24 percent) of business decision-makers are confident in their ability to use data effectively. Data literacy is even lower for 16- to 24-year-olds; only 21 percent are able to effectively use and work with data.

Closing this gap will require that data literacy training is embedded in schools and workplaces. And, most importantly, that it is available to everyone throughout their careers.

Career Progression Depends on Data Literacy

Students and young professionals may not yet understand the importance of data literacy. However, if they don’t learn now, it could be too late. Businesses already need and benefit from hiring people who are data literate. They increasingly rely on HR tech tools to ensure the hiring process is as smooth as possible. But, these skills will be table stakes for the jobs of the future. This is why a growing number of universities, colleges, schools, and educators are taking action.

Ensure That Data Literacy Is Part of the Curriculum

Data literacy should not be limited to students in math or analytics-related programs. It should be part of every curriculum, no matter the subject or desired career. Just as English and basic math are essential to virtually every profession imaginable, data literacy has become a must-have skill. It will provide great value to current and future workers. Data literacy will make candidates more attractive and allow those with this skillset to excel with any employer.

Upskill the Masses With Continuing Education

Although it is important that future generations are prepared for the data-driven economy, existing workers don’t get a free pass. They must also possess the skills necessary to read, comprehend and use data to make informed decisions. And, for that, continuing education is a must. Whether delivered by employers, at school, or in a virtual setting, data literacy has become a vital skill set. The Data Literacy Project offers free resources that can help individuals, enterprises, and institutions get started.

Rise Above the Economic Downturn

Data is an essential component of every organization. We need it now more than ever. As we look to rise above the economic downturn, organizations will rely on HR tech tools to find new talent. From automakers and financial institutions to consumer packaged goods and beyond, they’ll be looking for people who are data literate. Businesses have found that they can make more intelligent decisions when relying on accurate information. Data can be the difference between success and failure, especially when a business fails to turn information into actionable insights.

However, most information still goes to waste. A report by IDC shows that organizations use just one-third (32 percent) of the data available to them. Make time to grasp the importance of data literacy to reduce waste. This eliminates guesswork and leads to productive employees and more successful enterprises driven by data. And, that will allow us to come out of the pandemic with an economy that’s stronger than ever before.

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.

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.

Image by Sarah Pflug

5 Remote Work Productivity Tools You Didn’t Know About (But Should)

The COVID-19 pandemic severely wounded the traditional workplace, causing an even greater need for productivity tools. Even when the pandemic recedes, the workplace will not go back to what it used to be. Employers have a huge task to create an environment where your employees are happy and productive. Undoubtedly, recovery and renewal will require significant innovation. Thankfully, much of that innovation–in the form of remote work productivity tools–already exists.

There are many already known tools out there; each promise to change the world of work. But what about those not mentioned as much in leadership and HR circles? No worries! Here we have a list of some of the productivity tools that you might not have heard about–but you should.

10to8 Meeting Scheduling Software

Scheduling activities and meetings with either employees and clients/customers contribute to improved output. That’s why the first on our list is 10to8 Meeting Scheduling Software! When it comes to arranging meetings, daily standups, or weekly team meetings, this is the right tool for you.

In cases where a team is spread worldwide, the time zones are not a problem for 10to8. But the ability to integrate other existing calendars I have created in Google, Outlook, or Exchange is what I like the most about this tool. When you want to talk to your colleagues, you don’t have to ask them when they are free. Instead, you can check whether they are available at a specific time in their booking calendars. Another welcome feature is the hardworking reminders, making it nearly impossible to miss a meeting.

Communifire by Axero

Enhancing communication not only improves the productivity of your employees but the credibility of your company. A well-streamlined communication system helps decrease unmet expectations, reduce stress, and boost morale. An intranet, a centralized portal that ties together communication and enables people to send files so employees are all on the same page, is a must-have communication tool for remote-based businesses. Most users can tailor intranet software to meet your organization’s unique requirements while promoting transparency and eliminating communication bottlenecks.

Communifire by Axero is one of the most easy-to-understand intranet software choices around. Each department within your company is provided separate sections for supplying and updating communications; however, Communifire allows sharing information between all groups. Each team can add articles, blogs, wikis, photos, videos, and everything else relevant to work for teams. What I found especially useful with Communifire is the many options for customization–an essential element of any intranet platform.

Mattermost

The chances are that many of your employees will continue to work from home well after the COVID-19 crisis is behind us–which means group messaging tools will remain important to work teams. Mattermost promotes collaboration among your employees, enabling work to get done efficiently and effectively with a short turnaround time. In many ways, Mattermost replaces internal emails and substitutes messages in an inbox with a more agile and tool.

This digital space helps teammates communicate with each other, share ideas, comment, or give feedback as if it were happening in person. It offers threaded discussions and supports more than a couple of different languages, making it very useful for global teams–and a worthwhile competitor to the more well-known Slack. Like Slack, Mattermost’s freemium pricing plans for small teams feature unlimited message history and integrations.

Celoxis

A year-plus into the pandemic, companies are still looking for a way to collaborate effectively with others on project-based tasks through productivity tools. To fill this void, the tool we recommend most often is the all-in-one platform Celoxis.

This software provides updates to all relevant users about anything related to a specific project. Through timely prompts, it also urges users to complete their tasks on time. Celoxis has a range of useful project management functionalities, such as allowing project mapping via Gantt charts. With its project planning and project tracking feature, it offers automatic scheduling, multiple resources per task. Celoxis is very easy to use and affordable, making it a perfect choice for businesses still struggling to find just-the-right remote PM platform.

Scoro

Because of more flexible working conditions, many remote workers find themselves struggling to stay focused. They just aren’t getting enough work done–and we can’t blame it all on Netflix. Maybe it is time to employ time and work management software like Scoro.

Industries like advertising, consulting, and information technology are just some of the sectors drawn to Scoro. Time management and work automation, collaboration, scheduling, quoting, sales support, and billing are just some of the features Scoro offers. The platform even provides a project management component, like Celoxis. The control hub from which users obtain customer account information, key performance data, and calendar events are one of the main benefits of using this comprehensive platform in your arsenal of productivity tools.

Invest in Remote Work Productivity Tools

The longer the pandemic lingers, enabling higher productivity among employees is increasingly necessary. Introducing these tools to your employees will help them stay focused and engaged–and will undoubtedly help your business achieve its goals. Yes, there is a learning curve associated with any new technology. And, yes, the benefits of utilizing these tools may not be immediate. But, your investment in these platforms–and your people–will pay off in the long run.

 

An Unexpected COVID-19 Side Effect: Survivor Guilt for the Employed

The pandemic has brought significant physical and mental health concerns to people around the world. With business closings, reductions in force, and forced isolation for those who kept their jobs and careers uninterrupted, the pandemic has also brought an unexpected side effect — survivor guilt.

Traditionally, survivor guilt occurs when a person has survived something traumatic that others have not made it through. In the recent workplace, we have used this term to describe co-workers being laid off or furloughed due to the pandemic’s impact and adverse effects on the economy. The employees who still have their jobs may now feel guilty that they survived the layoffs, whereas their co-workers did not.

This feeling comes alongside the general anxiety that comes from everyday life and the pandemic. It’s a stressful time, with negativity and frustration felt across many industries. Seeing co-workers lose their jobs can add to those mental health concerns. At work, sharing these feelings with people who have similar experiences has been a resource for some.

According to a survey, 61% of respondents feel comfortable discussing mental health with their co-workers. As trusted co-workers get laid-off, employees may, in turn, bottle their anxiety or depression along with the new survivor guilt. This cycle creates an ongoing mental health crisis in the workplace.

Mental Health During the Pandemic

Survivor guilt speaks to the overall mental health crisis during the pandemic. With isolation and social distancing comes loneliness, depression and anxiety. These feelings can affect how people handle everyday tasks and their jobs. If an employer sees an individual’s performance dwindling, there’s a chance it’s due to a mental health concern.

In fact, 41% of adults have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders during the pandemic. Since it’s unclear how long the pandemic will ultimately last, bringing up the conversation is the best way to move forward.

Thus, to best help their employees, it’s now critical for the workplace to acknowledge these concerns. Through the support and discussions enabled by an effective mental health program, employees can obtain the tools they need to cope with survivor guilt and other existing mental health issues.

According to a study, 91% of employees believe the workplace should assist with mental health issues. However, in that same study, 73% of respondents stated that their job does not discuss mental health. As stress, guilt, grief, anxiety, and depression fluctuate through the pandemic, workplaces must incorporate these discussions into their culture. After all, if employees hold on to negative feelings with no outlet or resources, their mental health will continue to deteriorate, as will their performance at work.

Plus, destigmatizing mental health conversations at work fosters a more efficient, healthier environment for everyone.

Solutions for Survivor Guilt

To move forward within the workplace in a healthy way, communication is going to be critical. Feedback and dialogue are tools for bringing up what concerns people have been suppressing, like survivor guilt. Along the way, employers must be in tune with what their employees feel, then listen fully before acting or responding.

Supervisors can open up the dialogue about why the layoffs were necessary and encourage employees to voice how the firings themselves, and the departure of colleagues, has affected them. They should also discuss their needs from the work and company perspective. For instance, employers often ask survivors to work longer hours, yet they have to balance caregiving and home responsibilities on top of their professional lives.

It’s likely best to avoid congratulating anyone for keeping their job while others have lost theirs. Even as a response to their endurance and dedication to the company, employees may focus on the emotional aspect rather than the business side should any form of “congratulations” (let alone “your lucky to still have your job) come into a conversation.

Finally, consider feedback an ongoing conversation – not a one-time thing. Feedback can be as open or as anonymous as people want; regardless of the format, it facilitates more open discussions and, ultimately, more change. With the information collected during feedback sessions, the employer can provide a more transparent plan on the post-layoff direction the company is taking. Simultaneously, employees can voice their opinions on the layoffs and receive resources for mental health counseling. Through effective dialogue, they can also feel secure in their own jobs and benefits.

Making It Through the Pandemic

The pandemic poses countless challenges for people in and out of the workplace.

For those experiencing survivor guilt, it’s essential to speak up and reach out to helpful resources. Don’t go it alone. As many have already learned, issues that affect mental wellness don’t often just go away. Time does not heal all wounds.

For HR professionals, it’s critical to shift the company culture to be more open. We must be honest about the wide range of feelings that come with layoffs and the pandemic in general. Only then can employees move forward and overcome survivor guilt and other obstacles that negatively impact their mental well-being.

 

Image by Adnan Ahmad Ali

Workplace 3.0: Say Goodbye to The Lines Between “Work” and “Life”

Welcome to Workplace 3.0…

How our workspaces have transitioned! There was a time not so long ago when most of us led dual lives – the personal and the professional. In many cases, we built our professional life to support our personal life; one that encapsulated everything but work – our family, our relationships, and our self.

The physical workspace, of course, was where our official work got done. We lived our personal life outside of that office building; to a large extent, it centered around our home. There was a fine territorial line between the two – and only the closest of our colleagues crossed over. For the majority, interaction with colleagues happened either in the meeting rooms that dotted our hallways. Occasionally, that interaction occurred during after-hour happy hours in neighborhood pubs.

The Pandemic Blurred Many Lines

One challenging year changed all of that.

In 2020, as the pandemic engulfed us from Canberra to Chicago, we were forced to move indoors. To keep the wheels of our economies moving and to maintain livelihoods, we turned to technology. And in many ways, technology rescued us. Video conferencing, while already around for over a couple of decades, got the kind of boost a start-up founder can only dream of – when they have time to dream. Buoyed by a freemium model that hooked both individuals and corporates alike, one of the beneficiaries was Zoom, which saw a whopping 326% increase in revenue.

This single most transformational piece of technology ensured that communication flowed seamlessly, even when we weren’t in the office. Between managers and team members. Between suppliers and buyers. And between clients and organizations. Zoom kept the communications line open between anyone and everyone who needed to interact. Constrained by the lack of personal connection that benefits from physical proximity, this was the next best thing. Everyone lapped it up. No doubt, this contributes to the observation that “Time spent in meetings has more than doubled globally” as presented in March 2021 in the Work Trends research by Microsoft.

Video Conferencing Destroyed Those Lines

Unconsciously, perhaps, video conferencing also enabled another dimension of communication. It didn’t blur the lines between the workplace and home. Zoom obliterated those lines.

Suddenly, we welcomed our colleagues, customers, stakeholders and others in the work ecosystem right into our homes. And depending on how much real estate you possessed, they entered your living room, study, garage or even, your bedroom! Now, your office colleagues were privy to your preferred color schemes, taste in furniture, and whether you had one or two rescue dogs for company.

Given this transition happened suddenly, and self (or business) preservation was the primary objective at the time, most of us didn’t put too much thought into the invitation (or was it an invasion?) of our personal lives. We did what we had to do at that moment. We went along with the flow. Now, although we may not be able to reverse that powerful flow, it is interesting to take a look at the long-term implications of the fusion of our professional and personal lives – and the potential impact of Workplace 3.0.

Acceptance of yet another “new normal”

Clichéd as it may be, the fact is that humanity can quickly get accustomed to new ways of working. After working in small offices in smaller buildings early in their careers, people of a certain age graduated to Workplace 2.0 in open-spaced campuses modeled after the large factories of the Industrial Age. We accepted traveling on the Tube to reach these work centers. We accepted long hours away from home to do our work.

Similarly, we’ll embrace this newest change as well. Many of us already have. After all, your colleagues have already been visitors to your home – albeit virtually. So the line between professional and personal has already been crossed. That cat people see jumping on your desk during a Zoom meeting is already out of the bag!

“Reclaiming my line”

Along the way, most Video Meeting platforms added functionality that inserted virtual backgrounds or allowed you to blur your natural background (“Let the laundry lie on the bed, Steve!”). Clunky initially, this feature has now been juiced up by artificial intelligence (AI). For some, this feature allows us to draw a curtain between professional and personal; it enables the creation of a virtual personal space even during professional meetings.

A bonus of this AI-driven virtual reality: Depending on what one is trying to convey, you can choose to be on a beach in the Bahamas in one meeting and amidst the stars the next. (Note: the rescue dogs would prefer a run on the beach.)

More transparency at work

Our makeshift workspaces, differentiated from our personal spaces even though they physically occupy the same space, silently encouraged one aspect of Workplace 2.0: We are to bring only our professional selves to work. The rest of us must stay outside the office doors – or at least outside camera range. Such an environment, quite naturally, encourages workers to live dual lives. We wear a sports jacket on the top and gym shorts on the bottom. In Workplace 2.0, irrespective of what was ailing us, we should put up a smiling face and pretend all is well at work. Now, with the camera now peeping right into our comfort zone, the trend is to be more transparent. To live and display ourselves –  as we are.

Of course, this new level of transparency comes with the hope that our colleagues, bosses and customers will accept us as we are – including the small children who sneak into the room during meetings.

A greater understanding of others

The true benefit of any shift in workplace modalities, and the introduction of any technology that helps us thrive in Workplace 3.0, is becoming more humane – even as we work. By enabling people to connect and relate when social distancing has been the need of the hour, one could say Zoom and similar platforms have done their part. Video conferencing has brought us closer together, even when safety protocols forced us apart. But, there is more.

As we see a young mother breastfeed her young one, even as she reviews the quarterly numbers, we see the human element in action. As we see a not-ready-for-primetime spouse enter the room only to realize the camera is on, we open our minds and hearts to others in a way that we’ve never done before. When we create mini work zones in different parts of our house, to ensure our partner and kids can also work efficiently, we take ‘sharing’ – physical and emotional – to another level. And throughout all the challenges, we gain a greater understanding of ourselves, and each other.

Workplace 3.0: Work, Changed Forever

In essence, one must acknowledge that the way and where we work has changed forever. In Workplace 3.0, we can hope that the blurring of the lines between our personal spaces and our workspaces will continue to bring us closer – to make us more human. And that humanity will foster further collaboration and co-operation at work – that we will be more accepting of each other, which will encourage more diversity at work.

And when all this happens, it will be the single most positive outcome of an otherwise extremely painful pandemic.

I, for one, welcome the lack of lines in Workplace 3.0. And I will be watching how this plays out.

 

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How Your Approach to Employee Well-being Impacts Business [Podcast]

Thus far into the COVID-19 crisis, mental health and well-being have dropped a staggering 33 percent. As a result, many employees are no longer content with basic health benefits as a perk. Instead, now more than ever, they think of wellness as a critical element of their overall compensation package. As many employers are learning: The pandemic didn’t just revolutionize remote work. It is also driving a pivot in how organizations approach employee well-being.

So in this week’s episode of #WorkTrends, we’re discussing how an organization’s post-pandemic approach to employee well-being impacts so much more than just performance. Let’s get started!

Our Guest: David Osborne, CEO of Virgin Pulse

David Osborne, the CEO of Virgin Pulse the world’s largest digital health and well-being company joins us on this week’s podcast. Given his company’s focus on bringing employee well-being into the DNA of corporate culture, David is uniquely qualified to help us take on this timely topic.

I started this episode by asking David the difference between “basic health benefits” and a more human approach to employee well-being. David framed our entire conversation with his response:

“Well-being prioritizes the whole person. It takes everything into account. Physical activity, nutrition, sleep, financial wellness, mental health, and more.” 

David quickly added that today’s best employers realize that “wellness” is a much different approach than just offering healthcare benefits and provide a human-focused level of care to their people.

Employee Well-being: The Right Approach

“People are going to come out of the pandemic relatively broken. A lack of activity, gaining weight, mental health, the financial impact, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc. So well-being should be the number one area employers focus on right now. As more people get the vaccination and the world opens up, employers must meet employees where they are. They must recognize that life and work are not going to go back to just the status quo.”

“We’re not going to flick a switch and be perfectly fine all over again. We must be prepared.”

David and I went on to talk about how the approach employers take to wellness — starting right now — can make or break their businesses. Grab a cup of caffeination or a healthy drink of water, and listen to the entire episode!

We thank Virgin Pulse for sponsoring this week’s episode of #WorkTrends, and we thank David for joining us! Be sure to connect with David on LinkedIn and follow Virgin Pulse on Twitter. 

And, as always, thank you for being a member of the TalentCulture community!

 

Image by Katarzyna Bialasiewicz

How to Best Support Employee Health and Well-being in 2021 and Beyond

Over one year into the pandemic, nearly everything about the workforce has changed — from when and where we work to how employees interact with each other and clients. How employers have adapted their benefits design and their employee well-being and support strategies have also been affected. It has become increasingly clear that this crisis has accelerated significant shifts in many dimensions of our life and work.

The pandemic has also underscored the many complexities of navigating and accessing quality healthcare and how every aspect of their well-being impacts an employee’s work performance — not just physical health.  As a result, many employers are placing health benefits at the center of their overall workforce strategy. As I’ve seen first-hand in my role as Chief People Officer at Castlight, this mindset change has created a shift in the roles of HR and benefits leaders. Specifically, C-suite leaders have become more actively involved in their employees’ benefits experience.

For the workplace of the future and the employees of today, this change is essential. Nearly half of Americans receive health insurance through their company. And a recent trust survey showed that most Americans trust their company leadership more than governmental media. That means employers are in a unique position to impact their employees’ health journeys positively.

Top Priorities for Employers in 2021

The pandemic has given employers an inside look into employees’ daily lives. Now, many organizations have an opportunity to transform how they decide to support their workforce. When it comes to supporting employee health in 2021 (and beyond), employers must pay attention to what employees consider their top priorities. These include navigating the COVID-19 vaccination process and engaging employees in a whole-person approach to their health.

Supporting Employee Well-being Through the Pandemic and Beyond

As vaccine eligibility opens up for more of the population, employers can leverage their position as a trusted resource to improve vaccine literacy. They can also help facilitate more seamless distribution among their workforce.

Employees have many questions about the vaccine, and there’s a great deal of misinformation circulating. Almost a third of the public is still hesitant about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine — many are worried about side effects. Others are concerned the vaccine is too new or that it could give them the virus. Employers must step up and provide their workforce with comprehensive vaccine education materials backed by science, yet easy to understand.

Additionally, by providing ongoing targeted communications, HR leaders can ensure that all employees get the specific care and information they need. For example — essential employees need to know about on-the-job safety protocols and whether or not they’re eligible to receive a vaccine within their state. In contrast, non-essential employees may want to know when they’ll be eligible, where they can get a vaccine, and how to make an appointment.

A Whole-Person Approach to Sustained Employee Well-being

COVID-19 has emphasized just how foundational an employee’s health and sustained well-being is to their happiness, engagement, productivity, and success. So beyond vaccine distribution, employers need to be thinking about keeping their employees engaged in their healthcare long after the pandemic ends. Many leadership teams have started reimagining how they think about benefits as a whole.

After all, remote work has offered a glimpse into everything their employees are juggling each day. Now, it is clear that employees routinely deal with issues all on top of a full-time job. These real-world demands include childcare and homeschooling, taking care of a loved one, and more. This perspective has helped employers learn more about what their teams are dealing with outside of the office. And they’re finally starting to understand the importance of flexibility.

On top of that, COVID-19 highlighted other aspects of well-being, such as mental health. For example, from before the pandemic to January 2021 symptoms of anxiety or depression among U.S. adults jumped from 11% to 41%. Now, employers must look holistically at their employee populations. They must consider all facets of health — physical, mental, emotional, social, and financial. Then they must develop a personalized, equitable benefits design that meets the health goals and needs of every employee.

The Role of the C-suite: Leading Through Complex Times

Moving forward, critical benefits conversations are no longer the priority of just the benefits manager. Members of the C-suite must become intimately involved in employee well-being as well. CHROs, in particular, need to understand their employee segments more deeply. Ensuring a healthier, productive workforce starts with understanding who you have.  Then catering to their specific needs by offering benefits in a personalized way.

Employers can (and should) play a vital role in employee well-being in 2021 — and beyond.

Specifically, given their unique and significant reach into the workforce, mid-size and large employers can be critical leaders in health advocacy. Compassion, communication, courage, and a strong community focus will continue to be imperative leadership traits throughout these difficult times. The way employers care for their employees — and the health and holistic well-being of the employees’ families — will determine their employer brand for years to come.

 

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After the COVID-19 Crisis: The Inevitable Evolution of HR [#WorkTrends]

Few global events have dramatically transformed the world of work as the COVID-19 crisis. Perhaps the most critical issue to the modern workforce, its impact will be felt for some time. Along the way, the pandemic placed our HR teams in the middle of enormous change. And today, HR departments lie at the heart of the transformation. Indeed, we’re watching and living the evolution of HR — in real-time.

While keeping dispersed teams motivated and engaged, how will HR teams keep up with the change still happening in workplaces every day? How will HR work with leadership to drive oh-so-needed successful business transformations? What will we change first… and how will we make it last?

Let’s discuss…

Our Guest: Lisa Dodman, Chief People Officer at Unit4

On #WorkTrends this week, the Chief People Officer at Unit4, Lisa Dodman, joined us to talk about the change happening in workplaces across the world and what HR departments can do to lead and enable successful business transformations. Recently, Unit 4 underwent a transformation of its own, renaming its “Human Resources” department “People Success.” All because, as Lisa said, “…we are in business for people. People Success is about putting your people first.” So who better to talk to about the inevitable evolution of HR?

I asked Lisa about the most significant challenge her People Success team has faced since the pandemic began. Lisa told us, “During a pandemic, you must have a ‘people first’ value, front-and-center. We created a focus on safety and wellbeing. We safeguarded jobs while we created practical engagement solutions. And we helped our managers recognize and help employees who may be struggling.”

“Crisis does create opportunity and we were out there, for our people and their families.”

Evolution of HR: Building a Better Normal

Lisa and I talked about Unit4s award-winning work — and further about their own transformation, including programs like “Freedom of Choice” (including limitless vacation days), “Fit4u,” and “Unit4 Kids.“ I then asked Lisa what HR can do now to build, in her words, a “better normal.” As we wonder how the post-pandemic workplace will take shape, Lisa’s answer made so much sense. 

“First, we must put wellbeing at the top of the agenda, where it is needed. Then, post-pandemic, as people return to a better normal,  HR must be able to move at speed. The work environment is still rapidly changing; this is not an easy journey.”

“Our role as People Success, or Human Resources, is important: We must help people on that journey.”

Unit4 is living their “people first” value. And I couldn’t be any more impressed. 

Is your company, as it looks ahead to a post-pandemic workplace and the evolution of HR, ready to put people first? If not, perhaps you should connect with Lisa on LinkedIn — and start a conversation of your own.

 

We thank Unit4 for sponsoring this episode of #WorkTrends!

 

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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

 

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[#WorkTrends] How to Provide Better Long-term Flexibility for Employees

According to people operations platform Zenefits, and global provider of human capital management solutions, ADP, there are many solutions to choose from when creating a long-term flexibility strategy for employees. Among them: Job sharing, more-permanent remote work, 4-day work weeks, freelancing opportunities, and much more. 

So how do employers and HR teams know which options might work best for their workforce? 

Especially as we look ahead to a post-pandemic world, how do we best provide the best possible flexible work environment for our employees?

Our Guest: Suzanne Brown, Work-Life Balance Expert

On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends, Suzanne Brown a strategic marketing and business consultant, award-winning author, and work-life balance expert — joined us to discuss how employers can learn to value the importance of flexible working conditions. And perhaps more critical to companies today, why flexible work schedules are a must-offer benefit for nearly everyone in the workforce today.

I started our conversation by asking what it means when employees say they want more flexibility. Suzanne’s answer showed us there are two sides to the flexibility coin:

“Employees talk about an informal side maybe you have a sick child, and you want to stay home that day. And they talk about a more formal side, where companies include flexibility in actual company policy. That’s where working from home happens even when you’re not dealing with a pandemic. It is when you have part-time opportunities, a job share, or perhaps a split-shift. Or maybe it is where you can shift your schedule to accommodate life’s other demands — and start earlier and end earlier or start later and end later.” Regardless of the structure, Suzanne said, employers must build flexibility into a company’s culture: 

“Flexibility is more than just taking an afternoon off once in a while. Flexibility is how you treat employees in the long-term.”

Long-Term Flexibility: Co-creating a Culture-Driven Solution

Suzanne went on to say that most companies are now facing post-pandemic realities: “We now realize that we aren’t going back to a formalized structure where everyone is in the office. Companies have to start thinking this through and make critical decisions. They must be able to say:  ‘Okay, this is the strategic, long-term approach we’re taking on flexible work conditions in our workplace.’”

And in what has become a prevailing trend here at TalentCulture, Suzanne says the best way to learn what works best for your company is to ask employees what they need and then actively listen to the answer.

“You need to ask the questions. Maybe the input will be based on anonymous feedback or a conversation employees have with a manager or mentor. Maybe it’s through an ERG, an Employee Resource Group, where senior leadership talks to employees. Regardless of how we ask, we have to ask.” Suzanne then quickly advised, “Then you have to take the next step; you must act. And you can’t just say, ‘That was great, we heard you… but we’re going to do this instead.’” Suzanne added, “That is absolutely not what you want.”

“Because people will stick around now. But as soon as the economy starts to strengthen, and if you haven’t already built flexibility into your culture, you’ll start to lose people quickly.”

I’m sure you’ll agree this conversation with Suzanne was timely. And I know you’ll want to listen to the entire episode. Once you do, I’m confident you’ll be ready to start the right conversations with your employees.

To learn more about Suzanne’s work, connect with her on LinkedIn or visit her website.

 

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Coronavirus Checklist: How to Safely Return to Work [Infographic]

Once upon a time, we assembled around the office coffee machine to discuss what antics happened over the weekend. Now, of course, COVID-19 has wholly transformed our outlook on life, work, and cleanliness — and cleanliness at work. Which means that before returning to work, your company needs a Coronavirus checklist.

Returning Safely to Work: First Steps

The last year has been unsettling enough, and for many going back to work can be just as nerve-wracking. Coupled with waiting our turn for a vaccination, it’s a lot to take in.

“It’s important to know that while vaccine administration is underway, businesses still need to make sure their workplace is ready for staff to return, whenever that may be,” says Carlos Garcia, Managing Director at Total Clean. “The safety of the workforce during — and beyond — this pandemic should be at the forefront of any business owner or leader’s mind.” 

If you’re a business leader, now is the time to think about a recommissioning plan, including having a system (and when we say “system,” a checklist should do the trick) in place for recording which areas have been cleaned and at which times. Also, have qualified contractors on the ready should you have systems that need servicing. Bonus tip: Consider keeping those contractors on standby should you require emergency decontamination should someone becoming ill with Coronavirus. 

A Coronavirus Checklist

To be as prepared as possible, check out this infographic from Total Clean. Here, you’ll see what to do when it is finally time to go back to work — even if that is in shifts or cohorts to start. As many organizations have already learned, re-acclimation starts with the systems (HVAC, fire, and water) that need your attention first. You’ll also learn how to:

  • Level up on cleaning procedures
  • Look after employees
  • Reduce risk
  • Reduce touch points
  • Reinforce social distancing (even after people start to feel safe)

For even more information on preparing your workplace and workforce for the inevitable return to work, check out this guide from Total Clean. Then, make sure your company is completely ready for the return to work.

 

return to work infographic

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 by Narith Thongphasuk

Why We Shouldn’t Completely Deride or Discount 2020

Ask anybody: last year wasn’t ideal. But perhaps we shouldn’t completely discount 2020 just yet.

When the ball dropped above Times Square at the very end of 2019, the world welcomed 2020 with much joy and hope. No one then would have probably imagined how our lives were going to be turned upside down in a matter of months. Ever since the coronavirus began spreading from Tokyo to Toronto, it seems many of us have been playing catch up.

From figuring out how the virus was spreading to how one could protect oneself, to how to conquer it, the pandemic took over our lives. The downstream impact on the economy turned out to be equally, if not more, painful for the public at large. Falling revenues and job cuts tended to go hand in hand for many of the industries impacted by the disease – both directly and indirectly. Given this global reality, it isn’t surprising to see memes on social platforms that showcase the despair many still feel. Nor is it surprising to see so many companies and communities struggle to navigate post-pandemic realities.

While this is understandable, I submit: Let us not wholly deride or discount 2020.

After, all there is so much we have learned about ourselves – and each other – this past year.

Learning How Resilient We Are

In recent times, communities have faced the ravages of the pandemic head-on. Healthcare workers took on the onus of leading the charge; they became our first line of defense. As patients overran hospitals at the same time those facilities ran out of critical medical equipment and supplies, engineers innovated to keep the supply lines moving.

Such innovation enabled 58 Gin, a UK based boutique liquor brand to make hand sanitizers and support the fightback. Similarly, in India, the R&D team at automaker Mahindra’s plant was able to develop a life-saving ‘ambu bag.’ In just 48 hours at a price point of under one hundred dollars, they helped meet the acute shortage of ventilators. In myriad ways, people’s resilience showed we were not going to cave in to our unseen enemy.

Learning More Deeply About Ourselves

Forced to reduce our outdoor activities and limit our footprint, many of us got a chance to press the ‘pause’ button. We received the gift of more time with ourselves and our loved ones. In the process, we gained a deeper realization of our true selves. From understanding the futility of extravagant celebrations to a change in shopping patterns, we moved ahead in a more sustainable way – for ourselves and the planet.

This year, on Cyber Monday, online sales increased at less than half the projected rate, growing 15.1%. As our countries start opening up, we will witness some ‘revenge’ behavior when it comes to shopping or travel. But there is no doubt that a large number of us have recalibrated our lifestyle going forward.

Learning to Value Others More

If there is one visual of 2020 imprinted in our minds and hearts representative of the year, it is the image of grateful people on their balconies, singing songs of praise for our frontline workers. These first responders put themselves in between us and the virus to help save lives, even as they put their own lives at risk. People across the board realized and acknowledged their efforts.

Once the initial heartfelt act of gratitude went viral, others replicated the demonstration of appreciation in cities worldwide. We learned it isn’t race, gender, economic status, or even ‘follower count’ that defines someone’s true worth. Instead, it is their true value to society.

Learning How Nature is Capable of Revival

As COVID-19 forced us to lock down our cities, close our skies, and shutter down our factories, nature got a much-deserved chance to heal. Research by Science Direct establishes that “vital environmental changes have occurred during COVID-19 lockdown.” We’ve gained cleaner waters and purer air; even the noise level has been reduced by 35 to 68% all over the world.

In many cases, environmental scientists were able to benefit from the lockdown. For example, in New Delhi (consistently one of the ‘Most Polluted Cities of the World), they were able to determine the baseline levels of pollution. This much-needed metric will clearly aid the design of policies to better control pollution in the near future.

Learning How to Open Our Hearts to Others

DC resident Rahul Dubey won millions of hearts, not only in his home state but across the world, in 2020. At a critical moment, with police armed with tear gas bearing down, the 44-year-old welcomed more than 70 strangers into his home. Those strangers had gathered in the street to protest the shooting of George Floyd. But soon, their peaceful protest was anything but peaceful.

By opening his doors, he undoubtedly saved dozens of people from a potential stampede and further escalation of conflict. His noble act not only ensured his inclusion in Time Magazine’s Heroes of 2020 list, but it also confirmed to us that not all heroes wear capes.

Resist Temptation to Discount 2020

Despite all the strife we have witnessed in 2020, the year gave us many moments worthy of our gratitude. These moments, of course, do not bring back lost loved ones or livelihoods. But they do signal the fact that, as a species, we are built of strong mettle. And that by continuing to join hands, we will come out stronger on the other side of this virus. And anything else that comes at us.

So, please…

Do not deride all of last year. Do not discount all that happened in 2020! Instead, as you look forward to a more hopeful 2021, be grateful for all we’ve learned!

 

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.