Photo: Danielle MacInnes

10 Tips to Stabilize Employee Experience During the Pandemic

In an outlook where the future looks bleak, only true leaders guide their team through the storm and come out stronger on the other side. And only the best leaders will focus on employee experience during that storm.

That leader needs to be you.

During an unprecedented crisis such as COVID-19, your leadership becomes even more valuable. With so much uncertainty, your employees will look to you now more than ever for stability.

How Can You Maintain a Positive Employee Experience?

Here’s how you can provide stability for employees while keeping your business operating at maximum efficiency…

1. Foster Transparent Communications

During times of crisis, transparency becomes essential. If your employees think your business is in trouble, they’ll feel anxious.

As the person in charge, you need to keep everyone in the loop. That means sending regular updates about how the business is doing, what problems you’re running into, what you’re doing to deal with them, and more.

2. Keep Communications Positive and Hopeful

Since employees will be expecting to hear from you often, make sure any communications you send out don’t make your employees feel anxious any further.

For example, if you have daily or weekly meetings, start them off by talking about successes within the company. After all, recognizing your employees’ efforts becomes even more important during times of turbulence. And those people and teams recognized will certainly appreciate being recognized, a key aspect in improving overall employee experience.

3. Offer Ways for Your Employees to Relieve Stress

Since the lines between the office and home have become blurred, it can be a smart move to provide your team with ways to relieve stress such as:

  • Providing your employees with additional time off and breaks if needed.
  • Setting up team virtual game nights or remote “after-office” clubs. (That said, make sure to be considerate of parents and others who may not have the same flexibility with evening get-togethers.)
  • Encouraging your team to talk to each other about how they’re handling all the changes. Make it easier to share how colleagues in similar positions are managing — what’s working, what’s not.

Happy employees tend to be better at their jobs. Helping your team relieve stress shows them you care, and it can foster in-office ties.

4. Adjust Your Internal Processes to the “New Normal”

Nothing is the same as it was months ago, so the internal processes that help you deliver products/services and accomplish tasks also need to adapt to the new normal.

For example, now might not be the best time for performance reviews as few people may be thriving during the pandemic.

5. Be Empathetic and Patient with Your Team

The pandemic and near-global quarantines have had a massive impact on most people’s mental health. One of the key reasons is that a lot of employees don’t know if they’ll have a job in a month or two.

On top of being transparent about how things are going within the business, you also need to be patient with your team. Few people are performing at 100% now, so empathy is key.

Don’t simply assume you have empathy. Chat with three to five trusted people for their honest feedback and ask if they perceive a sincere effort to accommodate the team.

6. Ramp Up Employee Feedback

Although you may know your industry inside and out, your team probably has insights that you might not have considered.

If you want to stay ahead of the curve, encourage everyone who works for you to come forward with any feedback they might have. The best way to do that is to provide multiple channels for inbound feedback.

7. Set Up New Channels for Inbound Feedback

Some examples of the types of channels you can set up to encourage employee feedback include:

By providing multiple channels, you increase the chance employees will share concerns and also information about protocol violations.

8. Promote New Safety Protocols

If part of your team isn’t working remotely, then it’s your job to enforce security protocols.

That means giving your team all the information they need to perform their job safely without adding to their stress levels.

So don’t make it sterile and forgettable. Promote your safety protocols in a fun way that’s “on-brand” and will click with your employees.

9. Help Your Team Recalibrate Expectations

Although it’s your job to ensure that employees don’t feel anxious, you also need to be forthcoming about what the pandemic might mean for the employee experience now and in the future.

Some companies are putting off raises others are cutting hours, and more. Being transparent about what the business is going through will help your team keep their expectations in line.

Your team will have the confidence to adjust if they see a transparent management that is doing everything to keep the ship afloat. And that confidence will become a huge element in their employee experience.

10. Recognize the Small Things

Now more than ever, your employees need to know that you recognize the work and effort they’re putting in.

Without people showing up to work every day (even if it’s from their living room) your company wouldn’t survive. By fostering an environment where hard work is recognized and praised, you can help your team weather the storm.

Your Leadership Can Make the Biggest Difference

No industry is coming out of the pandemic unscathed. So how good your footing is after everything is said and done will depend on the level of stability instilled into your employee experience during these times.

By fostering transparency, encouraging employee engagement, and by being more empathetic, you can ensure that your team knows you’re on their side.

3 Ways to Create a Cyber Security Culture in Your Workplace

Today’s workplace is more concerned with online attacks than before. As hackers launch cyber-terrorist attacks against businesses of all sizes, everyone from the customer to the CEO is concerned for the safety of their information. Some of these hackers don’t do anything but break into the system and vandalize webpages and cause other types of chaos, but many are looking for credit cards and other information they can use to make money. Both types of attacks damage your reputation and can result in hours of additional work for your team.

The solution isn’t just to create stronger security for your network. It’s to create a workplace culture that understands, prizes, and implements computer network security protocols on a regular basis. Creating this culture involves starting with a strong foundation and building up while making certain your team is there with you.

  1. Don’t Forget the Basics

Many businesses look to the latest in security tricks, programs, and concepts as the only things that can protect them. However, in doing so, they often forget many of the basics. Following some of the basic security methods can actually stop most attacks, especially those done by amateurs who aren’t serious hackers. Following these basic security protocols is often very easy and very affordable, too, so your business doesn’t have to spend a lot of money to protect itself. Here are some of these simple yet powerful methods of defending your network.

Use Strong Passwords Strong passwords are the first line of defense against a cyber attack that would turn your own users against you. Your employees must understand that asking them to create long passwords that use a mixture of letters, numbers, capital letters, and special characters isn’t just because you want to make them remember something difficult. These passwords can often be the only thing that keeps someone from breaking into a user’s account and doing anything they want with the data found there and the access that account has.

Patch and Update Regularly – Software isn’t perfect. In fact, most software has a few glitches in it, even software that has been on the market for years. Sometimes, these glitches aren’t really noticeable and don’t affect the overall operation of the programs. Other times, these issues open up your system to attacks by creating vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Keep all of your software, especially programs such as your antivirus scanner and your firewall, patched and up-to-date. If a company says a patch addresses a security issue, make sure to install it right away.

Know Your Norms – What does your system look like when everything’s normal? If you don’t know, then you can’t really know when something has affected your network. You need to have a baseline image of what everything looks like before you encounter any issues so you have something to compare a potential cyber security breach to.

Limit Access – Most employees only need access to a small amount of your overall computer network, so why give them access to everything? By limiting access, you protect your more sensitive data since only those who truly need to access it can. This way, even if an employee account is hacked due to a weak password, chances are the hacker can’t get much information because the account’s access is limited.

Inventory Your System and Monitor It – Take an inventory of the programs and other resources on your network and update that inventory when you add or remove anything from your system. This way, you know what programs should be there and can more easily spot something that doesn’t belong.

Once your system is inventoried, you want to add real time intrusion detection software such as Snort to your system. This program will monitor your network and alert you to anything suspicious, including users trying to access files they have no business trying to open. Using Snort will help keep your network safe even when you’re not actively watching it, such as during the evening and early mornings.

  1. Train Your Employees

Your network security is only as strong as your least-trained employee. That’s because employees often leave doors open to hackers and others who want to infiltrate your network. But it’s not always the employee’s fault. If they were never trained in good security techniques, how can they be expected to know that they shouldn’t open email attachments from senders they don’t know or that they shouldn’t use a simple password?

Training is especially important in today’s BYOD culture where employees often bring smartphones, laptops, tablets, and flash drives to work and connect them to the office network. You have no control over the security on these devices, so they could be riddled with viruses and malware. Teaching employees how to protect their own computers not only helps them keep their systems clean, it also protects you.

There are a number of ways you can train your employees on good network security protocols. All new employees should go through computer security training so they know the basics. You can reinforce this training regularly by including monthly security tips in your internal newsletter or in emails. Having refresher courses annually may also be a good idea, especially if you’ve had some employees become lax in following network rules.

  1. Encourage Leadership to be Role Models

If your senior leadership takes your online business security seriously, everyone else will, too. However, they have to be seen as leaders in this area, which means they have to follow all of the rules as well. Some senior executives may feel as if the rules don’t apply to them, so they’ll use weaker passwords or leave their computers unlocked while they’re out of the office. Executives often have more access to the system than other users, so having one of their accounts compromised can be disastrous.

This doesn’t encourage anyone else to be vigilant about their computer security. If your top level managers don’t follow the rules, why would anyone else? Make certain training starts at the top and that everyone, from the CEO down, follows your security protocols.

Photo Credit: UKNGroup Flickr via Compfight cc