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10 things HR professionals can do now for their businesses during COVID - it’s not just about getting through it, it’s about coming out stronger.


There’s never been a busier time for our HR clients. To quote one of them recently, ‘It’s been muck, blood and bullets every day – and we are struggling to make any headway in the short term’.

However, there is now a realisation that the short term reality is going to be with us a little while longer and that means planning and executing with more impact for success now and as some element of normality returns.

In talking to a wide range of clients in the last few weeks, it’s clear that many are facing the same issues. From those discussions we’ve put together a handy checklist to share.

1. Refresh your approach to comms

You’ve been doing more internal comms to your teams and managers than ever before. The problem is that it’s been getting too samey, the gaps between comms are widening and the engagement is falling. You need to reinvigorate the messaging and messaging frequency.

Start with a comms audit. What works, what do people want, what do they need to know. Then, as you would with your external marketing, develop your content plan and channels. Mix it up. Use video, use infographics and yes use good old fashioned print as well as digital.

2. Stop the ‘thinning’ of work relationships

This is a serious issue. Pre-COVID many of your colleagues will have enjoyed fostering new working relationships beyond their immediate team. Now, working remotely or being in a socially distanced office means that their horizons are being restricted. You’ve already done the quizzes on zoom, guess the pet (or school photo) but what now?

Here’s some great ideas that have worked for us. A pedometer challenge in teams of four (a proven winner), or perhaps a virtual community choir who train and perform each week (and then come together for a celebratory performance in the future). Or even something as simple as a weekly virtual team coffee, to replace the time spent in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil.

3. Re-energise your employee engagement

People are more worried about their jobs, their health, their families and their finances than ever before, you need to be seen to listening, to be empathetic, giving feedback and acting. It’s not about relying on the annual survey any more – or any bright new shiny always ‘on tool’. It’s about asking the right questions at the right time and creating an effective cycle of follow through and accountability. Your old survey cycle and tried and tested questions may be out of step with the here and now. We can make effective listening a powerful tool again for you.

4. Show them you care - “The little things? The little moments? They aren't little.”

That’s a quote from Jon Kabat Zinn and it’s hugely relevant today for all employees. We can help you build a culture of recognition. We can provide toolkits for Managers to help them be the engaging, people centric manager you would want them to be. And we can help put together Care packs or Working From Home packs for all your employees. Those ‘moments of truth’ are what memories are made of and help bind your employees to the organisation more than any aspect of pay, bonus or benefits.

5. Check-in on peoples’ emotional wellbeing

Resilience is being tested to the full. It’s not going to be ‘All over by Christmas’ as we had hoped and, although everyone is facing the same threat, not everyone is facing the same circumstances. Everyone is different and it’s important to understand what each person is dealing with in term of their emotional wellbeing. That means as a minimum managers both improve their awareness of potential issues and check in with staff every day. From the centre, we can help you set up the right listening platforms. A confidential, short check-in survey to see how people really are – and to seek their suggestions on a myriad of things – as always will be invaluable.

6. Reconnect people with your purpose, vision and values

More than ever people need to feel connected to the organisation, its purpose and that feeling of a shared future. Show them your ‘why’, the ‘good we do’, ‘the value we add to customers’ and the ‘difference we make’. Bring it to life with real life stories and anecdotes. And don’t just show them, communicate and celebrate it with flair and passion. We can help you shape the values and embed them in the hearts, minds and actions of your teams.

7. Invest in Health and wellbeing

For many employers, Health and Wellbeing has traditionally been a tick box exercise. However, the world of work is changing and, as part of that, the world of Health and Wellbeing at work is changing faster. Employee engagement and health and wellbeing are now inextricably linked. More than that, employers are recognising the fact that health is one of the major hidden risks and costs for modern business: it can range from £900 to £3,500 per employee per annum, 4-6% of the payroll. But these are costs that are simply not seen, and therefore the opportunity for businesses to help their employees is being lost.

Our strategic Health and Wellbeing audit aims to set a benchmark and highlights both issues and opportunities. This audit will create a programme of work aimed at increasing the quality and decreasing the cost of your Health and Wellbeing agenda.

Every £1 invested in Health and Wellbeing will see between £3 and £7 back within 18 months, net of all investment.

8. Build trust across a remote workforce

Trust is earnt over time by your actions and intent. So what can you do?

· Give to get – trust them and let them prove you right.

· Absolute clarity and transparency on all comms – no surprises, no-one is the last to know, treat every employee like you would a customer (i.e. reply to emails, respond to issues, ask how you could improve).

· Lead by example (and call out any managers that don’t).

· Do what you say – if you’re not accountable why should they be?

· Be humble, own any mistakes, don’t be afraid to show vulnerability.

· Build the culture of recognition.

· Equip the managers to be interesting and interested in each team member as an individual.

· Listen, understand and act – whether that’s in engagement, wellbeing, enablement or even whistle blowing.

· Give each employee a personal budget for their development along with the ‘gift of time’ to use it.

9. Build your employee advocacy programme

A recent survey said that less than 15% of candidates believe what the C-suite of a company say, less than 25% believe what HR say but more than 66% believe what the employees say. And when this has been applied by companies it really works. The most authentic, enthusiastic and articulate exponents of your brand and the employment experience you offer are the people who work for you.

Our employee advocacy programme gives them the platform to communicate their employment experience in a consistent, relevant and personalised way, fully supported and managed by the DNA team. This will build your employer reputation across all of the audiences that matter to you – internally, among your stakeholders, in your community and in the external talent market.

10. Get your EVP, employer brand and attraction tools ‘match fit’

Hiring may not have been top of the list in terms of priorities for the last six months. But the current situation isn’t changing any time soon and there are still real shortages of good people in the market. When you are looking to hire again, with purpose, you’re going to need the right tools at your disposal. For some clients we are reworking their EVP to ensure relevance post COVID, for others we are reviewing their employer brand to ensure maximum impact, not just in attraction, but also in onboarding, induction and beyond.

Grasp the opportunity, it’s time to act

Hopefully you’ll agree that we’ve identified a number of great ideas to address not only the challenges you are facing right now, but to also help you come out stronger. Do feel free to use them as your own.

Download our guide for HR professionals

In any time of change there is always threat and opportunity. We’re helping organisations shape their plan for the new reality. How can we help you?

In categories: Employee engagement
Author: John Tarrant
Date published: 20.10.2020

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