Now, more than ever, organizations are realizing the importance of HR during a pandemic. Coordinating home workers while ensuring safe facilities calls for new policies, procedures, and ways of operating. In many cases, the health of the organization is as much at risk as the health of employees.
The experiences of three very different Lindenberger Group clients offer valuable lessons on HR outsourcing trends for both organizations and employees.
Protecting a Busy Office
A union organization faced several coronavirus challenges:
- An influx of union members visits the office daily for various services.
- Multiple vendors and service people are in the office every day.
- The membership regularly brings physical documents to the office for processing.
- Members expect physical documents to be processed and returned within 24 hours.
- The organization’s business continuity plan focused on IT, with provisions for some shared services.
The Lindenberger Group devised and implemented a strategy to keep workers and members safe, while supplying timely services and ensuring regulatory compliance.
Ensuring Safety Without Service Disruption
The first step was to suspend all non-essential services and personnel from entering the office. Members were encouraged to complete documents online. Physical documents were made available in the lobby and submitted in a lockbox; members could no longer enter the office. Members were told that documents would be processed within 24-48 hours and then mailed to them.
Outside vendors were cancelled, and managers identified employees who could work remotely to keep as many people as possible out of the office. Employees were encouraged to substitute electronic communications for in-person meetings. As government recommendations and regulations evolved, the organization upgraded its business continuity processes.
Throughout the process, members and employees were kept informed about the new processes and why the organization was implementing them. Executives understood the need to balance employee safety with member service, and were supportive throughout. Employees, especially those in member-facing positions, were retrained to help members understand what was happening and to help manage expectations.
Protecting employees while continuing to provide excellent service to members is a challenge. A manufacturing firm with many employees who couldn’t work remotely faced different challenges when one employee was possibly infected.
Limiting Exposure to COVID-19
When a manufacturing firm had an employee who showed symptoms of COVID-19, the key was to take preventive action even before test results became available.
The Lindenberger Group advised the company to:
- Send the employee home to self-quarantine immediately
- Inform all employees
- Send employees home who’d had direct contact with that person to also self-quarantine
- Do a deep clean and disinfecting of the facility overnight
- Inform clients about what the company was doing to protect them and its products from contamination
- Keep aware of, and follow, all Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines
A third client faced a different challenge: following multiple sets of regulations.
Managing Multiple Facilities
An engineering firm had facilities in two states, with different, rapidly changing regulations. The Lindenberger Group acted as the company’s de facto HR department, keeping managers in both states aware of new regulations and guidelines. We have also helped the client monitor operations in both states to ensure they remain in compliance with all state and federal regulations.
In working with a broad range of clients across industries, we have identified the following best practices for ensuring business continuity—both during the current crisis and other emergencies.
Plans and Policies
Design a business continuity plan that includes every aspect of the organization’s operations.
Spell out policies and procedures in employee manuals and other materials, and communicate regularly with employees.
Formulate a work-from-home policy that covers multiple circumstances, including long-term illnesses and absences, parents who must care for sick children, and other scenarios.
Employees and Operations
Ensure that all non-essential employees can work from home in the event that they’re barred from the workplace.
Review health insurance, not only for coronavirus testing and treatment, but other possible pandemics.
Executives and Awareness
Ensure that leadership understands how employees and processes will be affected in the event of a business disruption.
Keep abreast of state and federal laws regarding paid sick leave, especially the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
How to Manage and Hire
Managing remote workers can be challenging, especially for managers with no remote management experience. When managing remote employees, managers should:
- Have more frequent communication via phone, email, instant messaging and virtual meetings
- Use collaborative software
- Proactively reach out to individuals and teams
One proactive step that HR and hiring managers can take to prepare for the next business disruption is to expand the interviewing and evaluation process for prospective employees. Look for soft skills, such as the ability to effectively telework, communication and collaboration skills, and the flexibility to adapt to changes quickly.
One Final Lesson
A skilled, knowledgeable HR department, whether in-house or outsourced, is invaluable when managing changing, challenging circumstances such as a pandemic. The key is to proactively have policies, procedures, and operations in place before they’re needed, and to react quickly when circumstances change.
Employees will remember how their organization acted, and how they were treated, during a time of crisis. The right HR strategies can ensure they remember the organization for all the right reasons.
For an evaluation of your current HR functions and emergency preparedness, please contact the Lindenberger Group.