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HR’s Emerging Role in Helping the Workforce Navigate the New Norm

HR’s Emerging Role in Helping the Workforce Navigate the New Norm

It all happened so fast. Within a few weeks, COVID-19 has transformed the way we work. Millions of employees are now working from home—and many of them don’t have much experience doing that. 

This is a defining moment in HR. In the new climate, your employees need leadership. They’re looking to the company and you for stability, guidance, and resilience. It’s a tough situation, and we all have to think on our feet. However, even though the crisis is unprecedented, there are time-tested leadership practices that can help. 

Here are some employee experience (EX) best practices to help keep your company resilient and productive:

Keep Mental Health in Mind

Social distancing, combined with uncertainty, can exacerbate mental health issues among those who are prone to them. In a national survey in mid-March, Axios found that about 29% of people felt their emotional wellbeing had worsened over the course of just one week. An internal survey at Salesforce revealed that 36% of their 50,000 people workforce is experiencing mental health challenges these days—and those are the ones who are willing to admit it. 

The more you can help employees maintain a healthy state of mind, the better your company will fare throughout this crisis. So, it’s smart to look into any options you have available to support your employees in this way. Starbucks, for example, has expanded its mental health benefits by offering employees 20 free therapy sessions, plus free access to self-care apps.

Focus on Your Mission

Teams don’t come together just to check boxes off a task list; they come together around a real sense of purpose. Those with experience in managing remote teams know that this is even more important to emphasize when team members are in disparate locations. Make sure to reinforce the big-picture, the mission that your company exists to fulfill, and keep employees focused on that horizon. Frequently communicate around the state of the business, how customers are continuing to use products or services and the impact the company is making. 

Communicate Your Action Plan—Even If It’s Not Perfect

Gallup found that only 39% of employees strongly agree that their employer has communicated a clear plan of action in response to COVID-19. Even worse, fewer than half of employees (48%) feel that they’re getting direct information about what’s going on in the organization concerning COVID-19.

These numbers aren’t too surprising, considering many are simply thinking on their feet. It can feel scary to share a “plan” that wasn’t even conceivable two months ago. However, an imperfect plan is better than no plan. Your employees need to see you, as a leader, laying out a plan to move forward. They need you to do this even if you’re not 100% sure it’s going to work.

When you open up to your employees about your action plan, even if it’s changing daily, they’ll appreciate your transparency.

Keep Your Finger on the Pulse

Amid these fast, sweeping changes, it’s crucial to know how your employees are reacting week over week. Employees play a vital role in how the future of work unfolds. Simply asking employees how they are doing, what do they need, and thanking them will go a long way in showing empathy during times of change. 

We recommend performing an employee micropulse survey consistently and frequently in order to monitor employee needs and gather actionable insights. Pulses can help uncover valuable perspectives related to IT services, HR, management, and day-to-day productivity. They can also help you tease out a “baseline” level of anxiety, so you can understand how people’s stress levels are rising and falling and respond accordingly.

Engage Employees’ Creativity to Fight Stagnation

Research suggests employees are invested in doing great work for their employer and our current climate reinforces this sentiment even more –people want to do great work and they want to help. As HR pivots to meet new challenges and demands, employees can play a vital role in sparking new ideas that might help the business pivot faster.  Medallia is using crowd-sourcing to capture ideas from our front line employees on how to better support our customers during this time. This has resulted in greater empowerment, team bonding, and real-time idea generation. 

A New Way to Manage Experiences   

In the past few weeks, HR teams have been dusting off their survey tools to tap into the workforce on topics from IT services to working remotely to work-life balance with children at home—all while realizing that employees are not always willing to share. In fact 66% believe they value the opportunity but are quickly discouraged since only 40% have felt heard. It’s clear that once-a-year studies on how the workforce is doing are no longer sufficient even after we kick COVID to the curb. 

Creating a culture of openness and feedback can’t be done overnight — and it starts with HR, leadership and managers. More importantly, it will start with how organizations increase employee willingness to share by simply showing up to meet employees in a way that’s human, intuitive and intelligent in the flow of their work.  So that giving feedback in the moment becomes a natural part of the journey, touchpoint, and experience. 

Need More Ideas?

We’ve pulled together a few practical ways on how you can use existing Medallia instances, along with our complementary offerings, to meet employees where they are and support them during this unprecedented time. Check it out here.