HR Roundtable: How HR Leaders are Dealing with the COVID-19 Crisis in their Workplaces

Yesterday morning Gilman Partners hosted a virtual roundtable for HR leaders to talk about how they are operating during the coronavirus crisis. Here are some of the key takeaways from our conversation:

Communication

  • Keeping employees informed and on the same page is a top priority for HR leaders, especially as the pandemic continues to evolve.
  • Some are using voice, text, and email messaging systems (like One Call) to distribute messages to all employees quickly and in real time. This is especially helpful for larger organizations.
  • Several organizations have created intranets or other places for employees to submit questions. One said their CEO responds to the questions and provides additional company-wide information in recorded videos.
  • One organization is sharing daily sales numbers with employees to reassure them their organization is healthy during these confusing times.
  • All acknowledged the importance of staying connected with employees whether onsite or remote. One said, “People’s wellbeing is what is most important.

 

Cross-training

  • One organization noted it’s seeing an increase in demand for one of its services while another key service is taking a hit. The company is working to cross-train employees to help support the busier portion of the operation as a way to help prevent furloughs or layoffs.

 

Planning

  • The HR leaders agreed they aren’t yet ready to plan what a return to “normal” operations will look like. At this time, they are still making plans for the next few weeks.
  • One of the biggest concerns is what will happen if a large percentage of employees are sick and unable to work. One organization in particular noted it is making back-up plans for essential employees in case they become ill.
  • Several organizations have created “triage scenarios” that put together plans for employees who exhibit Covid-19 symptoms, employees who are presumed to have Covid-19, and employees who have a confirmed diagnosis of Covid-19.
  • Several organizations are preparing letters for essential employees to carry with them stating they are working for an essential business.

 

Ongoing questions and challenges

  • One organization with a largely hourly workforce is preparing for possible furloughs or layoffs. The HR leader wondered, “how will we get back the people we have to let go?”
  • Organizations feel confident their remote employees are working hard, but HR leaders are constantly working to also keep these employees engaged and their organizational culture strong.

 

Hiring

  • Hiring has halted or slowed in some industries, but other organizations – especially those considered essential – continue to hire and even onboard new employees.
  • One HR leader noted her company is continuing all searches that started prior to the coronavirus crisis. Onboarding for new employees will be part virtual and part in person. Her organization is also moving some equipment training online.

 

On a positive note...

  • If there is any bright side to the massive disruption the coronavirus epidemic has caused, it’s that organizations are testing new ways of working and communicating.
  • A professional services organization that previously believed its work could only be done face-to-face from a client site is realizing that projects can be completed remotely with great success.
  • One HR leader noted “This has been a good experiment in whether our entire organization can work successfully from home – and we can.”
  • Another said, “This situation has shown that people can work from home and they do want to work.”
  • One leader talked about an office in another state that previously held the attitude that “if you aren’t at work you aren’t working.” That office has come to see its workers are still productive when working remotely.