Getting back to normal at work won’t be normal at all. Organizations and leaders will face a new set of challenges as they reopen or continue to operate their companies after COVID-19. I hope to help you navigate the changes to your workplace with a few tips about how to move forward using good communication and clarity.
We’ve never done it before. We’ve never come out of a worldwide pandemic — or rather, come out of what-we-hope-was-the-worst-of-it-without-shutting-everything-down-again. This phase of life, as we are getting to know it, will be a good thing. But without question, it will be challenging. And I guarantee you that our work-worlds will be different (no matter your company, location, or job) than before COVID-19!
Ready for the wisdom? There will be many new activities and rules that we’ll all need to follow — work hours, staggered lunches, daily health checks at the door, workplace distancing accommodations, new visitor rules, continued virtual meetings, and more.
Some changes will be difficult. But some will be welcomed and easy, and of course some things will stay the same. How profound is that!? Maybe not. But it’s true. As employers, you need to consider rules and guidelines from OSHA, ADA, HIPAA, and EEEO, just to name a few. And you need managers and employees to know what they need to do differently.
A Post-Pandemic Point of View from a Been-There-Done-That Woman
As an experienced consultant, I’ve worked my whole career at the crossroads of HR and organizational communication. I’ve helped close plants, restructure companies, transform benefits, integrate merged organizations, introduce innovations, train managers, and win-over employees.
But let’s just be honest, none of us have experienced this before! So, my thoughts here are based on what I’ve learned lately and my gut — what I know works in other situations.
Master the Basics
- Know the JURISDICTION of your workers and facilities and the related laws and guidance. All countries, states, and even counties may have different rules.
- Understand how the guidance AFFECTS the policies and practices you need in your business — be sure to understand the differences for each location.
- DOCUMENT new or revised policies and practices.
- COMMUNICATE THEM to employees.
AH HA! The magic word, “communicate!” This does NOT mean include them in a policy manual, dump them on a website, and simply tell employees the handbook has been updated. That will not do it.
Four Tips for Moving Your Workforce Forward Successfully
- Yes, update the policy manual or employee handbook. Clarity is key. I know your attorney will do an accurate job. But will all employees understand the message and what’s changed? Get a communicator/writer/editor to review the draft from the attorney and make edits for readability. Yes, writers and attorneys can work together — we do it all the time. With mutual respect, you will have the best outcome for your employees: something that everyone understands.
- Add a section to the handbook called “COVID Pandemic Changes.” In this section, highlight the policies and practices that have changed or are new — link to the details in the handbook. Make it easy for employees and managers to identify the updates.
- Meet with managers to review the changes. Yes, go over point-by-point what you expect of managers and employees in the future. Focus on clarity and compliance. Leaders need to know what’s expected of them and what they are holding employees accountable for. Provide managers a cheat sheet to keep in their pockets, on their phones, on their clipboards, on their bulletin boards, everywhere.
- Reinforce the new policy or practice. Marketing wisdom says that we humans need to hear/see/experience things at least seven times before we remember them. Ideas for reinforcement include: reminders in team huddles, messages on TV monitors, mirror clings in the bathroom, pop-up screens on computers, articles on your intranet, internal contests and competitions, posts on Yammer/Slack/etc. And share success stories, such as: “Sara followed this procedure and the outcome increased safety,” or efficiency, accuracy, sales, or some measure that’s important to your company.
My colleagues and I at Workforce Communication can help you execute any or all of these four steps. Let us know if you’re up for a chat about how we’d customize this wisdom for your unique workplace.
Along with Jesse, Laurie Barnes is a co-founder of Workforce Communication. With more than 30 years in the biz, Laurie is a successful communication executive who is known for out-of-the-box thinking. She has held leadership positions at three large, global consultancies — Willis Towers Watson, Deloitte, and Mercer. In 2010, Laurie formed Maple Tree Lab, a communication boutique. At Workforce Communication, she serves as a talent leader inside the firm and a creative strategist for clients.