Innovative HR Solutions, LLC

Friday, April 23, 2021

What are the Top Five HR Challenges that Leaders are Managing Due to COVID?

As a result of the on-going pandemic leaders of many organizations are struggling to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of their employees. Based upon survey data, outlined below are five challenges that managers are facing today along with recommendations to address these demands.

Managing Remote Work

Managers in pre-COVID times were able to walk down the hall to meet with their staff, support their efforts and provide their subordinates with task direction.  With the need to offer employees a safe work environment many employers determined that employees needed to work from home.  Working from home created an environment where structure was often lacking, IT support limited, and business practices were imperfect.  Managers and leaders of organizations over the past 14 months have learned that responding to the needs of the employees swiftly along with providing support to make this transition as easy as possible needed to occur.  What this means is that when employees reach out for assistance, managers need to respond with an action-oriented plan.  Whether it is dealing with a systems issue, customer support or logistics challenges managers need to respond and rectify any issues.

Ensuring Effective Employee Communication

Communication during the best of times has always been a significant handicap for many employers.  With many employees working remotely communication is not as effective nor as complete as it needs to be.  Communication with employees working from home is often one-way, not consultive or as collaborative as is necessary.  While efficiency and the use of technology (Teams, WebEx and Zoom) are valuable tools they do not replace one-on-one conversations with the staff.  Often times these tools are used to communicate tasks and strategy but not individual work challenges.  Managers need to ensure that their subordinates have quality one-on-one time to address specifical work issues and impediments to success.  The ability to walk down the hall and obtain direction will at some point return; however, in the interim managers need to carve out time for direct communication with their staff.

Job Uncertainty:

One of the consequences of the pandemic has been the loss of job stability and security.  Initially, millions of employees lost their job, the social and financial safety net was lacking, and government programs were stretched to the maximum.  Over the past 14 months many employees have returned to their old jobs; however, many remain unemployed, and their job has been eliminated or their employer has ceased to exist.  A manager’s role during this uncertain time is to reassure their staff, be transparent in financial health of the organization and explain to the employees what their role currently is and how their job might change in the future.  Honesty and sincerity are critical to alleviating an employee’s fear of job insecurity.

Workforce Wellbeing

The sudden shift in work culture over the past year has taken a tremendous toll on the employee’s overall health and wellbeing.  The social aspect of work, ability to share business and personal challenges with colleagues has been replaced by on-line meetings that lack an exchange of support and empathy.  Employees feel less inclined to share their successes and challenges when the format is not conducive to maintaining privacy.  Managers need to check in with their staff to find out what is happening not only on the work front but also on the personal side.  Find out how the employees is handling their isolation from their co-workers, have they experienced any issues around “loss” or illness.  Managers need to be prepared to provide resources to their staff to address any health or wellbeing issues. 

Employee Engagement:

Engaged employees are committed to their organization’s goals and values, they are motivated to contribute to organizational success, and are able at the same time to further enhance their own sense of purpose.  With employees working remotely, insufficient communication tools, job insecurity, workforce wellbeing issues; and employee engagement has suffered.  While some industries have flourished and grown over the past 14 months, many employees have experienced a significant disconnect between their support for the company and their colleagues.  Managers need to make a concerted effort to work with staff to listen, address and resolve their challenges.  Mangers will also need to address the topic of when “normalcy” returns what do employees envision as their work environment of the future.  Engage employees to determine how they want to work in the future.  Do they want to return to the office permanently, partially or intermittently?  Listening to the staff and incorporating their ideas as part of an overall policy will improve employee engagement and general support for organizational success.

Monday, March 1, 2021

What are the Four Key Traits Exhibited by Engaged Employees Today?

Top-performing organizations understand that employee engagement with the business is a key driver of success. Engaged employees are team players, productive and customer focused.  Engaged employees care about the future of the company and are willing to invest time, energy and effort to support the strategic direction and vision of the organization.  Engaged employees tend to produce greater results, have higher productivity, and remain with the company longer.

As a result, organizations possessing high levels of satisfaction and engagement are more likely to be financially successful.  Based upon our employee survey data outlined below are the four key attributes that engaged employees demonstrate.

#1 Demonstrate Satisfaction with their Career

Satisfaction with one’s career is a key driver of an engaged employee.   Employees who enjoy their job, are satisfied with their career progression, contribute to the success of the company and are more engaged and aligned with the business.  Engaged employees will also remain at the organization longer which can result in less turnover.  This directly impacts the bottom line.

#2 Are Decision Makers

The ability to make decisions and be held accountable for those decisions builds trust between the employee and the leaders of the company.  Challenging employees to take risks empowers and engages staff.  Building trust between management and staff allows for those closest to the customer to make decisions that are based upon the current reality and typically results in more satisfied customers.  Engaged employees are “take charge” individuals and are willing to take calculated risks.

#3 Possess Excellent Communication Skills

The leaders of the organization need to be able to communicate the vision, values and mission of the company.  Their efforts in sharing the strategy result in an informed employee base that understanding the successes and future challenges that the company may face.  Leaders also need to listen to the employees and process the information in such a way that allows for all employees to contribute to success of the company.

#4 Are Problem Solvers

Engaged employees examines problems and working with the team is able to provide a solution either independently or as part of a team.  Engaged employees encourage a team approach to problem solving as a way to better support the customer.  They will also seek out problems and view them as an opportunity and a challenge.

Finally, engaged employees are committed to their organization’s goals and values, they are motivated to contribute to organizational success, and are able at the same time to further enhance their own sense of purpose.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

How Business can Thrive During A Global Pandemic?

Your business is based upon relationships with your customers, vendors and employees.  Keeping in touch with these three stakeholders is particularly important to ensure your business survives the current economic downturn as a result of the global pandemic.  By creating a plan to ensure that you maintain communication with these three constituents, your business may succeed and even thrive during the global pandemic.  Whether as the leader of your organization or a manager of your business unit evaluating how you approach your three contributors to your success will help you and your business survive.

Customers

Keeping your current business and winning new business does not just mean winning customers.  It is much easier to secure existing business than it is to acquire new clients. Your current clients already know you, like you, and trust you. Right now, businesses need to prioritize reaching out to current clients before new clients.  A personal check-in goes a long way. All businesses are a relationship business. Now, more than ever, it is important for you to remember this.  Check on how your customers are doing before you check-up on how their business is doing. A heartfelt email or phone call to show customers you are thinking of them is always appreciated.  If you get the sense that they are willing to talk about business, ask them about their current priorities.  What are they struggling with during the pandemic? What new objectives are they trying to achieve?  Can your expertise solve one of those problems? Can you help them achieve their new goals and objectives?  If you can add value, support your customers and see where your assistance can help them out.

Vendors

Your budget is tightening, and your service providers might be willing to examine their current pricing structure. That does not mean you need to eliminate their services; however, getting creative with their pricing and examining ways you can create more value for less expense may be an option. If your vendors do not have the ability to reduce their fees request something that still creates the outcome that you desire, but maybe involves less of your involvement or a longer arrangement at the current pricing level. These smaller offers also pave the way for a longer relationship when the pandemic is no longer an issue and the vaccine has created herd immunity.

Employees

The Human Resource profession over the past ten months has changed dramatically.  With many employees working remotely HR professionals will continue to face significant changes in the near-term.  The need for timely information to support the immediate needs of the staff will only get greater.  HR metrics to evaluate performance, gauge communication challenges, support effective talent management practices, retain employees, along with the evaluation of employee satisfaction and engagement will become a key focus for the future.  HR leaders will need to find new ways to reach out to employees to evaluate that their needs are being met.  A plan to contact the staff to ensure that communication remains uninterrupted and that questions are getting answered will need to be implemented. 

Action Step: Choose & Implement Your Strategy

To be successful, select one of the targeted audiences above and act on it.  Reach out to a customer, vendor or employee and ask how they are managing the changes as a result of the pandemic. Listen to their concerns and if you can help solve one of those problems, put together a plan and strategy to help them.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Why is the Performance Review So Important Today?

With all of the changes over the past several years and the shift of the Human Resource profession from a tactical to a strategic focus, one of the questions we hear from many of our client’s is the performance review relevant in today’s business environment?  Businesses today are driven by metrics and the HR programs that have been in place for many years need to be evaluated to determine if they are effective.

Given the current work environment where more employees are working remotely,  our survey data indicates that the performance review remains a valuable tool to motivate and ensure high levels of performance.  To support this position, we examined our survey data in order to determine what our clients and respondents are saying about this key management responsibility.

What is a Performance Review and How Do We Define this Process?

The performance review is a mechanism to document an employee’s skill level based upon a clear understanding of the duties and responsibilities of the job and the results expected.  Performance reviews have been viewed as an effective tool for management to help motivate and maximize performance and productivity.  It is also a way to outline career goals and identify expectations for the future.  The performance review if consistently applied across the organization can facilitate a ranking mechanism for management which helps identify high-potential employees as well as provide succession planning services for key positions in the company.

Do Employees find Value in the Process?

Based upon our employee survey data areas of employee satisfaction with management are varied; however, employees find the management responsibility of conducting the performance review especially important for ensuring high levels of performance along with the maintenance of superior employee-management relations.  Holding all employees accountable creates a team environment where honest and constructive feedback is valued.  Employees; however, do not view the performance review as an isolated event but rather a continuous process.  The formal performance review, while typically conducted annually, should be communicated and offered as a tool for on-going employee development.

Do Managers find Value in the Process?

Our survey data suggests that the need for managers to motivate employees through a progressive performance review process facilitates a stronger organization which allows the employee to grow professionally.  The opportunity to present a strategy for continuous improvement and tie pay to performance along with recognizing excellence on the job creates an environment that is more innovative and creative.  If done properly, managers believe that the annual performance review can retain high performers and lower turnover.  Furthermore, if performance, pay and incentive plans are linked the performance review process will have more significance and importance.

What is the Problem with the Annual Performance Review?

With managers and employees finding value in the process why are there so many issues with this key Human Resources program?  Managers will often wait to deliver bad news to the employee during the annual performance review rather than addressing any challenges immediately.  This approach creates the environment where the employee cannot alter their behavior or make changes until it brought to their attention and by then it is too late.  Employees will often not want to appear lacking in their performance and when challenges surface they are reluctant to bring any impediments to their success out of fear on not being viewed as knowledgeable.  Both parties want a successful process only the communication process is lacking and not cascading through the organization.

What is the Role of HR to make this Process Work?

HR’s role is to create an environment where all employees are treated fairly, and their manager is viewed as a strong coach and mentor.   Human Resources is also a facilitator for change and thorough a performance management training program this particularly important management task can remain relevant and a key metric for managing and retaining talent.  HR professionals will need to devote more time and attention in the future to providing leaders of the organization with the training on how to deliver an honest assessment of their direct report’s performance in a timely manner.


Given the current work environment where many employees are working remotely the performance review has taken on additional importance as it provides feedback to the employee, keeps them engaged in the success of the company and provides a formal link to the organization.

 


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

What is Employee Engagement and How to Make the Survey Process Successful During a Pandemic?

Potential clients will often approach our firm and indicate that they want to conduct an employee survey to find out what the employees are thinking.  The motives of the Human Resource leaders in making this inquiry is based upon a need to discover what is happening in their organization.  Given the pandemic it is important to find out how the company is responding to employees who are working remotely.  Acting and responding to the employees will break down the communication barriers that could develop given that so many team members are working from their home/office.  In order to have a successful outcome we recommend that our clients follow a three-step process to determine if an employee survey is the most appropriate means of evaluating satisfaction and engagement given these uncertain times.  Here are the recommended steps to ensure a successful survey:

1.  Define engagement and inform the employees what this means and how engagement supports the business.  Our definition of engagement is as follows:  Employee engagement is the relationship between an organization and its employees.  An engaged employee is one who subscribes to the values and goals of the organization and works to ensure success.” Engagement varies by industry and employer and much like a mission statement, engagement should have the support of the organization by being published and marketed through-out the company.  Employees could be experiencing a lack of engagement given that they are currently working remotely.  A survey will send them two messages – we want to hear from you, and we want to ensure you remain connected to the business. 

2.    An engagement survey is not an isolated event but rather a process to improve employee satisfaction and make your company an employer of choice.  While measurement is key to the program’s success the action planning process will make or break the initiative.  If managers do not assume responsibility are not held accountable for improvement the survey process will not be successful.  HR needs to transition from administering the survey to supporting the needs of the business by working with key leaders to develop action plans and accountability measures based upon the data collected during the survey process.

3.     Ensure that a process for following-up on the agreed upon action plans is adhered to and becomes part of the culture.  If a consistent process is not established the survey process will be lost by newer initiatives, a business crisis or change in personnel.  Our experience has shown that during the current health crisis an immediate response from management will ensure that employees are connected to the business.  Ensuring accountability to the survey process and addressing issues are much more important when employees do not have a day-to-day connection to their manager and/or HR.  In addition, follow-up pulse surveys to evaluate trends and long-term employee satisfaction and engagement will support progressive business practices.

An increase in employee engagement will boost profits and productivity.  Creating a high-performance culture of obtaining feedback will identify the strengths and weaknesses of the individual and the organization.  Businesses today want to understand how they can secure more creativity and support from their employees.  In conclusion, employers today face extraordinary challenges with respect to managing the business and at the same time meeting the needs of their employees.  Human Resources leaders need to take the long-term perspective with respect to engagement and the survey process.

 


Friday, September 11, 2020

What is HR’s Role During COVID-19?

Over the past six months business in the United States has changed dramatically.  We have gone from exceptionally low levels of unemployment and a healthy economy to a work environment where 40+ million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance, business failures and constant chaos.  During this time HR has played a unique role in developing polices to meet this challenge.  However, given that the pandemic will not be ending until a vaccine is available and administered; HR will need to adapt and play a strategic role that is focused on three areas to assist their employees work more effectively, become more productive and improve communication.

Using Technology to Work Effectively

Technology over the past several months has been the life support for many employers as they continue to have many of the team members working remotely.  Internet applications such as Teams ©, WebEx © and Zoom © are invaluable program to support the sharing of information.  HR will need to continue to support these strategies so that employees remain in touch, are given information to complete their daily tasks.  Training and webinars to support on-going learning will help build confidence to empower the staff to learn how to utilize these tools.  Video conferencing will be the future of most meetings and serve as the key communication tool.

Providing the Staff Tools to be More Productive

Many of the employee’s resources before the pandemic were just down the hall from where they worked.  Whether it was an HR issue, a systems problem resolved by IT or a product pricing question answered by the Sales department; these issues were handled by reaching out to those employees that could address the issue quickly and efficiently.  Today that is not necessarily the case.  HR now and in the future will need to create a checklist to ensure that the employees have the tools to be productive.  This may include a FAQ of typical problems that employees may encounter while working remotely and to whom they should contact.  One of the most common issues raised in our pandemic survey was the lack of resources to deal with systems issues.  While many employees are skilled in their technical area of expertise, systems challenges remain a significant burden for many staff members working remotely.  In addition to a checklist HR will need to periodically audit what is need by the staff to determine what has changed over time and how they can address their needs.

Communicate, Communicate and Communicate

Employee communication while always a challenge will need to be further enhanced to ensure that managers are successfully supervising their staff.  This will help guarantee that they have the tools to be successful in this new normal.  Constant and consistent communication will be critical as employees will be working Independently with little supervision and minimal support.  Managers and the leadership team will need to be highly organized to evaluate roadblocks that their staff may encounter and determine the best course of action to address these barriers to success.  Daily communication from managers to their direct staff, weekly communication from the division leaders and monthly communication from the leadership team will need to be calendared and adhered to.  Given so much uncertainty in the business environment along with insecurity in one’s personal life a structured work environment will help.

While the challenges of COVID-19 are many, human ingenuity and the resourcefulness of the Human Resources profession has not changed.  Your team will learn new skills, become more effective communicators and contribute to the success of your business.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

How Will the Work Environment Change after COVID-19?


Starting in early March 2020 business in the United States changed dramatically.  We have gone from low-employment and a robust economy to a work environment where 30+ million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance over the past 7 weeks and those that have jobs are working remotely.  Congress has addressed this issue by offering workers expanded unemployment insurance and for businesses; grants, payroll protection programs and low-interest loans which can be forgiven under specific circumstances.  More support from Congress is planned for the future.  While Federal support is critical for the economy, the States are also offering programs to help their citizens

Given all of these changes what will happen to the American worker when we are finally able to return to normal.  I would suggest that we will never return to “normal” but rather there will be changes in how we work in the near term along with long-term challenges.

Short Term Changes

The short term effects of COVID-19 may include some of these challenges:

§  Office workers will not be following the normal 8 to 5 work schedule but rather a more flexible schedule will need to be adopted by companies, not-for-profits, and governmental institutions.  Employees will work in modified shifts which will stagger their hours to ensure social distancing.  Testing for COVID-19 will be administered on a weekly basis and this cost will be a burden shared by the employer and government.

§  Office workspaces will need to be modified to ensure that physical distancing between employees and customers is adhered to and that barriers to physical employee inter-action will need to be constructed.  Certificates will be given to those employees that have acquired COVID-19 anti-bodies which will ultimately be their passport to avoid future testing.

§  Manufacturing, production, and line employees will need to adhere to the social distancing guidelines which could mean that production may not be at peak for the near future.  Protective gear will need to be assigned to employees and replaced on a frequent basis.  Testing for COVID-19 will be administered on a daily basis and this cost will be a burden shared by both the employer and government.  Similar to office workers certificates will be given to those employees that have acquired COVID-19 anti-bodies which will ultimately be their passport to avoid daily testing.

§  For those employees where working remotely is an option, companies will encourage staff to set-up home offices.  They will only be required to visit their physical office on a very infrequent basis.  This will create significant challenges for management to hold employees accountable to verify that performance and productivity standards are maintained.

§  Technology will become even more important as a tool to maintain the communication channels between the leadership team and rank-and-file employees.  Video conferencing will be the future of most meetings and serve as the key communication tool.

Long Term Challenges

The long term effects of COVID-19 may include some of these challenges:

§  Less office space requirements will depress the commercial real estate market and the result will be a declining inner-city.  City versus suburban infrastructure financial resources will put pressure on the HR professional as additional unemployment in this industry will occur.  A perfect example is retail space in shopping centers and the potential bankruptcies of big retail companies.

§  Management will need to develop tools to keep employees appraised of the company strategy, successes, and challenges through nontraditional means.  The days of “all-hands meetings” are over.  Conferences and large professional events maybe eliminated until a vaccine is developed.

§  While working from home worker injuries will need to be evaluated and policies developed to ensure that workers and the employer are both protected.

§  Employee communication while always difficult will need to be further enhanced to ensure that managers are successfully supervising their staff to guarantee that they have the tools to be successful.

§  High unemployment will be a significant challenge for the future with many people looking for work in industries that no longer exist.  Examples include retail, restaurants, hospitality, and travel.  Until a vaccine is developed and widely distributed, human psychology would suggest that these types of industries will not bounce back quickly.  People are scared and do not want to put their health at risk by shopping, going out for dinner, going to a hotel, or boarding an airplane.  Companies will play a key role in supporting these former employees through outplacement services and technical training.

While the challenges of COVID-19 are many, human ingenuity and resourcefulness has not changed and there will be a vaccine which will protect all of us.  The key question is how long will it take to develop and what intervening factors will change how we work in the future between now and then?



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