Employee Relations Opportunities During a Crisis By: Mathew BurrMBA, MHRIR, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, CPHR
With the overwhelming amount of information on the internet related to the COVID-19 pandemic and daily changes in labor-and-employment laws at the local, state and federal levels, how does an organization ensure it is doing the right thing for the workforce?  Changes are occurring sometimes on an hourly basis, and many of us have had to lay off or furlough the workforce during these uncertain times.  We still have an opportunity to build stronger relationships, cultures and loyalty within the employee ranks.  

Opportunities during a Crisis:
  1. Continuous and Evolving Communication:  Do we have all the answers?  Nope, and I don’t expect that or assume we have all the answers.  However, we still need to follow up on employee questions, requests and concerns.  There is a lot of information on the internet, and we all have instant access to this information.  Keep the workforce informed and aware of any changes within the organization.  An answer of “I don’t have an answer to that right now” is better than completely ignoring the question or concern.  
  2. Employee Assistance Program (EAP): If you are offering an EAP service to your employees, reach out to that provider and understand what virtual options are available to your workforce.  Is there anything else an EAP can provide to the workforce, managers or leaders during these uncertain times?  If you do not ask, you will not know.  
  3. Unemployment, PFL, Sick Leave, Etc.: Proactively communicate information to the workforce on any changes or updates you have related to this information.  This is changing daily; ensure that is part of the communication as well.
  4. Additional Resources: Network with other organizations, chambers of commerce, the Small Business Administration and other local resources to ensure all avenues have been explored.  We are all in this together and working together will ensure we are moving forward.
  5. Virtual Team Meetings & Trainings: Set up time to check in with employees virtually, or have virtual team lunches.  I moved my SHRM certification-exam prep class to virtual, after the first week of in-class discussion.  I encourage focusing on the material in the class as much as possible; be where you are at that time.  There might be an opportunity to catch up on trainings.  Remember, sexual harassment training is annual.
  6. Treat People How You Want to Be Treated: It really is that simple.  Ensure you are listening to understand the emotion in the conversation, and not just listening to respond.  Follow up on questions and concerns.  
  7. Wellness: Encourage the workforce to stay healthy and offer any virtual options that might be available through health-care providers or EAP services.  Wellness includes physical, mental and emotional.  

This is not an easy time for any of us.  As leaders, we have no other choice but to lead and be the voice of calm through all the challenges and changes.  Treat employees how you want to be treated; it really is that simple.  Build a culture of caring and compassion.
Mathew Burr

Matthew W. Burr has over 12years of experience working in the human resources field, starting his career as an industrial relations intern at Kennedy Valve Manufacturing, to most recently, founding and managing a human resource consulting company: Burr Consulting, LLC, and serving as a co-owner of Labor...

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