This article originally appeared on Forbes HR Council.
It can be hard to imagine, but there is a light at the end of this COVID-19 tunnel. Businesses will eventually reopen, and employees will return to their workspaces. But we won’t see a complete return to normal. Workplaces will look and feel very different — and in many ways, the experience will be something like a culture shock.
But unlike the shock that came with the start of this crisis, companies have time to prepare their businesses and their employees, examining potential futures and creating contingency plans for each. For example, because there may still be a risk related to the virus as more people return to work, companies can develop a strategy for keeping employees safe in the office.
For this kind of planning to be effective, it needs to start now. The task might seem daunting in the face of uncertainty — not to mention the host of urgent matters leadership teams are addressing on an almost daily basis as the situation evolves. But considering reentry must be on every leader’s priority list so that the business is able to respond quickly and decisively (and safely) as restrictions ease.
Most importantly, these measures will help employees feel at ease. They’re ultimately the ones who will determine how quickly a company can adapt to another new normal. By taking proactive steps — from communicating contingency plans to deciding what the new normal office space will look like to providing ongoing support — companies will better support employees through this next adjustment.
Have A Contingency Plan For Every Variable
According to Accenture research, one of the top needs of employees in times of crisis is confidence in the company's ability to navigate the future. "You don’t have to know everything.... A leadership team that looks ahead proactively, and responds rather than reacts, goes a long way toward helping people in volatile times," the researchers wrote in the report.
This is exactly what contingency plans accomplish: spelling out how your company will react to a number of possible futures. For example, what will be your company’s response if the virus reemerges and sends everyone remote again this fall? What if there’s another economic recession? These are the questions employees are already wondering about. Sharing the company’s strategy ("in person" over video, not in an email), even if it’s not all good news, will demonstrate confident leadership and increase employees’ trust in the business.
Redesigning (Or Ditching) The Physical Workplace
Most businesses will reopen before the coronavirus is fully contained — in fact, some already have. For some, that persistent threat of the virus and the comfort with remote work might make the office space obsolete. Experts predict that many employees will want to continue working from home after the initial wave has passed. If a company’s business strategy is compatible with remote work, and if teams were productive while working from home, getting rid of an office is something to consider.
But for those returning to a physical office, they’ll return with a concern about whether the workplace is safe. The once-popular bullpen desks and open floor plan will likely feel too close for comfort. Instead, offices will need to be updated for better hygiene, from positioning desks farther apart to more regularly (and thoroughly) cleaning conference rooms and shared spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms and elevators.
While these changes might make the office feel safer, getting used to this new office space will be an adjustment for employees. Gathering in a smaller conference room might feel uncomfortable. Stopping for small talk in the kitchen might, too. To help navigate this awkwardness, anticipate some of these issues, and set expectations before everyone returns through a video call. This will help prepare employees to adjust and demonstrate that the business values their safety.
Be Prepared For Your Employees To Change After The Pandemic
Everyone has experienced the pandemic differently. Some people, for example, have had a negative experience with remote work: One study on working from home during this crisis found that over 50% of employees feel lonelier and experience increased anxiety. For others, the transition to remote has been welcome, helping them embrace a better work-life balance and more flexibility.
Still, the entire workforce has been affected. The CDC recently issued a warning that the stress caused by this crisis has put people more at risk of developing depression and other mental health issues. Companies should come prepared to offer support, and doing so will require proactive communication. Research shows less than 50% of employees feel that mental health is prioritized at their company. Organizations without mental health benefits should consider adding them; others can boost existing offerings with employee assistance programs that refer workers to therapists and counselors in their communities. Companies should also consider training managers to talk about and normalize mental health at work so that employees feel more comfortable discussing it.
We’re about to enter a new normal, and companies must be ready to adapt. Thorough planning will help them prepare and keep employees’ anxieties in check. Those companies that fail to approach reentry with transparency and empathy could lose what is most crucial to the overall health of their business: the support and trust of their employees.
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4 Ways to Expand Your Social Media Recruiting Strategy
Social media is ubiquitous, and companies are using it in many different and innovative ways for enhancing their sales, marketing and customer services. So why is it then that many HR departments still fail to see social media as more than a job board? Outside of the office, the same HR people happily engage with friends on Facebook, share news and ideas on Twitter, look at pictures on Instagram and send snaps on Snapchat. But when they put their work hat on they seemingly forget why they use social in the way they (and hundreds of millions of other users) do every day, and resort back to just posting jobs (in a boring way) on social media! Of course there is nothing wrong with job posting, and it's often an effective approach to reaching an audience, but not all of the time. According to LinkedIn, only 12 percent of the working population are actively seeking new employment. So, if all you do is post jobs on your LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook page, you are consciously ignoring the other 88 percent of the working population who might be interested in hearing more about your company in general. Creating and sharing interesting content about your company such as employee stories or volunteer days help bring your employer brand to life. It might even trigger people to reach out to you and find out more about your job opportunities. In truth, mixing up your social media feeds with a variety of content will provide more depth and candidate engagement. Here are four ways to expand your social media strategy and engage with new potential candidates. 1) Candidate Sourcing With people using an average of more than five social networks, sourcing talent via social media makes absolute sense. Branch out from just using LinkedIn and look to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to search for and engage with prospective talent. Try search tools like Followerwonk to search Twitter bios for keywords and job titles, a clever Chrome browser extension called Intelligence Search that easily searches Facebook and using the search bar at the top of Google+. They will help you identify new talent. If you are looking to build social media pipelines then try Hello Talent. It is a great free tool that allows you to build talent pipelines from many different social networks by using a browser extension. 2) Competitor Monitoring Social media is a fantastic source of information and data. By using tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, you can monitor the social media activity of your competitors. Both of these tools allow you to set up search columns, where you can enter things like keywords, hashtags, Twitter names and track when any of these are mentioned on sites such as Twitter. You can use the interact or use the insights accordingly. 3) Resources for Candidates Consider your Facebook page (or Twitter channel) as a real-time customer services channel for you to engage and communicate with both new and existing candidates in the recruitment process. Provide links to your social media pages to candidates at all stages in the process and encourage them to visit the pages and ask questions about any part of the process. You can also share useful information about working for the company, including locations, employees and other relevant news. 4) Live Recruitment Events Not everyone can attend the many recruitment events happening every month. But by using social media like Twitter, Facebook Live, Instagram and Snapchat, you can easily provide live commentary for these events you attend or host. Real-time video via Facebook Live and interaction via Twitter chats are superb examples of ways to regularly engage with a live audience of potential candidates. With social media firmly established in our working lives, I question how much more evidence HR departments will need to fully embrace this "new" form of candidate engagement. Photo: Twenty20
Cartoon Coffee Break: Unconventional Recruiting
Editor's Note: This post is part of our "Cartoon Coffee Break" series. While we take talent management seriously, we also know it's important to have a good laugh. Check back every two weeks for a new ReWork cartoon. Missed the Recruiting Trends conference? From the state of recruiting automation adoption, to the role that the human element still plays in recruiting, our recap covers everything you need to know. Header photo: Creative Commons
The Latest Office Benefit Is Tackling Student Debt
Modern companies are more than just employers — increasingly, they are also gyms, cafeterias and even laundromats. As perks like yoga class, free lunch and complimentary dry cleaning become the norm, companies continue to push the boundaries on ways to attract and retain top talent by providing much more than a paycheck to employees. The latest in the slew of new workplace benefits? Student loan assistance. In April, Chegg partnered with Tuition.io to give full-time employees extra cash for student loan reduction. Then in September, consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers announced it would provide up to $1,200 to help employees pay off loans annually. As a benefit, student loan assistance programs are certainly still in their infancy— one survey found that only 3 percent of companies offer such a benefit. But experts say that may soon change as companies seek to differentiate themselves in a competitive hiring environment. "We think student loan benefits are poised to be the next big benefit; similar to what 401(k) matching was when it was first introduced," says Dana Rosenberg, who leads employer and affinity group partnerships at Earnest, a lender that offers student loan refinancing and works with companies to create loan pay-down programs. The Burden of Student Debt Such programs could be extremely attractive to debt-laden Millennials. Around 40 million Americans collectively carry $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and the graduating class of 2015 was the most indebted class in history with an average debt of $35,000 (a superlative they won't hold for long come May 2016.) For employers looking to adjust benefits to correspond to the changing demographics of their employee base, student loan programs hit the mark. "In 2016, our employees will be 80 percent millennials, and we also hire close to 11,000 employees directly out of school each year," says Terri McClements, Washington Metro managing partner of PwC. With student debt often preventing young people from participating in 401(k) plans and reaching traditional life milestones, the benefit could potentially make a large impact on employees' financial and personal well-being. A study from the American Student Association found that 73 percent of people with student loans reported putting off saving for retirement or other investments due to their debt, 75 percent reported delaying a home purchase and 27 percent reported it was difficult to buy daily necessities. "Student loans can be a very stressful thing to deal with, so if we can give our employees peace of mind, that's great," says Caroline Gennaro, corporate communications manager at Chegg. The Allure for Employers Student debt assistance programs aren't just attractive to employees, either. Rosenberg says there are significant benefits for the organizations that offer them as well. "Employers that offer programs to help their employees get out from under their debt load are seeing big benefits: increased retention, more competitive recruiting and, perhaps most importantly, happier employees who have additional cash flow to put towards their life goals," Rosenberg explains. Rosenberg says happier employees are more engaged employees, who tend to be more productive. Studies show that companies with high employee engagement experience lower turnover and have double the rate of organizational success than their less-engaged counterparts. Student loan benefit programs may also lead to a more diverse workforce, attracting employees whose financial backgrounds meant they had to take on more debt for their education. "Diversity and inclusion are also very important to us, so the ability to offer this benefit can help minorities who come out of school with a higher debt burden," says McClements. A Promising Response Companies say the response to their student loan assistance programs have been overwhelmingly positive. Chegg has had more than 80 people sign up since they started their program this summer, and they've already eliminated roughly 86 years of collective loan repayments for their employees. Companies are also finding these programs are a way to differentiate themselves from organizations that may offer more generic benefits. "As a company in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are always looking to attract the best and brightest in the industry, and this benefit is a big draw," says Gennaro. Photo: Shutterstock