Managing Your Workforce in Times of Crisis

As the COVID-19 pandemic encroaches on our working and personal lives, employers all over the world find themselves in uncharted territory. People are faced with a sudden, enforced transition to remote work. And, at the same time, most are scrambling to ensure their business has a sustainable future at the end of the crisis.

In these uncertain times, people leaders and HR teams have never had a more critical role to play. Employees must be supported as they switch to working from home. Many, for the first time. They need to feel supported, well informed, and safe. Particularly in light of the many anxieties this pandemic brings.

Here are three things people leaders can do to support employees during this time.


Provide clear guidance

A recent study shows three in four people globally are worried about ‘fake news’ and the spread of false information about COVID-19. Nearly half say it is difficult to find reliable and trustworthy information.

Unsure of who or what to trust, workers are turning to their employers for trustworthy guidance and information. While they want to know about how COVID-19 is directly impacting their work, they also want their employer to filter information and provide more general information about the pandemic crisis. Not necessarily only information related to their employment.

As the situation changes rapidly by the day, HR and people teams need to communicate frequently and clearly to help employees stay informed. People want regular information regarding COVID-19, with 63% asking for daily updates.

These updates can be provided through any number of channels. Emails, internal communication platforms, virtual town halls, or through the company’s social media updates.


Help leaders navigate new ways of working

Remote working is not a new concept in Australia. In fact, two-thirds of Australian employers offer some form of flexible working arrangement. However, it would be a mistake to assume that all leaders are skilled at managing and getting the best out of teams working remotely.

Take feedback for example. Virtual feedback can be easily misconstrued. Without a smile or physical cues, a short, sharp email can come across as aggressive or dismissive and cause anxiety for the recipient.

Managing employees remotely requires leaders to adapt. HR professionals should be supporting them to ensure they understand the dynamics of non-verbal communication and are trained and equipped to manage remote teams.


Keep employees engaged through performance goals and regular check-ins

Working remotely, by its nature, can disrupt the sense of connectivity between team members. It can also increase feelings of isolation. Business leaders must find ways to compensate to ensure workers remain engaged with their teams during this time. People leaders should encourage business leaders to check in with their teams regularly. As well as reinforce focus areas, help them find solutions to problems, and ensure they are not suffering undue stress. Where possible, try to conduct these check-ins via video calls, so there is face-to-face contact.

HR teams should ensure these connections are maintained. And, that leaders and teams have the right tools and support. Beyond using video and messaging platforms, HR teams should also consider performance management software to help drive and maintain engagement. Ensure employees stay connected and focused on their own personal goals, as well as the company goals.

In times of uncertainty, those in leadership roles with the support of HR and people teams need to step up. To empower their workforce to remain engaged and productive with the right tools and processes. Being able to manage your workforce effectively can have a big impact.

Not just on employee engagement, but also the organization’s ability to come out on the other side of this crisis stronger, more agile, and resilient than before.

Deborah Deborah Mason

Deborah Mason is the Senior Vice President, Global Talent for PageUp. Deborah is currently responsible for PageUp’s global people strategy, including acquiring, developing, growing and retaining the company’s global team. With over 25 years of experience, Deborah has generated a strong knowledge of integrated talent management solutions, operational and people practices, and the formation of strong relationships.