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Time to Prepare for the Team’s Return

This article provides post COVID-19 Onboarding Resources, how to return to Work after COVID-19 and tips about bringing employees back to work.

It’s a no-brainer – our post-COVID-19 world WILL be different.  Everyone seems to be talking about the ‘new norm’.  There’s also no argument when it comes to being in the driver’s seat, as we turn our attention to resuming and creating the new norm. Of course, you will need a plan for resuming business activities in a post-COVID-19 world.

The road we have travelled in recent times has taken us through some unfamiliar terrain.  We have detoured, some have crashed, and others have faced deep potholes and found a way around them.  Then there are those who have found a new paradigm for their business, outstripping revenue expectations and literally ‘making hay while the sun shines’.  The sun hasn’t shone for all, and their road ahead will require the GPS to perform a ‘recalculate’ to get back on track.

We have seen businesses that have managed to stay afloat through a successful pivot or re-invention. 

What they have achieved should be reviewed and emulated where possible. 

If your business is to succeed, it must make way for a more agile, innovative, responsive and sustainable business model; one that has already thought through the pivot opportunities identified from conducting robust risk analysis.

So when you get to developing the plan for your business in a post-COVID-19 environment, consider the following.  The list is not exhaustive but is a good starting point.  Whatever is in your plan must be ‘goldilocks’ for your business but don’t necessarily take the comfortable option; growth comes from operating outside that zone.  There is no blueprint available, only the lessons from the perspective of you and your team and the invaluable experience of others.

1.    Things Have Changed

What will change at your workplace?  What will life, the Universe and everything look like – post-COVID-19?  These past few months have impacted everyone and every business – socially, environmentally, politically and financially.

In unfamiliar times, it is best to treat whatever will or has changed as a change management opportunity.  Think about the effects on your business since COVID-19 lockdowns forced businesses into work from home strategies.  The impact its had on stakeholders and the professional community that is your network.

Whatever the changes look like, having a Frequently Asked Questions schedule prepared will help to put team members at ease.

The plan that you develop will permeate every corner and crevice of the business, it will be impossible to dodge the change that is coming.  And everyone must be on the ‘change boat’, rowing in the same direction.  To succeed in a world that has forever changed due to COVID-19, the old divisions and differences that once existed MUST be eradicated.  These behaviours will be an anchor that will impede success.  Robust debate that respects the right of opinion can be a pathway to new ideas but there is no place for sniggers and attempts to derail.  Your best change management abilities will be required.

2.    Health & Safety First

No matter what is happening, safety is always our number one priority.  COVID-19 has both reinforced what we should be doing and increased our vigilance for safe working practices. Consider what is required to stay safe at work, travelling to and from work and encourage COVID safe practices during recreational activities.

Also, consider the following:

  • Social distancing at work and how it will impact the working environment, whether indoors or out, current workplace layouts.  Hot desks may have to go to make way for ‘cool’ desks.
  • Travel to work conversations must be had with those team members who are used to taking public transport.  Consider recommending and or issuing masks to those who will take public transport
  • Cleaning / disinfecting practices;  these may already be in place, but if not, what do they look like for your workplace?  There is a plethora of information and resources available from government health departments.  In Queensland, check out https://www.business.qld.gov.au/running-business/whs/resources-covid-19 and fact sheets for industry here https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19/industry-and-businesses/resources-and-fact-sheets-for-industry
  • Health & safety of employees must include consideration for the psychological impact of isolation.  By now, activities to stay in touch may have impacted those who have not coped with the isolation factors.  If not, your efforts to resume normal work activities should include a ‘check-in’.  If any employee shows resistance to return to work, be ready to support them.  An ‘ice-breaker’ – a morning or afternoon visit is ideal; consider talking to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) service provider so that employees can reach out and gain psychological support to overcome any concerns and fears about returning to work.

3.    Your ‘New’ Approach to Your Business

What has changed in your business as a result of innovating to survive?  Are your revenue models different? Have you successfully been able to pivot and introduce new products and services? How are doing business differently now?  What will you do differently in the future – new opportunities and innovation that will be pursued?

  • What does this mean for your team?  Perhaps they have been able to work through the change with you and have embraced new concepts, skills and responsibilities.  For these team members, consider:
  • Is the change temporary or permanent?  How will it change Position Descriptions, Job Titles, employment T&C’s?
  • There may be some team members who have been working remotely through this time and only have a superficial understanding of the changes; how will they be supported on their return?
  • Will they receive training, if so, team them with a buddy who can do this
  • Have there been video recordings of the changes?  Consider making these available before their return
  • Have there been changes to operating procedures or processes brought about by doing business differently and have these changes resulted in new regulatory requirements?

4.    Leading Through the ‘New Norm’

Post-COVID-19 will require a new order of leadership.  Your day to day leadership/management style may have been relatively ‘transactional’ – you get on with the job at hand, check in on people, projects and processes; talk to customers, meetings with suppliers, working in the business and keeping all the squeaky wheels well oiled.

In a new order of leadership, transactional behaviours are adapted to include some elements that have been borrowed from ‘transformational’ behaviours. Most of the transactional tasks still need to be managed PLUS the leadership style will demand the following:

  • Show that you have a Vision that will lead the team through the crisis and emerge stronger at the other end
  • Show genuine concern for each individual; this will demand your time, attention, empathy and positivity.  If you work in a hierarchical organisation, ensure that your direct reports and their direct reports are singing from the same hymn book.
  • Challenge your followers to contribute towards innovation and new ways of doing business that will help to get everyone through the crisis
  • You must walk the walk of course – the tag line ‘we are all in this together’ should be your mantra

5.    Providing Support – Differently

As we emerge from our work from home (WFH) cocoons, what, if any support services will team members require?  Being thrust into WFH had its challenges but after almost three months of flexibility, no commute and being able to wear leisure gear all day, people are returning to ‘normal’ or in most cases a ‘new normal’.

We need to put our best change management hat on and consider what assistance the team will need to transition back.  For many, it will probably include staggering the return, rostering to manage, and more challenges as the whole family get into new routines.

There may be resistance by some; requests and applications for a more flexible approach to the working week.  There is much speculation and discussion about the real possibility of a four-day working week being embraced in the post-COVID-19 era.

Team leaders, managers and other support staff should be engaged in a program that supports others to identify barriers through which they can work.  This can be achieved by developing a Frequently Asked Question schedule and published for everyone to view.  Keep adding to the FAQ schedule as new questions and concerns are raised.

The best part about a FAQ schedule is that the issues and responses can be managed consistently.  Across a multi-department, functional and location business, consistency is critical to rebuilding culture and camaraderie.

The (free post-COVID-19 resource) Senza Carta Re-Boarding Checklist will kick-start the conversations about what to include in your support program. Grab a copy Senza Carta Re Boarding Checklist

6.    The New Rules

The new order of things has created either revised or additional compliance requirements.  Depending on your industry sector, regulations and requirements that impact your business, be it local, regional or federal, every company operates under a set of rules.  In the Boardroom, this aspect of business administration is referred to as ‘Governance’ or ‘Compliance’.

Whatever are the new rules for your business will mean they need to be communicated and covered off with employees, preferably before they return.

To engage the interest of your employees in changes to the rules, they must first understand why the rules are changing.  Don’t think about this as a tick in the box exercise; compliance is an essential factor of every business and, in many circumstances, compliance can be a deal-breaker for business.

Employee engagement with the rules will be more successful when the method of delivery meets their interest.  Think visual (video), audible (recorded message from the head of business) and if you have the interest and resources – gamification.

The “millennium” generation dominates the current workforce.  This is a cohort with an average age in low to mid 20’s (as at 2020).  If you employ people in this age group, your communication needs to meet their interest and must be accessible on small, electronic devices.

7.    Tips from Onboarding

At Senza Carta, we call the return form WFM ‘Re Boarding’.  This is a great oppotunity to re-engage your team.  We have developed a Re Boarding checklist for this special occasion, grab a copy

The process of Onboarding prepares new hires to be job-ready and productive from day one of employment.

The research into Onboarding and the beneficial impact that it has on business is well published.  In particular, when considering the post-COVID working environment, consider and ensure that the following is covered when returning employees to the workplace:

Compliance – See #6 above, employees will want to know the ‘rules’, so engage them in any new or revised rules that apply to your business

Clarification – Be clear about responsibilities and expectations.  If they have changed during the period of WFH, then make sure that team members are returned with clarity about the new norms

Culture – This is a great time to consider your company culture because if the culture was not to your liking pre-COVID-19, then this is the ideal time to ‘reset’ and ‘recalculate’ to make improvements

Connection – COVID-19 has made a significant impact on the human need for social contact.  And this will continue for as long as the health experts recommend social distancing and contact restrictions.  When returning employees to the workplace, consider ways of how your employees can re-connect without putting their health at risk.

The Senza Carta Onboarding Model Includes all four ‘C’s + focuses on being technology-enabled and includes the ability to check and measure the impact of your Onboarding Progam

 

 

8.    Everything Old is New Again

Next to consider is what has changed to your existing systems and processes.  Have you adopted new technology without having the time to train everyone?  Perhaps new products and services have impacted existing processes?  How have you evolved your go-to-market process?  Perhaps you’ve moved on-line or the reverse – and are now offering personalised services?

Whatever has changed in this vital aspect of your business will require communication and potentially training.  Think about capturing the new process in a video that can be played to many in training sessions.  You could ask your systems provider to provide training or training videos for your new technology.

Alternatively, call in an expert to design and deliver training online.  The significance of the change to systems and processes on your business performance will determine the efforts and expense afforded to get the results you are aiming for.

9.    Capture and Adopt the Nice Surprises

Not everything is great about working from home but most people agree, it has some positives.  There were also some pleasant surprises about the experience; some that you may wish to continue and weave into the new culture of your business.

Recently in the news was the concept of a four-day working week being considered by the Australian Government.  Now, who doesn’t want a 3 day weekend?  Please put your hand up; you will be the ones monitoring the office while the rest of the team enjoy more flexibility.

If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to listen to the team about their personal experience of working from home. Brainstorm what has been learned, what has worked and in particular what has worked better from a distance than in close proximity to business operations.  Then consider how improvements can be made to how you do business and the long term benefits Vs challenges.

Also, explore what was learned from the not so good aspects and how these could be managed if we are once again forced into this situation in the future.

10.    Celebrate the Small Wins

With life returning to something like what it used to resemble it’s time to celebrate the reunion of having everyone back or as many as possible at the same time.

Of course, there will need to be the observation of social distancing and we can’t forget responsible service of alcohol, safe travel home and the obligatory reminder to employees about ‘appropriate’ socialisation at a work function.

Most of all, have some fun and acknowledge everyone in your team who has made a contribution to what has been a difficult and, for some, stressful period.

We are apparently ‘not out of it yet’, but we must never forget to show gratitude, even it’s only celebrating the small wins.

Don’t forget to grab our Re-Boarding Checklist.  We wish you every success for the journey back – or – towards a bright, safe and successful future.

You may also like our Onboarding White Paper, full of tips and information about how to design an awesome experience for new employees.

 

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