HR Tips: Change Management During the Coronavirus Crisis

Back view of Asian business woman talking to her colleagues about plan in video conference. Multiethnic business team using computer for a online meeting in video call. Group of people smart working from home.

It’s morning. After three weeks of working from home, it takes a few moments to remember what day it is exactly – but the clock at the bottom of the computer screen returns us to reality. Small Zoom windows begin appearing one after the other on the screen and the webinar begins shortly thereafter. Video meetings have taken over our bandwidth at home and the salad plates and name tags we were accustomed to using during mingling events have also moved into the virtual space during the coronavirus. 

55 HR executives joined the call from their computers on Monday (30/3) to talk about the issue we’ve all been dealing with: “Managing in changing circumstances: how to manage during a global crisis”. 

Until about two months ago, who would have thought we wouldn’t be able to hold face-to-face meetings? It’s now quite clear that we are facing a new reality that will accompany us even after the coronavirus crisis will pass. Is it possible that we are no longer in the middle of a crisis, but in a situation of reorganizing the traditional organizational reality? According to Dan Valach, a strategic HR consultant and the webinar’s moderator, the world is currently rewriting its own rules on the go. Valach believes there are 10 steps every organization that wants to develop from the crisis should take: 

55 HR executives joined the call (PrintScreen)

1. This is theTime to beMore Active  

Change management assumes that organizational culture has changed completely. At the internal communication level, this situation requires managers and HR professionals to become much more active. In the past, the expectation was that an employee would reach out when facing difficulty, though the current anxiety-inducing and challenging reality has passed this responsibility on to managers. According to Valach, this active mentality is not only realized in interpersonal communication. Rather, it is realized by ensuring that talent relevancy is prioritized: ensure that each employee has a daily schedule which includes personal and team meetings, and that he or she is present during them.  

2. Make itPersonal  

Communication with employees during a time of crisis cannot only focus on professional matters. One of the best ways to engage employees and increase their motivation during periods such as these is to connect to difficulties and challenges the employee faces in his or her personal life and provide him or her with an anchor and a listening ear. Do this well and you will be more successful making your talents last in this challenging time. 

3. BeFully Transparent  

During the crisis, it is important to Strengthen the connection with employees through regular reports and full transparency regarding the state of the organization. According to Valach, this is the time to provide employees with clear and consistent messages about where the organization currently stands, anticipation of what’s to come and how the future will impact the company and its employees. This type of transparency increases employees’ motivation and confidence regarding their future.

4. SupportManagersSThey Support Employees 

In order to strengthen the connection with employees, managers need to receive support from the organization. Fears and challenges regarding the general uncertainty impacts managers no less than it does the employees who work for them. On the organizational level, this is the time to empower administrative qualities and capacities that can assist managers during the crisis. For example, managers who excel in being optimistic, thinking positively, and quickly adapting to changes can become mentors to managers who struggle in these fields. HR managers ought to identify managers who fit this bill in order to optimally facilitate the implementation of change within the organization. 

Who would have thought we wouldn’t be able to hold face-to-face meetings? (Photo By Bigstockphoto)

5. Routine,Routine,Routine 

It sounds paradoxical, but one of the important rules for dealing with uncertainty is to maintain routine. This process needs to be carried out in collaboration with the employees and should start by analyzing the new goals the organization has set for itself in light of the changes. Relevant goals need to be adjusted to fit both the crisis period and the employees’ situation and an effort needs to be made to build a new standard daily schedule to help accomplish these goals. 

The most important part of maintaining a new routine is figuring out what the best way to accomplish each task is and what solutions may help to get the job done: from meetings and one-on-one check-ins, to employee and manager feedback, to weekly happy hours to boost everyone’s mood. According to Valach, the more efficient daily operations are during the current crisis, the more it will give employees confidence, provide them with peace of mind and convey a healthy and clear message about the organization’s resilience.

6. WhoAreYour Organization’s Change Agents? 

Valach says that the ability to adopt a routine during a time of crisis – to live in a state of never-ending change – will distinguish successful organizations everywhere from now on. In order to meet this complex goal, it’s vital to map the organization and identify its change agents: managers and employees who regularly experience changes – from changing workplaces to regularly changes. As soon as the change agents have been identified, these talents need to be the ones to pull the organization forward and pave the way. As the world deals with COVID-19, the stakes of your talent management are higher than ever. This is also the place for HR managers to provide managers with introspection tools – such as questionnaires – to help them embrace a worldview of continuous change.

7. WhoAreYour “Frozen” Employees? 

According to Valach, in situations of uncertainty, the organization’s employees are divided into three main behavioral mechanism categories: 

  • Freeze – Employees who disappear and do not attend meetings. 
  • Flight – Employees who will do the bare minimum in order to meet their goals. 
  • Fight – Employees who will ask how they can help the organization. 

It is relatively easy to identify which mechanism is activated for every employee during times time likes, making it easier for managers and HR professionals to engage employees in the organization’s change model. “Frozen” employees, for example, need to be encouraged so that they can get out of a state of anxiety or fear. “Fighting” employees, on the other hand, need to be given tasks so that they can translate their motivation into benefiting the organization. Identify which employees fit into which category and make a concerted effort to optimise each talent’s respective skillset.  

8. Be theChange You Wish to See in Your Organization 

A life of change begins with role models, Valach says. Managers cannot settle for simply talking about change if they want to mobilize their employees; they must fully live it themselves. As part of the increased transparency, this is the time to sit with employees and decide together which behaviors help the organization in this period and which do not. Managers should embrace these shared values in their everyday lives. If positive thinking is a behavior adopted by the organization, a manager’s negative attitude will impair employees’ ability to believe in the entire organization’s effectiveness. Use this opportunity to inspire your employees and help turn them into real talents who are motivated to help the organization thrive.  

9. Boost Your Employees’ Morale

Changes are inherently scary, but they do not have to overtake our lives, Valach explains. Empathy and listening help unravel anxiety and create a shared sense of unity even in the most challenging of times. This is the time to celebrate successes – however small – and to cultivate the feeling that soon, everything will be better. Employee retention may be swayed by your ability to do this well. It’s also important to ensure that there is a supportive community of friends or managers who can be consulted with and with whom difficulties and pressures can be shared. 

10. Plan Ahead as Much as Possible 

One of the tools that will help you overcome this crisis more easily is early planning that anticipates processes instead of waiting for them to unfold. For example, if you have already put 10% of your employees on unpaid leave but there is a chance that this figure will grow, it is important to plan for this scenario now so as not to be in a situation where you have to act in the last minute in a period of emergency. Preparation will reduce the surprised shocks within the organization and also tends to lead to better pressure management outcomes. Creating career maps for both your employees and the organization right now can have monumental impact on your future success. 

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