Pandemic | HR's role in navigating the COVID-19 crisis

HR's role in navigating the COVID-19 crisis

COVID-19 isn’t about to disappear quickly and quietly. Every organisation is having to come to terms with the financial and organisational impact it’s leaving in its wake.

The crisis has left HR teams worldwide asking the same question: how do we help employees working from home feel like they’re still part of a team?

To help organisations, Nathalie Cousseau, HR Director UK and Ireland Avanade, has shared the HR principles we’ve been following here at Avanade. 

1. Communication comes first

Ensure your employees know they can contact their managers, project leads and HR team for support and guidance – these are vital elements during these difficult times.

We’re a tech-first company that uses Microsoft Teams and other cloud-based collaboration tools to keep communication flowing and productivity high while we’re working at home. It’s important that HR and other departments work together to maximise employee experience programs.

When the lockdown in the UK and Ireland occurred, we created an internal guide for every employee, called ‘Avanade at Home’. This aimed to help employees overcome the common problems of remote working full-time, and we based much of the content on our own remote workplace guide. But technology is only one piece of the puzzle.

2. Remember the psychological impact

Don’t underestimate the importance of mental heath and well-being during the crisis. We’re all going through an experience that could have a serious negative impact on our welfare. At Avanade, we’ve always had a strong focus on supporting the mental health of our employees. This will become even more important as time goes on.

More than likely, employees working from home are taking on additional pressures: childcare, home-schooling and concern for job security are resulting in a uniquely trying time for everyone. Keep employee well-being front-and-centre, and consider things like flexible work hours, shared roles and options for postponing non-essential work.

Using resources, such as Cityparents, to support our employees has helped ease the pressures of some of the challenges they’re facing.

3. Encourage freethinking

Allow your employees to be creative – if they want to set up virtual activities, don’t try to control them or take over. After all, our brains can be more creative when they’re at rest. Let the connections flow organically while helping and encouraging where you can.

The COVID-19 crisis has eroded the barriers between work and home life, ushering in a wave of employee engagement activities as a result. Throughout lockdown we’ve taken part in online pub quizzes, group yoga sessions, virtual coffee catchups and even cocktail parties!

Remote working provides an opportunity to upskill too. Modern workplace technologies enable scalable and sustainable remote working - giving you the chance to empower your people with skills development and delegated authority.

4. Help your leadership team lead by example

We set up a series of all-hands conference calls (our virtual Townhalls), hosted by our leadership team. This transparency and openness has been a hit with employees. Keeping everyone in the loop seems like a basic, but it’s a powerful tool to help everyone feel connected.

But our leaders need to exemplify remote working behaviours for employees. Small changes, such as coaching them to move away from working on local versions of documents to cloud-based storage, will make a difference.

5. Re-imagine the on-boarding experience

Starting a new job without physically visiting the office will be a strange experience. To make our new joiners feel part of the team, we’ve introduced a full virtual onboarding experience.

Feedback has been positive: they can see we’re putting in the effort to make them feel valued. We stay in close contact, introducing them to their teammates via video call as soon as possible. Online training sessions, easy access to IT support, and virtual coffee breaks with colleagues all help bring people into the Avanade family.

For further information on how to reclaim control of your workplace strategy from COVID-19, check out our Workplace Experience Point of View.

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