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  • Writer's pictureNua Team

Six operational steps for HR to take in response to the Coronavirus Crisis

If you are an HR professional, you are likely being bombarded with articles, webinars and opinions about what HR should think about and do to support the business in this new era of Coronavirus.

Nua Group Partner Elizabeth Scott knows firsthand just how much actual hard work it takes to determine strategies, mobilize resources, take action and actually implement new policies, procedure and protocols. In her 20+ years in HR, Elizabeth has had the unfortunate experience of doing just that during SARS, Avian flu, Swine flu, Mad Cow, Zika, etc. She has always been on the frontline as an HR Operations leader, facilitating cross-functional decision making, putting in place policies and procedures, providing employee communications and being there to address employee questions and concerns as they arise. It’s dirty work, but someone’s gotta do it and that is typically the HR Operations team.

Big companies tend to have more operational resources to deploy quickly, but many of the HR leaders at mid-size companies we work with here at Nua are already stretched as it is, so it is a real challenge to keep focus on business priorities and also address this very immediate and real threat with the level of detail and rigor required. In this article, Elizabeth shares the operational actions we are working on at Nua to support our clients right now.

1. Organize for Action

Situations like Coronavirus that have cross-business implications require you to have the right team pulled together (not only within HR but across the organization) in order to quickly make decisions and take action:

  • Do you have a “SWAT” team activated with a regular cadence of touching base?

  • Is it clear who is on point for bringing relevant and up to date information about the situation to the team, both from credible external and internal sources?

  • Have you identified decision making protocols so that team meetings can be efficient and result in clear action?

2. Review, revise and activate remote work policies and procedures

For Coronavirus in particular, the remote working policy is key. Many companies have a policy, but it can lack the level of detail to bring it to life. Now is the time to take a hard look at your remote working policy and determine:

  • Is the policy robust enough to address all the implications of remote work?

  • Does it outline the correlating procedures and tools to activate the policy, such as technology capabilities, reimbursement policies, collaboration tools, etc.?

  • Are managers and employees well aware of the policy and procedures so that they can effectively implement and not only maintain, but potentially amplify the Company culture, teamwork and performance in situations of remote work?

3. Make sure HR and vendor Business Continuity Plans (BCP) are operationally ready

Most companies have a BCP, but many times it is a document that was created as part of a “check the box” exercise. When reality hits it is either not relevant or people scramble to implement. It is critical to review and revise the HR and vendor BCPs to make sure they are practical and actionable. When reviewing your BCPs it is important to consider:

  • Is it clear what would happen and who would be responsible in a variety of situations?

  • Have the protocols and procedures been put in place, such as enabling remote work quickly, having backup plans if there is a major staffing shortage, etc.?

  • What is the plan if a major vendor such as payroll, HR admin, etc are impacted and can no longer provide support?

4. Conduct scenario planning and test your emergency response procedures

Sadly, in this day and age there are a myriad of scenarios that could occur... natural disaster, breakout of illness, employee death and workplace violence. Just like you plan for your family in emergencies, HR is responsible to plan for employees. Critical things to think about when looking at your emergency response plan:

  • Do you know how to confirm the safety of your employees in an emergency situation?

  • Do you have up to date mobile phone numbers and emergency contacts for all of your employees?

  • Do you know now how you would respond in different scenarios and have you tested the response?

5. Develop and rigorously implement your communication cadence

In many instances, HR is responsible for communicating to employees in times of crisis. For example, the actions recommended in the CDC guidelines for businesses and employers primarily center around employee communications. What, when, where, how and to whom you communicate can make all the difference to your employees. A lot of details need to be mapped out to ensure effective communications:

  • Do you know the tone you want to establish and have you written down a framework and set of key messages?

  • Have you created a communications calendar for the next 30 days that includes what will be communicated by whom, when and through which channels, including equipping managers to cascade?

  • Have you proactively created the communications for potential scenarios (eg. a directly impacted employee, shutting down a facility, promoting travel bans or remote working, etc)?

6. Prepare for the future impact

There is no way of knowing how severe and for how long this crisis will be. The impact on your business may be felt for months and years to come. Getting ahead of potential long term impacts is good to think about now:

  • If you had a large number of employees impacted, how would you manage keeping the business going?

  • If your business operations are impacted in a way that causes you to miss customer commitments, how will you manage this?

  • If your bottom line is significantly impacted, would you need to consider a workforce reduction?

We are here to help you wrestle with these difficult and operational aspects of managing the Coronavirus crisis. We are able to do so through parachuting in to implement discrete projects, providing interim support or just being on call as an advisor. Reach out to use if you need help!

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