The past few months have been marked by uncertainty and stress. Every organization has been challenged in some way. As agencies continue to be resilient and adjust operations, approaches and procedures, it’s critical to not forget about your employees. They are arguably the most valuable asset in weathering these challenges and achieving your mission. Essential employee care means considering five things:
1. Can we fill empty seats?
If you have unfilled positions that put pressure on other employees or leave pieces of projects undone, now is the perfect time to hire for those vacancies. Effective human resource management uses proven business processes, methods and tools to ease the ability of government organizations to hire in as little as two weeks. From position description to interviewing to onboarding, a process that works smoothly and quickly allows you to nab great candidates and fulfill needs.
2. Can we connect deeper with our people?
Virtual work is good — some agencies are seeing record levels of productivity. However, nothing can replace human connections. Managers should try to engage everyone on a personal, human level, removed from staff calls and status updates. Inquiring about how things are going or how they are handling challenges allows managers to suggest personalized forms of self-care. For some employees, that could mean talking with the employee assistance program for help finding child care. For others, it might be more flexibility in the workday or a different kind of training. As organizations ask employees to embrace a new normal, employees appreciate knowing they are needed and cared about. Personalized help, rewards and incentives accomplish that.
3. Can we create culture without an office?
Organizations quickly figured out ways to recreate the face-to-face interaction of meetings and teams in the first few weeks of the stay at home orders. The task now is to recreate some of that office comradery and culture. Think about team lunches or coworking while connected over Skype or Teams; assigning partners to check in with each other; using chat channels to discuss different topics each week (e.g., favorite vacation spot, pets, hidden talents) or to post photos of work-from-home workspaces; share documents via filesharing for work and start a collective journal where everyone writes a paragraph or two each week with ideas, tips and lessons learned. Remote teams can get a big boost in energy and creativity by engaging with each other. An energized workforce is a successful workforce.
4. Can we look at our policies with fresh eyes?
What worked before may no longer make sense or be practical for employees working remotely. There’s no need to wait for things to return to “normal.” This extraordinary time is an opportunity to evolve how government works. Examine your policies and guidelines with fresh eyes and see if more flexibility can be part of your new normal. Encourage employees to take time off and establish boundaries for greater work-life balance, which can keep employees happy and productive. Even if offices reopen, allowing telecommuting may make more sense now that employees have had months to work out the kinks and managers have seen proof points.
5. Can we move forward?
Your strategic plan may be a mess, but now is not the time to drop into a holding pattern. Reassess your plans and adjust for new realities. Start moving forward by taking small steps. No one expects that we’ll wake up tomorrow and be able to continue like we were before and get the same results. Things have changed. People have changed. Our environment has changed. Those changes are pushing organizations to be innovative. This is a prime opportunity to experiment a bit. Be strategic about your efforts. When you try something, analyze what works, what doesn’t and why. Look at your current state and your desired future state and identify gaps. Be more agile.
With the vast majority of the United States still in some stage of reopening, and school, work and travel uncertain for the fall, employers are seeing signs of stress, pressure and exhaustion in their teams. Caring for employees – particularly those you count on, value and want to keep – is critical to putting your organization on the path forward.
Edward Tuorinsky, Managing Principal at DTS, a government consultant business, is a service-disabled veteran who brings nearly two decades of experience to DTS in the areas of leadership, management consulting and information technology services.