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How companies treat their people during the COVID-19 pandemic will define the type of employer they are. And how they adjust their Human Capital Management strategies in response to the pandemic will impact employee loyalty, motivation, and satisfaction, which in turn impacts customer satisfaction.

The role of the HR department is a lot different today than it was a few months ago.

Most, if not all, team members are working from home, and many are dealing with mental and emotional stress caused by social isolation, personal finance, home-schooling children, and potentially losing a loved one. The boundaries between work and home life have all but disappeared.

Businesses have an opportunity to reset the employee experience, to encourage them to stay positive in times of uncertainty. And there’s never been a better time to become a People Company.

Here are 5 ways HR departments create positive employee experiences.

  1. Reassess your internal communications

Communication is even more crucial when you’re physically disconnected from your people, who desperately need leadership, direction, and assurance during this time. They might be worried about their jobs, the future of the company, and the wellbeing of their families.

Use a range of tools and channels to engage colleagues—web calls, emails, live broadcasts, surveys, group check-ins, and more. Streaming and recorded video can give a bit of a human touch at a time many of us miss personal contact – for example, managers can record or stream some of their messages to the team, and videoconference ‘virtual coffee’ meets can help people to bond.

You can rebuild or renew trust in management and leadership by communicating openly, honestly, and regularly. Ideally, these messages should come from the top, with an option for people to engage with and respond to the content. In including them in the conversation, you’ll boost your team’s morale and motivation.

Conduct regular, if not real-time, pulse checks to understand what challenges your teams face in their new work environment – including technological, operational, and personal challenges. Ask how you can improve the work-from-home experience and act on the feedback. If your colleagues will be working from home for a while yet, you could, for instance, arrange office chairs and second screens to help them to be more productive and comfortable.

  1. Have a clear action plan

Crisis communications should be top of this list. Appoint a crisis management team that regularly engages with employees on developments in legislation and health and safety guidelines, and how these impact the business and its people.

Remind everyone of your company vision and values and reiterate your goals. This keeps teams aligned and offers consistency in terms of what your business stands for, even in a crisis.

  1. Be agile with your policies

Most businesses had to adjust or overhaul their working policies. As well as stringent adherence to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, you also need a remote work policy to accommodate different technologies and new ways of working, collaborating, and managing performance and productivity.

Training and development don’t have to take a backseat. You can set up online learning platforms for colleagues to upskill their skillset. You could also urge team members to continue their personal and career development by identifying their own skills gaps and participate in free online courses with reputable institutions to fill them. Try Wits University, the University of Cape TownHarvardCoursera, and Udemy.

Then, there are other things you can focus on during the crisis that can boost morale. For example, rather than tracking productivity through time spent online, why not monitor employee engagement and wellbeing to better understand the employee experience? In knowing that they’re being measured according to quality and output, and not hours in front of a screen, your people will be empowered to better manage their time and to work when it suits them.

Remote work looks different for each person, depending on the needs of their family. It’s a good reminder that the employee experience is a personal one and that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work.

There may be people needing to work onsite – be flexible and open-minded. Implement flexible working hours so they can be in control of their own schedule. If they are in customer support, perhaps they can be part of the solution finding exercise to balance the people working in the office vs working from home. The on-site employee experience has to be exceptional and the health and safety of these people is crucial.

  1. Enabling the HR teams with tech

Automate as much of the people management process as possible. This frees up your HR team’s time to focus on your people’s wellbeing, which is more important than ever and includes mental, physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual factors.

People management and engagement software can empower managers to better support their teams, and gives HR the tools to deliver the right information at the right time, to keep people engaged and motivated.

Solutions like CakeHR by Sage offer improved employee experiences and enable a more flexible workforce. Offering a better 360-degree employee experience, from recruitment to offboarding, it simplifies and automates HR tasks for small and growing businesses. Best of all, it’s always compliant with the latest labour laws, it tracks COVID-19 related absence, and makes it easier to manage and connect with remote employees. It also serves as a single repository for leave management, performance management, timesheets and expenses, supported by self-service mobile functionality.

  1. Culture driven company 

Your culture is guided by your purpose and values, which you would have reinforced in your action plan. But there’s nothing like a crisis to put these values to the test, especially when making difficult decisions.

When it comes to company culture, the focus is shifting to maintaining a physically distanced yet connected, happy, and engaged workforce. Ensure that colleagues have access to the tools and processes they need to be connected, including the right social and collaborative applications.

We have seen the success of how well virtual coffee catch-ups work. Daily morning check-ins can help to course correct, share progress, and set priorities for the day, while letting managers monitor their team’s focus and wellbeing. Online meditation and group exercises classes for home-based teams is also something to consider.

This helps to create an environment where people feel included, valued, and supported.

Employee experience is about getting insights into your employees’ changing needs and using it to build an exceptional working environment – albeit a remote one. The future of work is the future of worker wellbeing.

Trust your people to do their best, empower them to succeed, and always keep them informed, and you’ve won the hardest battle.

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