Caring for Your Employees in the Time of COVID-19

Expressing genuine care and concern for your employees has always been important but with COVID-19 it is critical.  Research conducted by Gallup® and others have shown that these factors contribute to high employee engagement, which results in multiple favorable outcomes for the organization. A recently published global study conducted by Gallup® of nearly 63,000 business units and teams found that highly engaged teams were more resilient than their peers during the 2001-2002 and 2008-2009 recessions. And we need resiliency to maintain high performance during these uncertain and stressful times. Without the right culture, you risk losing more employees, and the ones that leave are often your best employees.

We’ve been participating in the 20-minute Nursing Home Huddles presented by IHI (the Institute for Healthcare Improvement) and sponsored by the John A. Hartford Foundation. There have been multiple presentations discussing ways that leaders support their staff during the pandemic. Extensive resources can be found on their landing page.

Most of these approaches that have been shared come at little to no cost.  The first one is taking a slightly different approach to rounding on employees.  Those in health care know all about rounding for outcomes, but if you’re a leader in another industry or sector, you might want to become familiar with this technique.
The questions leaders are using may have changed a bit. In addition to the standard questions found in the Studer Group link above, many leaders described asking questions to really understand their employees’ concerns – not only at work, but in their personal lives as well.  These might include:

-How can we make you feel safer at work?

-How are you feeling, not just physically but emotionally?

-Are you sleeping well?

-How is your family doing?

-If you have children, how are they dealing with this?  Are they part of in-person schooling or virtual schooling?  How is that working out for them?

-Do you have any other relatives that you’re concerned about?

-Are you doing okay with rent or mortgage payments?

-Have you been able to obtain supplies and food for use at home?

-Are you practicing social distancing and wearing a mask when you’re not at work?

-Are you aware of our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) (or other support systems you offer)?

-What haven’t I asked that you think I should know?

How are you “rounding” with employees who are working remotely?  It’s very easy for them to feel disconnected if some of their colleagues are working in person.  Can you set up team meetings via Zoom or another virtual platform?

How have your communication methods and frequency changed as a result of COVID-19?  Many of these sessions as well as other articles we’ve read stressed the importance of transparency – being candid about what you know as well as what you don’t know, recognizing that your best source of the truth may change hour by hour or even minute by minute.

How can you restore joy to the workplace?  We heard about a hospital in Denmark where the caregivers in ICU end each shift with a brief huddle where everyone shares a story about what one thing made them smile that day. They reported that it sometimes resulted in laughter and sometimes in tears, but they all left work on an upbeat note to go home.

Senior leaders’ actions and inactions, and their words have always been the key to organizational culture.  What culture are you reinforcing during this pandemic?  Is it the one that fosters employee engagement and resilience?

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