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After more than 18 months of working from home, many companies across the nation are reopening their doors. However, unlocking the door and putting out the welcome mat just won’t cut it. The CDC guidelines for employers cover rigorous cleaning protocols, enhanced ventilation, and socially distanced workspaces. But these measures only protect a person’s physical health.
At a time when nearly half of adults in the US report that the Coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, employers must do more. So how can companies pave the way for smooth reentry? By going back to the basics of onboarding.
The typical onboarding process lasts anywhere from two days to three months. It focuses primarily on acquainting new hires with the vision, mission, and values of the organization. This seems simple enough, but lots of companies just don’t get it right. In fact, only one-third of employees we polled said their organization’s onboarding process was highly effective. Although these statistics relate to new hires, the reality is that employees reentering their workplaces may feel like they’re doing it for the first time. Protocols for working in person have changed considerably. And we all know that change can be hard in the best of times.
It’s impossible to think that an organization can be all things to all people. But revisiting the onboarding process will remind workers of the support that’s in place if and when they need it. In particular, employers can do five things to make workplace reentry successful:
1. GET PERSONAL
Employees are the engine of an organization, but they’re also the heart. What employees really need right now is to know they are appreciated and supported. This means that company leadership must make it a priority to reconnect with employees on a personal level. To let them know that their needs will be met. It’s more important than ever that leaders take the time to understand what their employees experienced while working from home. This is an incredible opportunity for organizations to get a pulse on how employees are feeling about their jobs/roles, the company, COVID, and the current social and political climate. Listening and interacting on such a personal level signals that the company cares about the well-being of each employee. It builds trust in leadership and the organization as a whole.
2. EXPLAIN BENEFITS
60 percent of employees are not satisfied with their company’s response to the emotional and mental health needs of employees during this crisis. Onboarding 2.0 is HR’s second chance to get it right. During this period of reentry, it will be important to reintroduce employees to benefits that could be especially useful to them now. These include mental health resources like support groups, counseling, coaching, and other psychiatric services provided through EAP or group health plans. This is also a great time to highlight any mediation and/or diversity and inclusion resources available to employees. Companies should also implement pulse surveys or focus groups to gather valuable employee input.
3. RECONNECT TO THE COMPANY MISSION
Company values are meant to be unifiers. And now is the perfect time to realign employees with the shared values and purpose of the organization. Leadership plays a critical role in establishing best practices through leading by example. If the company values include things like honesty, integrity, fairness and respect, but they aren’t modeled in interactions with employees, the company vision will just be words on a piece of paper. Additionally, company leadership must help employees understand how their individual contributions fit into the overall mission of the company.
4. STRENGTHEN RELATIONSHIPS AMONG COWORKERS
Feeling connected to fellow employees is a big part of being engaged at work. It’s imperative then that employers provide opportunities for people to interact on a personal basis as they navigate the reentry process. This could be through focus groups, support groups, socially distanced picnic lunches, and an open-door policy with leadership. These may seem like small things, but they go a long way toward showing people that folks at the top really care.
5. DEVELOP COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Communication plays a major role in all of the suggestions in this article. Yet, not everyone is adept in this area, especially when stressed or dealing with change. When you add personality and cultural differences to the mix, communication can become even more complex. This is why it’s important for companies to continue to develop their employees in the art of communication.
Onward & Upward
Ultimately, as organizations welcome employees back to their brick and mortar workplaces, there will be a greater need to put more care into reentry. Employees are dealing with so much more than they were when they left. The impact of the virus, losing workmates due to layoffs, a fraught social and political climate. Forward-thinking companies will use this time to get to know their people better, really listen to their concerns, and provide necessary leadership and development. Communication is key to all of the above.
If your organization would like to lead the charge to re-engage your employee base, get in touch with us. At Brilliant People, we provide the tools necessary to create connection and community in the workplace through the art of communication. Our multi-phased approach empowers people to be better leaders, better coworkers, and better employees, which means better engagement.
The culture revolution starts with you.