By Natanya Rutstein
So much of life as we know it in South Africa has changed since the first confirmed case of the coronavirus was announced on 5 March 2020 by Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize. We are just a few days into the national lockdown and it is already crystal clear that the spread of the virus is disrupting the way we socialise, learn and work. With so many employees compelled to work from home, there is much speculation that the longer people work from home the greater the adoption rate of this trend will be when things finally return to “normal”.
Across the globe, this is a time of great uncertainty and anxiety for employees who are faced with the looming challenges of financial insecurity, retrenchments, workplace health and safety as well as coping with the illness and loss of family, friends and colleagues. Having a change management plan in place will assist employees in coping with the changes brought about by Covid-19 and help them to settle back into work with minimal disruption to the day-to-day operations of the business. Regardless of the change management framework or model you use, clear, consistent and honest communication together with appropriate and well thought through support initiatives should feature prominently in your change management plan. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- COMMUNICATE with employees on a regular and consistent basis, both during the lockdown and after. This will provide them with certainty on relevant issues during these very uncertain times.
- KEEP EMPLOYEES UPDATED with all policy changes. Policies which may be amended include leave benefits, travel, customer meetings, preventative health measures to combat the spread of infection, eligibility to work from home etc. Clearly communicate contextual information as well as the reasoning behind the policies in order to secure buy-in and support.
- ENGAGE employees by soliciting their feedback on what worked well during the lockdown and what the barriers were to working from home. Be open to their suggestions and input and use this information to make the necessary changes.
- INVOLVE employees in designing and creating a new workplace in which they feel safe and where they are able to work productively from home. Let them test the changes and get their feedback.
- With the possibility of an increased remote workforce, ALIGN your performance management and rewards system to support virtual teams. The clarification of roles and goals is essential as well as an emphasis on collaboration and team work.
- PREPARE managers with the skills to lead virtual teams. Managers will need to stay connected to their employees and communicate more frequently in order to sustain engagement levels and morale. The focus will shift from how the work gets done to producing the required results.
Covid-19 is not a short term disruption and its impact will no doubt be felt in business operations across the globe for many months to come. HR professionals need to assist employees to embrace these changes and to adapt to a new way of working. By proactively managing the change HR can contribute towards ensuring business continuity and minimising the negative impact on employee and company performance.