How Has the Pandemic Affected Your People Strategy?
Enterprises today face unparalleled economic challenges due to the pandemic. The Wall Street Journal calls this economy “an unprecedented shutdown of commerce that economists said has never occurred on such a wide scale.” Suddenly, March Madness has a new meeting. New phrases have crept into our vocabulary – flatten the curve, Zoom bombing, social distancing…
How has this situation affected people strategies for the enterprise? How are companies implementing social distancing and hand washing? How has the increase in remote working affected productivity and morale? And when will things get back to normal? Three PI Midlantic clients recently answered these questions and shared some best practices.
Kelly Insurance and Associates and Kelly Payroll, a new PI Midlantic client, is a Baltimore-based provider of benefits administration and payroll management services. “This pandemic has forced us to lean forward, forced us to innovate,” said CEO Frank Kelly. The company is reaffirming employees’ importance by being proactive with email and video conferences and giving positive feedback. Kelly has shifted from 90% work in the office to 90% work at home. For those in the office, maintaining social distance is easy because “we have 25 people in 100,000 square feet.” Hand sanitizers are everywhere.
To minimize the isolation of work from home, Kelly has encouraged employees to reach out to each other and to clients and vendors. They are working hard to maintain positive attitudes, but Kelly did admit to an occasional “sense of heaviness.”
Insurance has been less affected than some sectors, but Kelly anticipates some revenue decline as RIFs roll out through their client base. He is glad to see some employers are doing furloughs and maintaining health insurance as opposed to firings. Kelly predicts a return to “relative normal” in June or July, with full recovery by Fall 2020.
Valcourt Building Services provides waterproofing, window cleaning and restoration services for commercial properties. They are a long time PI Midlantic client. CEO Jeffrey Valcourt sees opportunity in this economy. “We want to take advantage of this slow down,” said Valcourt. “We will be able to interview job candidates we may not have had access to if we weren’t in this recession. Thank goodness the labor shortage is over!” They use LinkedIn to identify top candidates. In previous recessions, they used the same people strategy. They also leveraged their strong balance sheet to buy capital equipment at fire sale prices.
Office staff, which is usually 100% in the office, is now about 60% work at home. To maintain camaraderie, communication is key. “We are having non-stop teleconferences,” Valcourt said, “and once a week all managers and executives are on a call, with questions submitted in advance.” They encourage employees to get together for virtual lunch via video calls.
Valcourt has instituted a “Covid 19 Heroes” program to recognize employees who have gone the extra mile in service to customers or teammates.
Crews on building sites maintain social distance and wear heavy duty respirators. Office staff sanitize surfaces several times a day.
With the increase in work at home, Valcourt realized some employees have only one computer at home, shared among family members. To avoid family competition for computer time, Valcourt provides a laptop to maintain company productivity.
Valcourt sees the downturn as short-lived. “The biggest challenge for us will be April and May. Then we expect to accelerate quite a bit as we get into the third quarter.”
Philadelphia-based Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission (SBRM) is the second-oldest rescue mission in the Unites States. They provide meals and lodging services to the homeless in Philadelphia. They are a new PI Midlantic client.
CEO Jeremy Montgomery said the economic downturn has had a big impact on the organization. “This is game time for us. How can we perform together to win?” Montgomery said he uses PI tools to make sure he has a team motivated to serve. “It’s very important to understand people drivers” he said. In leadership meetings, they review reference profiles.
He is being more intentional about team members’ mental health. All staff have continued to report to work. None are working from home. Montgomery has made sure the motivation to report to the office is not fear or peer pressure based, but a desire to maintain services to guests. He tries to keep the atmosphere light. He called an “unscheduled and urgent” staff meeting, which turned out to be an ice cream social where they did the chicken dance. SBRM has increased the availability of sick days for staff.
To protect staff and guests, staff are masked and provided hand sanitizer. To enter, guests stand in a line, six feet apart. When they enter the building, no touch thermometers are used to take temperatures. To maintain safe distances, meal seating capacity has been reduced from 200 to 50.
Montgomery sees a mixed economic impact. The organization relies on donations, and in the short-term donations have increased as generous people respond to the hardship. Longer term he is concerned about the stock market decline reducing donations. He sees the timing of the recovery as a “moving target” but thinks the recovery will be swift once it starts.
How PI Midlantic Can Help
Whether the impact on your company has been negligible or severe, PI Midlantic has tools to help get through the downturn and position yourself for recovery. We can help companies emerge stronger from a downturn by becoming resilient.
PI tools can help coach managers to become more effective leaders and communicators. We can help HR departments pivot from higher-volume hiring to high-stakes, hyper-targeted hiring. We can help prioritize who is critical to hire when the time comes. We can protect productivity and ensure the resilience of your operating model and culture by measuring employee engagement data as things change over time. Reach out to your Consultant to develop a customized people plan to help in these unprecedented times.