John O’Boyle is Director of Belbin Ireland, a company that specialises in boosting team performance through behavioural awareness. He outlines the 5 steps a HR team can take to help employees returning to work in these uncertain times.
After the Cold War, the US military coined the phrase VUCA, to define the landscape they faced, namely Velocity, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity. If ever there was an example of this, it is surely our COVID world. HR professionals might well feel bewildered as a tsunami of changing, sometimes conflicting information hits us, but that is overshadowed by hopes and fears of employees, contractors and stakeholders, about the future. I advocate planning with the 5 P’s in mind:
1.Propose your favoured plan, early and with conviction.
You should have, or will by now, a preferred scenario of how you might want to work, in an ideal world, both now and in the future and subject to government restrictions, availability of PPE and other materials. The sooner you announce this the better.
2.Prepare for all contingencies, no matter how ridiculous it first seems.
Then prepare for all the potential fallbacks, no matter how improbable. What if questions are best answered now, not when an employee tests positive or when a weakness appears in a supply chain. If you are not certain, say so but then commit to providing an answer. Expect the unexpected.
3. Project confidence within your team and business.
At times like these, people look to the HR group for the confidence boost they need. It’s important to give clear, non-conflicting messages and stick to them.
4.Practice over-communication to all units of the workforce and others.
This is where the real work begins. Getting the message is one challenge but spreading it clearly and often helps to difuse rumour and worry which can otherwise can erode confidence. If you used to talk monthly now do so weekly. Encourage difficult questions and answer them honestly.
5.Promote and invest in professional team development
Now is not the time to cut back on team building and development, but to redouble efforts and investment. Team meetings, away days off-site and training must all be encouraged because teams see each other less often, or sometimes not at all. If you do not have such a programme, start one. The message you’ll be sending is that we want to invest in you, your team, your future and will deliver immediate return, on better co-ordination, assistance, and morale.
Like anything else this needs commitment and effort to collaborate for results. It does not take much time or money. Most experienced team development professionals will deliver to your time and your budget, within reason. Allow about a half day every two months and keep it up.