It sets the organization’s identity, helps form its mission and gives employees at all levels a sense of identity and purpose in their work.

But culture is also vulnerable in times of crisis when decisions are being made on the fly and financial survival takes priority over almost everything else.

Unfortunately, culture is also impossible to automate — there is no technology solution that can preserve and enhance organizational culture.

Employee engagement, constant communication and demonstrated commitment to your culture by leadership are the only tools that will work.

And workers will detect lip service even when they’re working remotely and will remember it after the crisis passes.

It is hard to put culture at the top of HR’s priority list while you are putting out fires every day. But, if anything, culture is even more important now and can hold your organization together over the long term.

Talent acquisition and retention remains critical

With the dire economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic becoming clearer by the moment, companies and whole industries are laying off workers and freezing hiring.

That may require greater reliance on contractors and temp workers in the early stages of the eventual recovery. But companies’ reputations among the candidates you’ll need longer term will depend on how they are treated during this crisis.

That may mean hiring some employees back as 1099 contractors in the short term or helping them sign on with temp agencies.

Even in the midst of this uncertainty and turmoil, however, it’s a good idea to keep your talent pipeline full and maintain contact with prospective rehires and new hires.

Engaging a remote workforce

Keeping employees engaged, enthused and productive is one of HR’s most valuable roles and, often, one of your team’s superpowers.

And research makes it clear that employees who feel that their physical and emotional wellbeing is a real priority for the organizations they work for are more engaged.

That translates into real money.

Two decades of Gallup research shows that highly engaged teams:

  • produce substantially better outcomes
  • treat customers better and attract new ones, and
  • are more likely to remain with their organization than those who are less engaged.

Engaged employees are also healthier, Gallup reports, and less likely to experience burnout.

You can show workers at home you are committed to their wellbeing by adjusting benefits.

A great immediate step is to reduce or eliminate copays for telehealth visits. If you don’t already include mental health consultations as part of your telehealth plan, add it now.

And, with financial stress impacting almost every employee, it is a good time to investigate options like daily pay, subsidized loans and free access to financial education webinars.

Loyalty to your workers amid unprecedented stress and confusion will come back to you through their ongoing loyalty and dedication to your mission.

Accommodation and compliance

With the number of people working remotely exploding, employers face new policy issues and, potentially, very real employment law concerns.

Potential compliance issues include:

  • Permitted employer actions under the ADA, FMLA, Title VII and other federal and state statutes and regulations.
  • The important ADA concepts of “disability-related inquiries,” “medical examinations,” “direct threat,” “undue hardship and other similar terms.
  • Leave policies and FMLA requirements.
  • Acceptable teleworking arrangements to protect employees.

Taking effective action requires leaders to conduct advanced planning and make strategic management decisions, all of which will rely heavily on the advice and insight only HR can provide.

Original Content –  March 24, 2020.

This information is provided with the understanding that Payroll Partners is not rendering legal, human resources, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from a lawyer, HR consultant or other professional.