This is part two of a four part series focused on providing a playbook to navigate the disruptive changes and new realities caused by COVID-19.
Executives are entering complex phase of “Returning to Workplace” planning, shifting from reactionary crisis management decisions that accommodated key questions around health, safety, financial risks and adapting to governmental directives. Many companies have established crisis teams to continue righting the ship, but now is the time to start developing your strategies for the next phase moving forward.
The economic hardships will have a significant impact on organizational behavior - many companies are likely to shift their business model and operating practices drastically.
Assemble your post COVID-19 strategy team
Leading your organization beyond this crisis requires the creation of a dedicated strategy team focused on, and accountable for, the development of a COVID-19 action plan. This plan has to address the key short, medium, and long-term actions that will be taken and assess the potential risks at each period. Break down each time period into phases and work streams, develop scenario models, and include recommendations with each action to paint a clear picture for your leadership team.
Prepare and initiate an Employee Feedback Communication Strategy
Capture employees’ concerns, solicit solutions, and gain their perspectives on the greatest risks for the organization. Transparency and trust in leaderships will be critical for employee mental stress and effective, organized communication. Employees at this time are eager to communicate their perspectives to senior leaders given the vast number of constraints and business functions that must be addressed before restarting.
Organizational health “return to workplace” assessments are valuable opportunities to rapidly place data into the hands of crisis teams. Critical questions may need to vary widely by industry, location, and employee seniority, but options can range from:
Safety: In your opinion, what productive measures can we add to your workplace to provide greater safety levels?
Safety: What are your greatest safety concerns for your team or location?
Supply chain / operational risks: In your opinion, what are the greatest risks or constraint threats to restarting production (or re-opening)?
Operations: Are there opportunities for us to change how we operate (e.g. change in work schedules, should all teams return to workplace, capacity planning)
Operations: Against which products, services, or business units should we prioritize our resources?
Phasing return: Which teams, locations will be critical to return to workplace first?
Plan for a return to normal (short term)
Every business will have a unique definition of what a return to new-normal will look like, but for the short term there are 3 key areas that every organization will need to have a detailed plan for. Careful planning and execution of these 3 areas is critically important to successfully navigate this crisis and continue on the path to the next normal.
- Safety and adapting to new employee needs (feedback is crucial)
- Phasing and timing
- Continued communication strategy
As the economy starts to reopen, the first critical area that your COVID-19 strategy team needs to prepare for is how to best enable your employees to return to work safely. For your office based employees you will need to redefine business operations processes to incorporate mitigation protocols for balancing safety with productivity. Take a careful look at your travel policies also - you need to understand the risks associated with each travel location and mode of transportation. You will also need to consider how to best accommodate employees that may not be able to return at defined points in time due to either family constraints, health concerns, or travel restrictions.
Phasing and timing
The timeline and key actions will look different for each company based on their own unique circumstances. Identify which employees would be able to return to work first and determine the locations, regions, and job functions that are most critical. Your phases should consider and plan for a flexible return process that is contingent upon the identified risks - if the COVID-19 infection rate is high or the available testing supply is low you will likely need to delay return in that location. Your COVID-19 strategy team needs to remain vigilant in collecting information to continuously update the return scenarios and provide the leadership team with recommendations quickly.
Continued communication strategy and employee feedback
You must identify which leaders or emerging leaders can help best create your internal “return-to-workplace” action plan and communication strategy. This can be approached through Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) to understand which key influencers can help drive the return to new-normal. To identify your organization’s influencers, consider questions like:
- Who are the go-to people to drive change effectively?
- Who are the thought-leaders?
- Who are the people with strong empathy that can help navigate the emotional and psychological toll of current environment on people?
- Who are the people who project most positive energy and inspiration in the times of hardship?
The size and locations of your offices will be key factors to consider when selecting the group of influencers that will help syndicate leaderships plans to your organization. Your comms team will need to establish a frequent cadence for delivering messages and be highly responsive to employee feedback. Additionally, returning employees to workplace will likely require 1-on-1 discussions with their managers and senior executives to assess employee personal constraints and readiness that may be never previously approached or considered. These options could include new employee structures and incentives, work schedule restructuring, and other considerations.
Many companies will likely never return to a similar previous business environment. Although the current, sheer complexity of restarting operations and returning employees is the primary concern, leadership teams are presented with the opportunity to establish more resilient organizations and make lasting changes out of the crises.
Entromy Organizational Intelligence
Entromy provides a solution for executives to rapidly complete organizational assessments, understand organizational network dynamics through automated collaborative surveys supporting nuanced company-wide discovery — with actionable insights. Our platform is a convenient, stand-alone tool, automatically delivering reporting in Powerpoint format or online dashboard.
Entromy is here to help you rapidly understand the critical needs of your organization to so you can gain rich insights and reasoned strategies quickly. If you would like to learn more you can connect with a member of our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.